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Using artificial inteligence on satellite imagery

mar 17-01-2017

We recently came across this interesting article which talks about how DigitalGlobe is applying AI to satellite imagery recognition.

Humans brains are still extremely useful, so DigitalGlobe also has a crowd-sourcing platform that can be used either on its own, or to train and artificial intelligence algorithm.

If you are interested in AI and satellite imagery then read the DigitalGlobe developer blog which has a number of interesting articles such as:

Detecting and measuring coastal change
Finding pools
Monitoring changes along pipeline routes
Detecting population centers in Nigeria

Detecting population centers in Nigeria. [Image: DigitalGlobe]

You can also sign up for a free evaluation account on DigitalGlobes AI platform GBDX.

Incidentally, we also found this comment in the article mentioned in the first paragraph above to be interesting:

DigitalGlobe also doesn’t release images of active U.S. combat areas.”

This at least partially explains the censorship (lack of imagery updates) of certain countries in Google Earth. It is not clear whether this is a decision made unilaterally by DigitalGlobe.

The post Using artificial inteligence on satellite imagery appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Wish list for Google Earth for 2017

lun 16-01-2017

Here is our wish list for 2017:

  • Google has been making bug-fix updates to Google Earth, which have been very welcome (the crash that used to happen when moving placemarks was very frustrating), but there have been no new features added. We would love to see new features, or even a major update.

  • Google has recently shut down the Google Earth plugin / API. The main reason given for discontinuing it was that it relied on old technology called NPAPI that is considered insecure by browser makers and is being removed from browsers or made harder to use. We would love to see Google provide some alternative ways to control Google Earth via code and query Google Earth’s datasets. It could even provide information that could not be easily obtained with the old API such as imagery providers, or the boundary of a given image.

  • Given that the Google Earth plugin / API is now shut down, we will be unable to create imagery update maps. A few years ago Google would release update maps on a fairly regular basis. Over the last few years, however, it has only provided teasers in the Voyager layers, usually covering only a tiny fraction of all the updates that have taken place. It would be fantastic if Google was to resume publishing imagery update maps.

  • The yearly global mosaics of Landsat/Sentinel-2 imagery that were recently added to historical imagery are a welcome addition, but also come with some disadvantages. They make it much harder to explore historical imagery and in some places Google has got the settings wrong. We would like to see the altitude at which they fade out raised slightly and even better, the option to turn them off.

  • An interesting additional setting for the ‘historical imagery’ feature would be to allow the selection of a date range rather than the current maximum date. That way you could easily find all imagery within a given date range (especially if the Landsat / Sentinel-2 layers could be turned off).

  • The global mosaics are created by merging multiple images at any given location and as a result lose some resolution and do not show seasonal changes and events. It would be fantastic if Google could find a way to allow us to view the raw Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery in Google Earth. The ideal would be to have a special layer where you could view them. Currently, although the imagery can be obtained relatively easily, it still needs to be downloaded, processed and then inserted in Google Earth. It would not be difficult at all to process all the imagery and make it work with Google Earth. The only issue is processing time and storage, which Google has in abundance. Google already offers the unprocessed data on Google Cloud. It could at least add processed ‘true colour’ versions to the database, even better would be to break it into smaller tiles.

  • With Panoramio being shut down in November this year, it is time that Google finally fixes user contributed Street View in Google Earth.

  • We would also love to see ‘historical Street View’ added to Google Earth. It currently only exists in the Google Maps version of Street View.

  • Better navigation tools for Street View would also be nice. Some ideas from Google Maps could be incorporated into Google Earth.

  • Google Earth has seen a number of layers being dropped. Other layers do not work correctly and are not being updated and maintained by the original data providers. We would love to see a revitalisation of the layers. Google could start by having a look at projects in Google Earth Engine such as the Global Surface Water Changes map.

  • Google Earth’s altitude data is often far from accurate. There is better quality altitude data available from open sources. We would like to see Google update the altitude data.

  • We are generally happy with the progress made in 3D imagery and hope to see this continue.

  • We would like to see more of the solar system planets and moons included in Google Earth.

  • We would like to see improvements to the Tour functionality of Google Earth. It is an underutilised feature of Google Earth, partly because it lacks flexibility and partly due to the lack of Tour creation tooling.

  • We would like the ability to save ‘My Places’ to the cloud and sync it with other computers as well as allowing simultaneous editing from multiple locations.

