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Google Earth Blog
Last week we talked about the new imagery in Google Earth following the April 25th Nepal earthquake.
On May 12th Nepal experienced a major aftershock consisting of a magnitude 7.3 earthquake. Just one week later Google Earth already has imagery of Kathmandu and surrounding areas captured on May 14th, 2015.
Left: December 18th, 2014. Right: May 14th, 2015.
Above: A hillside in Sindhupalchowk, NorthWest of Kathmandu. According to Wikipedia, between the two quakes, 95% of this areas houses were destroyed.
Left: November 2nd, 2014, Right: May 14th, 2015
The new May 14th imagery has replaced imagery from May 3rd. Several locations which showed piles of debris from collapsed buildings appear to have been cleaned up since then. We cannot do comparisons as the May 3rd imagery has not yet been put into ‘historical imagery’.
For the locations in this post as well as some other locations we have identified around Kathmandu based on this CNN article download this KML file. For best results, check again in a few weeks when the May 3rd imagery makes it into ‘historical imagery’.
In September last year soon after we first released our KML showing the areas covered by 3D imagery, GEB reader ‘bubollofo’ pointed out that there was a blurred square of imagery over Olso, Norway.
Earlier this month we noticed that the blur appeared to have been fixed. However, several readers (thank you Frank and Ryan K) have since pointed out that it has only been fixed in the recently released version of Google Earth and can still be seen in the older version. The blur is in the 3D imagery so you will need to turn on the 3D buildings layer and have the older version of Google Earth in order to see it.
Oslo as seen in Google Earth version v126.96.36.1991
Oslo as seen in Google Earth version v188.8.131.529
We found this interesting as we had assumed the problem was with the data and not the Google Earth client, but this finding suggests that the problem is either with the client itself or something to do with communication between the client and image server.
Do any of our readers know of any other locations that look different in the new version of Google Earth?
To find the location discussed in this post download this KML file
We recently came across this article about a recently released map of average cloud cover for the last 13 years produced by NASA.
The map is provided in the form of an image and a high resolution version can be downloaded from NASA. It would have been nice to view it Google Earth. However, it is provided with a different map projection than is used by Google Earth image overlays. This is usually not much of a problem for small image overlays, but for global maps it is critical. Google Earth image overlays need to be in a the Equirectangular Projection. The NASA cloud cover map is provided in the Hammer Projection.
Do any of our readers know of an easy way to convert global images from one projection to another? NASA provides this tool to convert from the Equirectangular Projection to a wide variety of other projections, but it doesn’t convert the other way.
NASA does provide daily and monthly images of cloud cover maps in the Equirectangular Projection. NASA includes the option to download it them a KMZ file ready to be viewed in Google Earth.
NASA’s average cloud cover map for April, 2015 as seen in Google Earth. To see it for yourself download this KMZ file
Antarctica is of particular interest. It appears to have three distinct zones of cloud density. We guess that these correspond to:
- A region off shore with pack ice.
- The coastal ice shelves.
- The actual land which is higher than the ice shelves.
Can any of our readers give a more scientific explanation?
Thank you to GEB reader AC for pointing us to the recently added imagery of Sana’a Airport in Yemen. The image comes from DigitalGlobe and was captured on March 27th, 2015.
Before and after images of buildings destroyed at Sana’a Airport, Yemen.
The conflict in Yemen is ongoing and the airport has been struck a number of times since March, including the bombing of the aircraft seen in this article.So check the location again in a month or two to see if new imagery gets added.
To see the buildings shown above and a couple of other noteworthy locations, download this KML file.
Most oil platforms can not be seen in Google Earth. This is because Google and its imagery providers do not bother with imagery of the oceans far from the coast unless there is something of particular interest. Back in 2006 Google Sightseeing was able to find a few oil platforms in Google Earth’s imagery which they showcase in this post.
In March we told you about DigitalGlobe’s First Look program and its public map showing where imagery has been captured of particular events. One such event was an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 1st, 2015. DigitalGlobe captured imagery of the location on April 5th which shows an oil slick coming from the platform.
