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High-resolution topography data acquired with lidar (light detection and ranging) technology are revolutionizing the way we study Earth surface processes. These data permit analysis of the mechanisms that drive landscape evolution at resolutions not previously possible yet essential for their appropriate representation. Unfortunately, the volume of data produced by the technology, software requirements, and a steep learning curve are barriers to lidar utilization. To encourage access to these data we use Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and Google Earth to deliver lidar-derived visualizations of these data for research and educational purposes. Display of full-resolution images derived from lidar in the Google Earth virtual globe is a powerful way to view and explore these data. Through region-dependent network linked KML (a.k.a., super-overlay), users are able to access lidar-derived imagery stored on a remote server from within Google Earth. This method provides seamless, Internet-based access to imagery through the simple download of a small KML-format file from the OpenTopography Facility portal. Lidar-derived imagery in Google Earth is the most popular product available via OpenTopography and has greatly enhanced the usability and thus impact of these data. Users ranging from scientists to K–12 educators have downloaded KML files ~12,000 times during the first eight months of 2011. The overwhelming usage of these data products demonstrates the impact of this simple yet novel approach for delivering easy to use lidar data visualizations to Earth scientists, students, and the general public.

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