The blue dots of user contributed Street View can be seen in Google Earth, but there is no way to view the actual photos.

See our wish list from a couple of years ago here. A few of our wishes and those of our readers were actually fulfilled.

What is your wish list for Google Earth in 2017? Let us know in the comments.

The post Wish list for Google Earth for 2017 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Observations about the 2016 ‘historical imagery’ updates

ven 13-01-2017

Earlier this week we released maps showing the imagery updates of 2016 according to the ‘historical imagery’ layer. The maps were created using the Google Earth Plugin/API, which Google has since shut down. It was scheduled to be shut down on January 11th. It was still working yesterday, January 12th, but is not today, January 13th.

Southern Hemisphere
The first thing to note about the maps of ‘historical imagery’ is that there is no imagery in the southern Hemisphere from July onwards. This is not because Google is not adding fresh imagery there, but because it only updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer for the Northern Hemisphere. During the first half of 2016, Google was updating ‘historical imagery’ almost weekly, but in mid-July they stopped and didn’t update it again until late December, but apparently only updated the Northern Hemisphere. They have been doing imagery updates for the Southern Hemisphere, but they can only be seen in the default layer.

Types of imagery
Google gathers aerial imagery for some parts of the world. We believe it collects the imagery itself as the imagery shows no attributions other than Google. There is also this page suggesting it sells aerial imagery, too. Aerial imagery can typically be identified by the size of the imagery patches. They tend to be large rectangles as opposed to the smaller rectangles or strips of satellite imagery. Aerial imagery is used almost exclusively for:

  • The continental United States.
  • Western Europe, excluding the Scandinavian countries.
  • Japan.

A few countries have received a mix of both satellite and aerial imagery:

  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia.

If you see Google aerial imagery from 2016 anywhere else, please let us know in the comments.

Satellite imagery all seems to come from two suppliers, DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum.

Reasons for imagery
Aerial imagery, especially in the US, appears to be gathered on a schedule, with the US being covered approximately once every three years. Satellite imagery appears to be gathered for three basic reasons:

  1. To capture particular events. DigitalGlobe’s ‘FirstLook’ program gathers imagery of natural disasters, man-made disasters, political instability and human interest. See the FirstLook map to get an idea of what is covered. Most FirstLook imagery eventually makes its way into Google Earth. We have covered a number of these locations in previous posts. Imagery gathered for particular events tends to be of poorer quality, sometimes being black and white or false colour and having a high percentage of cloud cover.
  2. Particular locations of interest to the suppliers DigitalGlobe and CNES Astrum. This is especially noticeable with DigitalGlobe imagery, which is gathered very regularly for certain locations, usually cities.
  3. Random locations where the imagery suppliers managed to get good quality imagery because weather conditions were just right.

We do not know whether or not Google ever makes special orders for satellite imagery or what their agreements are with the satellite imagery suppliers.

Weather plays an important role in the gathering of imagery. Google avoids snow cover and cloud cover where possible, both of which are quite seasonal. This results in a curious pattern of imagery gathering, which you can see in this map.

Sparsely populated areas such as mountains and deserts typically get a lot less imagery than highly populated areas.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and the Ukraine are censored and got no updated imagery during 2016. We do not know how the censorship is achieved, but it is most likely not up to Google. Our guess is that the satellite imagery providers have been paid to not supply imagery to Google for those countries. Imagery is being gathered, and it would appear that you can buy imagery for those countries via TerraServer and other suppliers.

India and Pakistan got good coverage for 2016.

The post Observations about the 2016 ‘historical imagery’ updates appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Is Google selling Terra Bella to Planet?

jeu 12-01-2017

A recent story in the news is a rumour that Google may be planning to sell its satellite imaging business Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) to satellite imaging company Planet (formerly Planet Labs).

Google acquired Terra Bella, then Skybox Imaging, in mid 2014. At the time, Terra Bella had two satellites, SkySats 1 and 2. It added five more satellites to its constellation in 2016, SkySat 3 in June and then SkySats 4 through 7 in September. It has more launches planned for 2017, with some sources suggesting a fleet of 21 satellites by the end of the year.