To find the location of the oil rig above in Google Earth download this KML file.
Several images from before and after the event have been added to Google Earth in the area and a number of other oil rigs can be seen in the imagery. The imagery can only be seen in ‘historical imagery’. Many of the oil rigs show plumes of smoke but these are normal gas flares. I you turn on the ‘Earth City Lights’ layer (found in Gallery->NASA), you will notice a very bright area where the above oil rigs are due to the gas flares.
If you turn on the ‘photos’ layer you can find a number of pictures of oil rigs in the region.
The post Oil Slick from Oil Platform Explosion in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
The imagery in Google Earth is carefully selected to be as cloud-free and snow-cover-free as possible. This makes for a good, clear picture of features on the ground, but it does mean we are missing out on what the earth really looks like from above most of the time.
Google sometimes includes imagery with significant cloud cover when there is something of particular interest in the imagery. A good example of this is some US towns that suffered tornado damage that we have looked at in Google Earth. If you look at the locations of those towns in ‘historical imagery’ you will immediately notice patches of cloudy imagery covering the locations and dated soon after the events. We even saw in yesterday’s post an example of some false colour imagery being used.
Although clouds do obscure the ground features, they can be quite beautiful. We recently came across two examples we thought were worth sharing:
Sunset over the Nile, taken by Italian ISS astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
The post Beautiful Satellite Imagery we won’t be Seeing in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
[Update: Thank you to GEB reader AC for pointing out that the Kathmandu imagery is actually May 3rd imagery (I read the dates wrong) and does show earthquake damage.]
We have been keeping an eye on Nepal in Google Earth to see if any post-earthquake imagery gets added. We found quite a lot of March imagery that was captured before the Earthquake, but added to Google Earth in the last couple of weeks. There is also a fairly large image captured on May 5th, 2015 just over a week after the earthquake.
We also found two small areas with imagery from April 27th, 2015 captured just a couple of days after the earthquake. Interestingly though, they are false colour images and all the trees look red. Most likely a satellite designed to take images only in infra-red that was available at the time, captured imagery of the location and Google has decided the imagery is useful enough to include.
The latest imagery has not yet been added to ‘historical imagery’ so we can’t check the extent of the full image. It is likely a much larger image than what we can see and was probably intended by Google to be visible only in ‘historical imagery’.
Interesting false colour imagery in Nepal captured just days after the earthquake.
To find the above patches of red imagery, and see the approximate extent of the May 5th image, download this KML file.
We have not been able to identify any earthquake damage in any of the imagery. If you spot anything of interest, please let us know in the comments.
We recently came across this interesting thread on the new Google Earth Community.
Apparently a woman was driving through a park in Lithuania with her sister. They got stuck in the mud and didn’t know where they were. They did have a cell phone, but did not know how to send their GPS coordinates. So instead, they posted a screenshot from Google Maps on Facebook. Soon after, the cell phone battery died making further communication impossible. Someone then posted the image on the Google Earth Community website asking if anyone could help find the exact location. Google Earth Community member ‘krenek’ found and posted the location, which was used by the search team to successfully locate the car, and a kilometre away, the two women, who had spent the night in the car and then decided to set off on foot in search of help.
Well done ‘krenek’ and the Google Earth Community!
The image that was used in the rescue.
To see the location in Google Earth, use this KML file that was posted on the Google Earth community by ‘krenek’.
We have looked at similar rescue stories in the past, such as this one, where a lost family was rescued with help from landmarks identified in Google Earth. Back in 2007 famed adventurer Steve Fossett went missing and there was an attempt to find him using satellite imagery. Sadly the search was unsuccessful. The crash site was only identified a year later. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.
As we mentioned in our month-end post, over the last couple of months, Google has stepped up the rate at which they are releasing 3D imagery.
Most notably in the last week Google has added areas in three new countries: South Africa, Kosovo and Montenegro. The imagery in the three new countries appears to have been captured in the second half of 2014.
