Mountaineer and documentary filmmaker David Breashears has climbed Mount Everest five times and taken part in 45 expeditions in the Himalaya Mountains since 1978. In that time, he has gathered unparalleled images of the shrinking of the Himalaya glaciers — which he is now sharing with computer scientists at Microsoft Research, so they can build an application that combines his photos, historical photos, scientific data, climate models and other disparate data to tell the story of climate change in the Himalaya Mountains, the journal Science reported in its news section.
The result will look a little like Google Earth, which is able to combine road and borders data with satellite imagery. Google's method of combining the different types of data is proprietary, however. Microsoft Research hopes to create a new computer language that would allow anybody to combine different data types into one application.
In addition, some of the abilities of Breashears' planned application are more dramatic than Google Earth's. People will be able to play with different climate models, to see how different carbon dioxide concentrations or different population sizes might affect the Himalayan glaciers. Science also described photo-gathering mission in which Breashears and his climbing team helicoptered around Everest, collecting images of base camps and climbing routes:
Now, working with image experts at MSR [Microsoft Research] and other colleagues, they are stitching together 3,500 of the images into a single file that will enable viewers to 'fly' up the flanks of Everest near the highest point on Earth.
An application that allows people to discover the effects of climate change on their own may leave a lasting impact, Jeff Dozier, a hydrologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Science. "We can really use something like this," he said.