It makes sense that Google would choose to sell Terra Bella as it really is not a particularly good fit with its other businesses. Terra Bella specialises in medium resolution satellite imagery – higher resolution than Landsat and Sentinel-2 but lower resolution than DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum the two main suppliers of satellite imagery for Google Earth. Terra Bella’s focus is cheap satellites and rapid or regular acquisition (enabled by launching a relatively large number of satellites). This is the exact same market that Planet is in, except Planet currently has a much larger fleet. Planet makes its own cheap satellites it calls Doves. We do not know how many are currently in orbit, but in just one launch last year it deployed 12 at once. You can see some others being launched from the Space Station on Planets Blog. Planet also acquired RapidEye in 2015, which consists of a fleet of five satellites.

We have only once seen a Terra Bella image in Google Earth and it was removed soon after we discovered it. It appeared to have been a test of some sort and was in the middle of the Sahara where Google probably thought nobody would notice it.

A gif animation of the Burning Man festival created by Terra Bella.

The post Is Google selling Terra Bella to Planet? appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

SpaceX in Google Earth

mer 11-01-2017

This weekend, on January 14th, SpaceX hopes to return to flight with their first launch since the explosion last September on the launchpad of their rocket carrying the Amos-6 mission. As fans of SpaceX, we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some SpaceX related sights in Google Earth.

Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, location of the launchpad explosion. Image captured one month after the explosion.

If you switch to ‘historical imagery’ with the 3D buildings layer turned on, you can see a 3D model of a SpaceX rocket on the launch pad.

SpaceX is noted for being able to (some of the time) land the first stage of their rockets either on land or on an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

Space Launch Complex 1, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX’s east coast landing site.

One of SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships named ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port of Jacksonville, Florida.

One of the drone ships in Port of Jacksonville, Florida as seen in 3D imagery. We are not certain which as there is no name and the deck layout is slightly different from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’

‘Of Course I Still Love You’ can also be seen in Port Cape Canaveral in October 2016. See the KML file at the end of the post for the location.

A successfully landed first stage being unloaded from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port Cape Canaveral in June 2016. See in Street View.

Note that you can also explore some of the launch complexes in Street View.

‘Just Read the Instructions’, SpaceX’s west coast drone ship seen in Port of Los Angeles, California.

The SpaceX testing facility in McGregor, Texas

SpaceX headquarters, 1 Rocket Road, Los Angeles. The X is drawn with solar panels. Also note next door neighbour Tesla.

For the above locations and more, including the location of a planned private spaceport at the southern tip of Texas, download this KML file.

The post SpaceX in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Two stages of construction in Google Earth 3D imagery

mar 10-01-2017

Thank you to GEB reader Jacob for bringing to our attention an interesting effect in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, there is a building in the 3D imagery that seems to be a combination of imagery from when it was still under construction and imagery from after its completion. The result is quite interesting and worth exploring in Google Earth. Find it in Google Earth with this KML file. Be sure to turn on the 3D buildings layer.

The 3D imagery was only recently added to Google Earth (first reported by GEB readers on January 3rd, 2017) but, based on historical imagery the building was constructed between May 2014, when there is no building visible, and September 2015 when it is mostly finished. So at least some of the imagery used to create the 3D is several years old.

We have previously noted a case where a building could be seen in different stages of construction depending on zoom level and an instance where whole buildings were missing from the 3D imagery.

The post Two stages of construction in Google Earth 3D imagery appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth imagery update outlines for 2016

lun 09-01-2017

Today we are releasing our map of Google Earth imagery updates for 2016. Download this KML file to see it in Google Earth.

Let us know in the comments if you find any interesting sights that we have not yet covered.

Eastern Europe got noticeably more imagery than Western Europe. We guess this is because Western Europe mostly already has high quality aerial imagery. Most of the updated imagery in Western Europe is aerial imagery attributed to Google and we believe gathered by Google.

The Ukraine is an exception as it is still censored along with Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which received new imagery in 2016.

The maps show the approximate locations of imagery updates from January to November 2016 classified by month. As far as we know there are no December images yet in ‘historical imagery’. The maps are created using the Google Earth API / plugin, which is set to be shut down a couple of days from now (January 11th, 2017).

There is some recent imagery in Google Earth that has not yet made it to ‘historical imagery’, which is not included in the maps. Also keep in mind that Google sometimes adds old imagery, so during the course of 2016 they would have added quite a lot of 2015 or older imagery which is not included in these maps and in the future they will add more 2016 imagery.