As usual, you can see the extent of Goolge’s 3D coverage with our KML file and let us know about new areas in the comments of this post. Keep in mind that it can take us several days to add new finds to the KML. As always, a big thank you to Anton Rudolfsson for tracing the areas for the KML, and to all the GEB readers who find new areas.
Although Google has removed its 3D Imagery map from the Google Maps Gallery, the map still exists and Google has updated it with the latest additions. You can use this KML file to view it in Google Earth.
Google pays special attention to bridge models, such as this interesting design in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Some unusually colourful buildings at a sewage plant in Gottingen, Germany.
For the above locations, and a couple of other places of interest in the new imagery, download this KML file.
Google has updated its monthly Imagery Updates map to show April 2015. You can view it in Google Earth using this KML file. As usual, there is no way to keep a permanent record other than a screen shot and the above links will likely be updated to show later months in the future.
Monthly Google Earth Imagery Updates – April 2015. Larger version.
We have already looked at the April 24th Imagery Updates map which is included in the above map.
Let us know if you find anything interesting in the imagery.
Can you tell which is Canada and which is Madagascar?
As you can see below, the actual area covered with new Street View imagery hardly makes a difference to the global Street View map. However, with a high quality 360 degree panorama every few metres it is still a lot of imagery.
Street View changes (in red) between March 12th, 2015 and May 7th, 2015. Be sure to check the larger version here.
If you are curious as to how we created the above map, we used this html file, which uses the Google Maps API to show the Street View coverage of the world. We then used a Chrome extension called ‘Full Page Screen Capture’ to capture a screen shot of it. We took another screen shot at a later date and used a graphics editor to compare the two and mark the differences in red. It doesn’t just find new Street View, but also finds changes to Google Maps at that zoom level. For example, some cities in China appear to have gained prominence, there have been some changes to the coastline of Greenland and Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan got a bit bigger. There are also minor changes to coastlines and country borders all over the world.
The above map can be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth using this KMZ file.
The movement being measured is the overall vertical movement of the ground as a result of the earthquake. If I read the map correctly, the ground moved upwards with maximum movement at a point just North of Kathmandu. In the above screenshot we have turned on the ‘Earthquakes’ layer (found in the Gallery layer) in Google Earth which shows that the centre of the initial magnitude 7.8 earthquake was further to the North West (the largest Earthquake icon).
DigitalGlobe captured satellite imagery of the region soon after the earthquake and has made it available for free to emergency responders under a Public License for Humanitarian purposes.
It is possible to see the imagery on DigitalGlobe’s website and you can help with the crowdsourcing campaign on the Tomnod website.
We have not yet found a way to download the imagery for viewing in Google Earth.
Google Earth has the built in option to switch to the Moon or Mars. We have looked at various ways to look at other planets in the past. Many of the best came from James Stafford’s Barnabu blog. Last year we also showed you how to turn Google Earth into various planets using maps provided by the SETI Institute on the Google Maps Gallery. Sadly, they appear to be no-longer available.
NASA’s MESSENGER mission to the planet Mercury recently came to an end with the spacecraft running out of fuel and crashing into the planet on April 30th, 2015.
NASA provides a KMZ that you can download here. It essentially turns Google Earth into Google Mercury. So download it, and try it out. For best results, turn off all the Google Earth layers.
Also included in the KMZ are four Google Earth tours by members of the MESSENGER team. Be sure to check them out. There are also a large number of place markers, which, when you click on them, show a specific photo of the surface of Mercury and some detailed information and comments about the photo and what we can learn from it.
We have in the past looked at a lot of content provided by the USGS. The USGS is the provider of the data for the ‘earthquakes layer’ in Google Earth. We also looked at some of their future plans, like the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP).
We recently came across this article about USGS’s topoView. Despite its name, it is not for actually viewing maps but rather, it helps you find and download them. The maps in question are historical topographic maps of the US from the USGS’s vast collection.
