You can take the temperature of the land surface and ocean surface and closely examine features of the ocean floor. You can study river drainages and the prevalence of snow and ice. You can study the composition of the atmosphere and the properties of clouds. You can locate natural hazards such as cyclones, droughts, floods and volcanoes and examine human impacts such as population density or infant mortality rates.
Project director William B. Ryan, a Lamont marine geologist, says the application "exposes the public to far richer data than has ever been available, in a form that has enormous potential beyond the flat screen of a computer." That said, the mobile EarthObserver is a natural companion application for two powerful, freely available Lamont-Doherty applications - GeoMapApp and Virtual Ocean - that run on Windows, Unix/Linux and Mac OS X computers.
This user found the new application especially attractive on the larger screen of the iPad - where the images above were captured in landscape orientation. One graduate student, reviewing the application online, thought it would be "extremely useful...to anyone in oceanography, geology, geophysics, or any type of earth science." But you don't have to be a scientist to like it.
IMAGES: I captured the maps above off my iPad screen showing ocean surface temperatures (top) and geologic formations. Click on them to get the full effect.