Speed in milliseconds per image:

Imagery updates dated 2016, January to November

Speed up the animation by dragging the slider to the left to better see the seasonality of imagery, a topic we have discussed a few times in the past:
Preferred seasons for gathering imagery
2015 imagery updates animated


The post Google Earth imagery update outlines for 2016 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

A River Runs Red

ven 06-01-2017

While looking through the recent imagery updates we came across this story about a river in Russia that turned red. DigitalGlobe captured some imagery of the location, including both a colour image and a black and white image, captured on the same day. Unfortunately, Google Earth has a problem that we have previously discussed in that if two overlapping images are captured on the same day, it is impossible to see the image that has been overlapped. In this case, the black and white image has been placed on top of the colour image and since we are specifically looking for colour, this is a problem.

Nickel producer Norilsk Nickel initially denied claims that its nearby metal processing plant was to blame, but later admitted responsibility. A look at the satellite imagery of the area in Google Earth makes it abundantly clear that the plant is responsible, and that the red colour has been leaking for years. There are actually two different streams leading away from the waste water pool and both show clear signs of discoloration. It is not clear from the articles about it which of the streams are in the photos.

The location as seen in Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery

The stream that runs south of the waste water pool as seen in DigitalGlobe imagery. The water colour appears to vary between green, yellow and brown. But colours in satellite imagery are not always accurate.

The stream that runs north of the waste water pool. The water itself looks a muddy greenish, but the sand is clearly stained red.

To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.

The post A River Runs Red appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Imagery Updates, Italian Earthquake, Burning Man, Train Crash

jeu 05-01-2017

Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer in Google Earth and we have done a series of posts on the various interesting sights:
Wildfires in the US
More US wildfires, US floods and a Tornado
Floods around the world and the Calais Jungle Migrant camp

Today we are looking at a few more locations around the world.

Italian Earthquakes
Italy suffered two major earthquakes last year in August and October, which we have covered previously (August earthquake, October earthquake. There is now some DigitalGlobe imagery of some of the worst affected areas.

Amatrice, Italy was near the epicentre of the August earthquake.

2016 Burning Man Festival

There are a couple of images of last year’s Burning Man Festival.

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Texas train crash
On June 28th, 2016, there was a fiery train crash in Texas involving two freight trains. The Google Earth imagery is from July 3rd, 2016 after some cleanup has been done.

To see the above locations in Google Earth download This KML file.

jQuery(document).ready(function() {jQuery(function(){jQuery('.sliders').each(function(i){jQuery(this).beforeAfter({imagePath: '/js/utils/',showFullLinks : false});});});});

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Low resolution imagery in Google Earth historical imagery

mer 04-01-2017

We have recently had several enquiries or comments pointing out that a lot of the imagery in Google Earth ‘historical imagery’ is very low resolution and we thought it would be best to do a post explaining it.

The low resolution imagery in question is a set of yearly (from 1984 to date) global mosaics of Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery that Google added to Google Earth in November last year. It is a wonderful addition and allows us to see how the planet has changed over the past 26 years. We have done a number of posts on the imagery including creating a tool to allow you to animate the imagery with a dynamic tour.

When the imagery was first added to Google Earth, it only showed in ‘historical imagery’ mode and only when you were zoomed out and would transition to normal higher resolution imagery as you zoomed in. However, it would appear Google got it wrong with the most recent update to ‘historical imagery’ and for half of the earth it does not go away as you zoom in. This doesn’t prevent you from seeing the high resolution imagery if you move the slider on the time toolbar, but it does make it harder to explore imagery and users not very familiar with ‘historical imagery’ or not aware of the new Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics may not realise what is happening and think there is a problem with Google Earth.

It would appear, based on places we have checked so far as well as a map of recent imagery updates that we are currently working on, that the problem occurs only in the north-eastern quarter of the globe including all of North Africa, Europe and to the east, north of the equator. South of the equator and the western half of the globe starting at the Cape Verde Islands (around longitude 20° W) in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa and all the way to the antimeridian is working correctly with the Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics fading out at an eye altitude of about 10 – 20km (depending on screen resolution). Also, for the whole globe, the mosaics do not fade out over the oceans, although as far as we know, the image used for the oceans in the mosaics is the same for all years – but different from the image that is used as the base layer in ‘historical imagery’ which can still be seen if you move the date to before 1984.