The maps can be downloaded in various formats, including KMZ for viewing in Google Earth.
A topographic map of Fort Smith, Arkansas, from 1887.
We found it interesting in the Fort Smith map above just how much the river has changed since then. When you have downloaded a KMZ and loaded it in Google Earth, expand it in ‘Places’, find the ‘Map’ item, right click and select ‘properties’. In the Image overlay dialog box that appears you can adjust the transparency of the map to compare it with the modern imagery in Google Earth.
We have several times looked at satellite imagery that can serve as art. We have also looked at a Chrome extension called Earth View that uses satellite imagery as a background in new tabs in Google Chrome. And we have looked at artwork so large that it can only really be appreciated from aerial or satellite imagery.
Today we are looking at two recent stories of satellite imagery being used for art.
First up is artist Federico Winer who has created stunning artwork by taking satellite imagery and adjusting the colour and luminosity to give it a whole new look. See the full story here and see the artist’s website here.
One of Federico Winer’s artworks. See his website for high resolution versions of his artwork.
The second story is that clothing and design company Betabrand has recently partnered with satellite-maker Planet Labs to produce clothing printed with satellite imagery. See the full story here, or the Planet Labs post here.
A dress with satellite imagery print.
In yesterday’s post we mentioned that Google has stopped producing imagery update maps for every update. It turns out we were wrong. Thank you to GEB reader Munden for letting us know that Google has released a map for an update on April 24th, 2015. You can view it in Google Earth using this KML file. Keep in mind that Google uses the same map for each update so in future you may see a more recent update than the one discussed in this post. There is no way that we know of of saving the map other than a screen shot.
Latest Google Earth Imagery map – April 24th, 2015. Larger version.
Do not assume that all the added imagery is recent. For example, there is a patch of aerial imagery in Spain that is dated 15th June 2013. For more on what the map is telling us, see this series of posts we wrote last month.
This update includes imagery of some of the Islands of Vanuatu captured soon after it was hit by Cyclone Pam in March.
Some buildings have lost their roofs.
If you wish to explore the area, be sure to check ‘historical imagery’ and also check outside the red outlines, as there are other relevant images of the cyclone damage from previous updates.
If you find anything interesting in the imagery, do let us know in the comments.
Probably the biggest news in April was the release of a new minor version of Google Earth, the first in nearly two years. It is a minor bug fix release, but it does indicate renewed interest by Google in Google Earth and we are taking it as a sign of good things to come.
Google have stepped up the releases of 3D imagery with March and April seeing significantly more releases than usual in terms of area covered. As always, you can see the coverage using our KML file and report new finds in the comments of this post.
Approximate area in square kilometres of 3D imagery released by Google each month.
Google has been adding satellite imagery, but we will have to wait for their Imagery Updates map, which they have recently been producing monthly, rather than on every update. This month we did a series of posts on how to interpret that map.
We had a look at a message created by Hyundai from a girl called Stephanie to her father, who works on the International Space Station.
We had a look at some red lakes around the world and the reason for their unusual colour – a type of red algae that thrives in salty water. As GEB reader Chris points out in the comments, there are other causes for unusual colours in water bodies, the most common being pollution from mines or run-off from agricultural land.
I enjoyed creating the image for the Oceans on Mars story and it turned out much better than I had expected.
What was your favourite GEB story in April?
In March we looked at how Google Earth hides 3D imagery when it is far away. Today we are looking at cases where there are two distinct sets of imagery depending on the distance you are viewing it from.
When you are viewing from a high altitude in Google Earth, the main imagery shown is a composite image created from Landsat imagery. As you zoom in, the imagery transitions to higher resolution satellite and aerial imagery. At what altitude this transition happens depends on your screen resolution. The change is often so subtle that you don’t really notice that the imagery is different. It is most noticeable when there are large changes to the landscape over time, such as farmland and lakes that vary in size with the seasons.
The idea of having a different, better looking global image was first pioneered by Frank using NASA’s blue marble image as an image overlay. Only later did Google incorporate the idea into Google Earth.
