Google unveils AI-powered planning tools to help beat climate change's extreme heat

They'll spot heat islands, track tree canopy coverage and push useful information in emergency notifications.

Peter Zelei Images via Getty Images

With extreme weather events regularly flooding our coastal cities and burning out our rural communities, Google in its magnanimity has developed a new set of online tools that civil servants and community organizers alike can use in their efforts to stave off climate change-induced catastrophe.

Google already pushes extreme weather alerts to users in affected locations, providing helpful, easy-to-understand information about the event through the Search page — whether its a winter storm warning, flood advisories, tornado warnings, or what have you. The company has now added extreme heat alerts to that list. Googling details on the event will return everything from the predicted start and end dates of the heatwave to medical issues to be aware of during it and how to mitigate their impacts. The company is partnering with the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN) to ensure that the information provided is both accurate and applicable.

a screenshot of Google EIE showing the city-wide tree canopy coverage in Lisbon Spain.

It's a lot easier to keep the citizenry comfortable in hot weather if the cities themselves aren't sweltering, but our love affair with urban concrete has not been amenable to that goal. That's why Google has developed Tree Canopy, a feature within the company's Environmental Insights Explorer app, which "combines AI and aerial imagery so cities can understand their current tree coverage and better plan urban forestry initiatives," per Wednesday's release.

Tree Canopy is already in use in more than a dozen cities but, with Wednesday's announcement, the program will be drastically expanding, out to nearly 350 cities around the world including Atlanta, Sydney, Lisbon and Paris. Google also offers a similarly-designed AI to help plan the installation of "cool roofs" which reflect heat from the sun rather than absorb it like today's tar paper roofs do.