Dr. Ronald Blakey, Professor Emeritus NAU Geology, has been working on creating paleogeographic (the geography of the ancient Earth) maps for nearly 20 years. His maps are made by plotting data and interpretations from the geologic literature and then painting the paleogeographic maps to look like satellite views of Earth’s past. The maps are arranged into several series that show how Earth or regions of the Earth may have appeared at various increments of time. Global views and their derivatives were prepared from rectangular projections drawn at a resolution of 3000×1500 pixels for each of the 26 time slices. Topography was “cloned” from digital elevation maps of modern Earth from the USGS, NOAA, NASA, and other agencies. Colors were adjusted to portray climate and vegetation for the given time and location. Thousands of publications were used in constructing these maps. Here is an example of his work:
Arc Science Simulations has used Dr. Blakey’s maps to project the story of how the world has changed on their OmniGlobe. The OmniGlobe is a spherical projection system to help visualize datasets to explore and explain Earth Systems. Such a cool product, I wish the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology had one!
Much of Dr. Blakey’s work is based on the work of another brilliant geologist, Dr. Christopher R. Scotese. He is creator of the Paleomap Project, which aims to map Earth over the last billion years. Lately he’s been working on PaleoGIS, or PaleoAtlas, an extension to ArcGIS from ESRI (not for free) that enables you to incorporate geologic time into your GIS. With PaleoGIS, you can visualize your own data in a plate tectonic and paleographic context.
Thomas L. Moore has made two iPhone and iPad applications, Ancient Earth, based on maps from Scotese. It does some of the things that I would like my application to do, including using the built-in Location Services in your iOS device to show you where your current location would have been in the geologic past (edit: it’s not the same function as the You Are Here function after all. In You Are Here you will follow the country and see your path, in Ancient Earth you can only see your present location during the whole animation). I tested one of them (they cost $9.99 each), here is how it looks (and where I would be 100Ma years ago):
I only wish I had these guys’ datasets, but they’re not for free (and my application will be). Maybe I’ll try and muster up the courage to email them some day and ask for help.