Update: Maybe not. A Google spokesperson just sent over the following information, suggesting that this might have been a glitch in the system after all.
The various types of data found in Google Maps come from a wide range of sources. Our basemap data – things like ocean, road networks, and place names comes from a combination of third-party providers, public sources, and user contributions. Overall, this provides a very comprehensive and up-to-date map, but there are occasional inaccuracies that arise from any of those sources.
Before the weekend I just happened to look up Santa Monica on Google Maps and saw that the ocean was somehow extending onto the land. Dismissing it as an old — albeit uncommon — glitch in Google’s mapping app, I went about my day. Apparently, there’s a little more to this than just programming error, and it has to do with global warming.
Sea level rise as a result of climate change could have devastating effects for low-lying coastal areas (and pretty much everyone, really), and as Mic.com pointed out on Friday, Google was showing users the potential damage of climate change by way of Google Maps — in far more areas than just Santa Monica. Other areas around LA were showing up with underwater houses and streets…
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Looking up Santa Monica and Malibu as of this writing, it looks like Google has turned the feature off. The company didn’t make any official recognition of it on Friday, though, which makes me think that they’re actually planning to launch this as some kind of actual feature to be made official in the near future. They might have just been testing it out for the time being.
(Screenshot via TNW)