Earth Engine Objects

Now that you're comfortable with JavaScript, learn how to put JavaScript objects and primitives into Earth Engine containers for sending to the server and processing at Google.

Strings

For example, define a string, then put it into the ee.String() container to be sent to Earth Engine:

// Define a string, then put it into an EE container.
var aString = 'To the cloud!';
var eeString = ee.String(aString);
print('Where to?', eeString);

Think of ee.Thing as a container for a thing that exists on the server. In this example, the string is defined first, then put into the container. You can also define the container and its contents all at once. For example:

// Define a string that exists on the server.
var serverString = ee.String('This is on the server.');
print('String on the server:', serverString);

Although the first argument to print() is just a string on the client, the second argument is actually sent to the server to be evaluated, then sent back.

Numbers

Use ee.Number() to create number objects on the server. For example, use the Math.E JavaScript method to create a constant value on the server:

// Define a number that exists on the server.
var serverNumber = ee.Number(Math.E);
print('e=', serverNumber);

The ee.String() and ee.Number() methods are constructors. A constructor takes its argument (and possibly other parameters), puts it in a container, and returns the container and its contents as an Earth Engine object that you can manipulate in your code. Any constructor starting with ee returns an Earth Engine object.

Methods on Earth Engine objects

Note that once you've created an Earth Engine object, you have to use Earth Engine methods to process it. In this example, you can't use JavaScript's Math.log() to process that Earth Engine object. You have to use the equivalent method defined for an ee.Number:

// Use a built-in function to perform an operation on the number.
var logE = serverNumber.log();
print('log(e)=', logE);

In this example, log() is a method for a ee.Number object. (Use the Docs tab at the left side of the code editor to see a list of all the methods for every Earth Engine object type, for example ee.Number > log()). Note that the methods of Earth Engine objects return other Earth Engine objects.

Lists

To make a JavaScript list into an ee.List object on the server, you can put a JavaScript literal into a container as with numbers and strings. Earth Engine also provides server-side convenience methods for making sequences of numbers. For example:

// Make a sequence the hard way.
var eeList = ee.List([1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);
// Make a sequence the easy way!
var sequence = ee.List.sequence(1, 5);
print('Sequence:', sequence);

Since the ee.List objects only exist on the server, use Earth Engine provided functions to interact with them. For example, to get something out of the list, use the get() method of the ee.List object:

// Use a method on an ee.List to extract a value.
var value = sequence.get(2);
print('Value at index 2:', value);

Casting

Sometimes, Earth Engine doesn't know the type of an object that gets returned from a method. You, as the programmer, know that the value variable in the previous example is a number object. But if you try to use the add() method of an ee.Number, you'll get an error like:

This is common with the get() function, which could return all sorts of Earth Engine objects. To correct it, use the ee.Number constructor to cast the result:

// Cast the return value of get() to a number.
print('No error:', ee.Number(value).add(3));

Dictionaries

You can construct an Earth Engine Dictionary from a JavaScript object, as with strings, numbers and lists. At construction time, you can use JavaScript functionality to initialize the Earth Engine object. In this case an ee.Dictionary is constructed directly from a JavaScript literal object:

// Make a Dictionary on the server.
var dictionary = ee.Dictionary({
  e: Math.E,
  pi: Math.PI,
  phi: (1 + Math.sqrt(5)) / 2
});

// Get some values from the dictionary.
print('Euler:', dictionary.get('e'));
print('Pi:', dictionary.get('pi'));
print('Golden ratio:', dictionary.get('phi'));

// Get all the keys:
print('Keys: ', dictionary.keys());

In this example, observe that once you have an ee.Dictionary, you must use methods on the ee.Dictionary to get values (unlike the JavaScript dictionary in the previous lesson). Specifically, get(key) returns the value associated with key. Since the type of object returned by get() could be be anything, if you're going to do anything to the object other then print it, you need to cast it to the right type. Also note that the keys() method returns an ee.List.

Dates

Date objects are the way Earth Engine represents time. As in the previous examples, it is important to distinguish between a JavaScript Date object and an Earth Engine ee.Date object. Construct an ee.Date from a string, from a JavaScript Date, or using static methods provided by the ee.Date class. (See the Date section in the Docs tab for details). This example illustrates the construction of dates from strings or a JavaScript date representing milliseconds since midnight on January 1, 1970:

// Define a date in Earth Engine.
var date = ee.Date('2015-12-31');
print('Date:', date);

// Get the current time using the JavaScript Date.now() method.
var now = Date.now();
print('Milliseconds since January 1, 1970', now);

// Initialize an ee.Date object.
var eeNow = ee.Date(now);
print('Now:', eeNow);

Dates are useful for filtering collections, specifically as arguments to the filterDate() method. See this section of the Get Started page for more information about sorting collections.

Digression: passing parameters by name

Arguments to Earth Engine methods can be passed in order, for example to create an ee.Date from year, month and day, you can pass parameters of the fromYMD() static method in the order year, month, day:

var aDate = ee.Date.fromYMD(2017, 1, 13);
print('aDate:', aDate);

Alternatively, you can pass the parameters by name, in any order. While it might be more code, it can improve readability and reusability. To pass parameters by name, pass in a JavaScript object in which the keys of the object are the names of the method parameters and the values are the arguments to the method. For example:

var theDate = ee.Date.fromYMD({
  day: 13,
  month: 1,
  year: 2017
});
print('theDate:', theDate);

Note that the names of the object properties (the keys) match the names specified in the ee.Date.fromYMD() docs. Also note that the object that is passed as an argument can be saved in a variable for reuse, as illustrated by the JavaScript object example.

You now have enough of an introduction to JavaScript to start using Earth Engine! See the API Tutorial for an introduction to the geospatial functionality of the Earth Engine API. See the Client vs. Server page for a more detailed explanation of JavaScript vs. Earth Engine objects.

Send feedback about...

Google Earth Engine API