In the image above we are looking at the equator where it crosses Sumatra, Indonesia. In the upper half of the image, north of the equator, the Landsat / Sentinel imagery has not faded out whereas south of the equator the higher resolution imagery is showing. The same effect can be seen along the equator where it crosses in Africa. The actual high resolution imagery in this particular case is not particularly good imagery being black and white and cloudy. This is because the particular location is difficult to photograph because of high levels of cloud cover being mostly tropical rain forest.

The region where the Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery does not fade out correctly.

The post Low resolution imagery in Google Earth historical imagery appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Imagery Updates – Migrants and floods

mar 03-01-2017

We have recently been looking at the latest imagery updates added to ‘historical imagery’. So far we have been looking at the US, including wildfires and more wildfires, floods and a tornado.

Today we are moving on to other parts of the world.

Calais Jungle
The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant camp in Calais, France, situated next to the English Chanel. Most of the people who lived there were trying to get to the United Kingdom. The camp was evacuated and closed in late October, 2016. The latest image in Google Earth is from August, 2016, so we cannot yet see it after the closure. However, we can see how the camp grew between 2013 and 2016.

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Speed in milliseconds per image:


Flooding in India, August, 2016
In August, 2016, eastern and central India experienced severe flooding, killing at least 300 people and affecting millions.

This is part of the Ganges flood plain near Patna, India

Extensive flooding near Patna, India even in areas that are not obviously flood plain.

Flooding in Bangladesh, August, 2016
Also due to the same heavy monsoons that caused the flooding in India above, Bangladesh experienced severe flooding, killing at least 42 people. The imagery is from August 23rd and we believe that the worst of the flooding was over by then, but we can still see some flooded areas.

Flooding in Vietnam, October-December, 2016
Central Vietnam experienced severe flooding at least three times from October to December, 2016. The imagery in Google Earth is from early November.

It is often hard to tell, even when comparing with older imagery, what is normally or seasonally wet land (lake, river, flood plain) and what is unusual flooding.

Flooding in Japan, August, 2016
Typhoon Lionrock caused major flooding in northern Japan. The imagery in Google Earth is from after the flood, but we can see some of the damage caused.

To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file. We have also outlined the extent of the relevant imagery for each location.


jQuery(document).ready(function() {jQuery(function(){jQuery('.sliders').each(function(i){jQuery(this).beforeAfter({imagePath: '/js/utils/',showFullLinks : false});});});});

The post Google Earth Imagery Updates – Migrants and floods appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth Imagery Updates, Fire, Flood, Tornado!

lun 02-01-2017

Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer after nearly six months of no updates. So, there is a lot of interesting new imagery to see. Last week we had a look at some US wildfires. Today, we are staying with the US and having a look at some more wildfires, some floods and a tornado.

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Blue Cut Fire, Cajon Pass, California
The Blue Cut Fire destroyed 105 homes and 213 other structures in August, 2016.



Pilot Fire, California.
The Pilot Fire took place just a short distance to the east of the above Blue Cut Fire. We can see the extent of the burn in Google Earth and a number of houses that were saved by effective firefighting. See the KML file at the end of this post for the location in Google Earth.

Cold Springs Fire, Colorado, July, 2016

We can see the fire in progress.

And we can see the burnt area in later imagery.

Some houses burnt by the Cold Springs Fire.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Flooding
Back in August we used Sentinel-2 imagery to see the severe flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more about the widespread Louisiana flooding event on Wikipedia.

There is now some DigitalGlobe imagery of Baton Rouge showing the flood in various stages:

Kokomo Tornado.
A number of tornadoes struck Indiana in late August, 2016, including one that hit Kokomo, Indiana, destroying a Starbucks in the process. The satellite imagery is not very good quality, although we can see the location of the Starbucks that was destroyed. There is however Street View from before and after the event showing that the Starbucks no longer exists:

See in Google Maps

To find the locations of the imagery above in Google Earth download this KML file

jQuery(document).ready(function() {jQuery(function(){jQuery('.sliders').each(function(i){jQuery(this).beforeAfter({imagePath: '/js/utils/',showFullLinks : false});});});});

The post Google Earth Imagery Updates, Fire, Flood, Tornado! appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The best of Google Earth for December 2016

ven 30-12-2016

We noted that the ‘historical imagery’ layer has finally been updated and had a look at some wildfires in the US.