Toshka Lakes region in Egypt viewed from different altitudes. Note the extra irrigation circles and a change in the Lake.
For some reason the Landsat imagery doesn’t extend to the poles. The islands of Svalbard and other locations in the far North and much of Antarctica still shows the characteristic strips of satellite imagery even when zoomed out. Nevertheless, there is a change in imagery as you zoom in. Svalbard in particular, shows some dramatic changes in many places.
Last week we looked at the difference in ocean floor bathymetry between the default view and ‘historical imagery’. It turns out that near Hawaii in the default view, the ocean floor changes quite dramatically depending on the altitude you view it at.
Ocean floor near Hawaii.
We have even seen a similar effect in 3D imagery, such a building we looked at in San Francisco, which showed the building in different stages of construction. It seems Google has since modified the settings in that area, so we were unable to see the same effect this time. However, the building does still seem to be a combination of the two models and the crane disappears as you zoom out or zoom in very close.
Building under construction and complete. Both models were clearly visible when we looked at it in December last year.
To find the locations in this post and a couple more locations of interest download this KML file.
It was recently announced that Michael Jones, one of the original founders of Google Earth, has left Google and is now CEO of a cool new VR glasses maker called Wearality. These glasses are unlike other VR glasses because of an ultra-wide 150 degree field of view thanks to patented fresnel lens technology. If you hurry, you can still join their Kickstarter campaign and get early access to these new VR glasses, which are reportedly awesome to behold. They are 88% of the way to their goal of raising $100K, and 8 days are left to the deadline.
I have always dreamed of seeing Google Earth done right in VR. Now we have someone at the wheel of a major new technology who has a serious interest in making that happen! You can already view Google Earth data in the Wearality glasses thanks to its interface with Google Cardboard, which shows StreetView data in stereoscopic 3D. It won’t be long I think before we see more Google Earth goodness from this company.
You can see a short (12 seconds) direct view of what its like looking through the glasses (view of a roller coaster) by someone who used their LG G3 smartphone looking through one lens (select HD mode for best viewing):
I’ve known Michael since he worked at Silicon Graphics over 20 years ago, and we have all used technology he helped create like OpenGL and Google Earth. The fact he has left Google to run this VR glasses company tells me he thinks this one will usher in yet another major computer graphics revolution.
We were recently reading this story from NASA that says Mars used to have large oceans. It includes a tantalizing picture reminiscent of Google Earth. So we decided to see if we could simulate oceans in Google Mars.
We have looked at a number of stories in the past where people have used KML to simulate sea level rise:
- Map of Projected Sea Level Rise Effects on Vancouver
- Animation Roundup: Rising Sea Levels, Filling Grand Canyon, Global Clouds
- Flooding Google Earth
- Using Google Earth to predict sea level rise
However, it turns out this technique doesn’t work over large areas. KML polygons set to fixed altitude do not curve with the earth’s surface.
So, instead, we found a digital elevation model (DEM) map of Mars provided by NASA that can be obtained from here. We then used an image editing program to colour the lower elevations blue and make higher elevations transparent. We then took the resulting image and made an image overlay and you can see the result below:
For an even more realistic effect, we combined our ocean with this Mars map also from NASA. Then we used it in an image overlay on the Earth, instead of Mars, which enables us to turn on the ‘Clouds’ layer, giving the result seen below:
The NASA image did not have clouds, but the picture on this Wikipedia page does. Without plants, the land would not have been green like much of the Earth is.
To try these out for yourselves, download these KML files: Mars Ocean
Mars Ocean and Land. The second one is best viewed with all layers turned off except the ‘Clouds’ layer (found in the ‘Weather’ layer).
The maps may not be scientifically accurate, as we don’t know whether the elevation data in the NASA maps takes into account the equatorial bulge that is created due to rotation. On Earth we usually calculate elevation above or below Sea Level, but that doesn’t work on Mars as it doesn’t have a sea.