Besides having some pretty cool TV programming (Smash Lab not included), The Discovery Channel has had some interesting forays into small, standalone Web sites. Just this past weekend I checked out the MythBusters slow motion video clip viewer, and today brings Discovery: Earth Live, a 3D globe that, like Google Earth, can display various layers of information.
There are eight standard layers to choose from that range from cloud cover to rainfall averages. To complement the layers is a listing of featured stories that reference specific time periods and show up as tiny pins on the map. Among the more interesting is one of Hurricane Katrina that lets you track precipitation and the temperature of the sea as the storm developed.
Besides messing about with the layers, users can create their own maps to link to, or embed on blogs. Unfortunately these end up as a pretty, but overly simplified spinning globe widget. There's no way to link to other news stories or control where the story is supposed to show up on the map, you're simply able to show off the various layers (one at a time) to others. I'm interested to see if Discovery ends up opening it up to allow users to create richer, more contextual layers that make use of the push pins a little more. In the meantime, it's a little half-baked, but definitely fun to look at.