We had a look at the most significant changes to Google Earth during 2016. Thank you to GEB reader Bhaskar Phukan for pointing out that we missed mentioning that Google Map Maker is being merged with Google Maps and will be shut down in March 2017. It isn’t technically a part of Google Earth, but a lot of the map data in Google Earth came to it via Google Map Maker.

We had a look at the extent of new Street View coverage added during the course of 2016. We also had a look at the progress made during 2016 in new 3D imagery coverage.

We talked about why Santa’s base remains a secret and discussed the various reasons why Google Earth imagery in the polar regions is so poor.

We had a look at satellite imaging company Planet’s new natural disaster response imagery platform.

We had a look at a study using Sentinel 1 data to measure the sinking of the Millennium Tower, San Francisco.

We ran the Google Earth Blog Santa Tracker.

We had a look at ‘Land Lines’ a Chrome experiment that has fun with a selection of Google Earth imagery.

Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands got Street View.

We had a look at a sunken island caused by bad altitude data in Google Earth.

Google announced that the Google Earth API / plugin will finally be shut down on January 11th, 2017.

We had a look at a global historical water surface changes map created using Landsat imagery and Google Earth Engine.

We had a look at a burnt out plane at Dubai International Airport and also noted some imagery errors. The imagery errors have since been rectified.

We had a look at the very first imagery from DigitalGlobe’s new satellite World View-4.

We had a look at desert sand being blown by the wind as seen in Landsat imagery.

We got a scare when the Panoramio photos stopped showing properly in Google Earth. We thought that Panoramio, which is scheduled to be shut down in November 2017 had been shut down early. But it turned out to be a temporary technical glitch which was quickly resolved.

We had a look at a river in India whose course is changing significantly over time and villagers are complaining that they are losing land to residents on the other side of the river.

Last month Google added some global mosaics of Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery to ‘historical imagery’, one for each year from 1984 to 2016. We created tools to animate the mosaics or switch between 1984 and 2016.

The post The best of Google Earth for December 2016 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth imagery updates – Fire!

jeu 29-12-2016

Google has at last updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer. Just yesterday we complained about the fact that it hadn’t been updated since July. Thank you to the anonymous GEB reader who let us know in the comments that it has now been updated. It appears that not all current imagery has made it into historical imagery yet.

We will attempt to do a map of imagery updates over the coming days, but it will be difficult as the new global mosaics of Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery make it much harder. When you are zoomed out, Google Earth only shows the mosaics and yearly dates, so it is necessary to zoom quite a long way in to read the time toolbar to get the list of available dates for a given location. In addition, the Google Earth API is being shut down on January 11th, so after that we will not be able to create such maps.

Today we are looking at a few large wildfires in the US.

Clayton Fire, California
The Clayton Fire started on August 13, 2016 and destroyed 300 buildings.

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Junkins Fire, Colorado
The Junkins Fire took place in late October, 2016 and can be seen still burning in the imagery. It appears to have mostly affected wilderness (it is named for Junkins Park, Colorado) but it did destroy 9 homes and 17 outbuildings

Beaver Creek Fire, Colorado
The Beaver Creek Fire apparently kept burning for over two months. We can see smoke from the fire in imagery from July and August 2016.

Soberanes Fire, California
According to Wikipedia the Soberanes Fire was the most expensive wildfire in United States history, costing $236 million to suppress. It was worth the expense as Robert Baird, supervisor of the Los Padres National Forest, estimated that firefighters saved US$6.8 billion worth of real estate despite 57 homes and 11 outbuildings being destroyed.

This red line is fire retardant, probably dropped from an aircraft.

The fire burning and some vehicles most likely involved in the firefighting effort.

To see the locations mentioned in this post in Google Earth, download this KML file

jQuery(document).ready(function() {jQuery(function(){jQuery('.sliders').each(function(i){jQuery(this).beforeAfter({imagePath: '/js/utils/',showFullLinks : false});});});});

The post Google Earth imagery updates – Fire! appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The biggest changes to Google Earth in 2016

mer 28-12-2016

The Google Earth client only saw bug fix updates this year. However, there were a number of significant changes to the imagery and layers.

Global Mosaics
In June, Google updated the global mosaic composed of Landsat imagery that is seen in Google Earth when you zoom out. In November, Google added global mosaics to historical imagery created with Landsat and Sentinel 2 imagery showing the earth from 1984 to date.

Lion, the Saroo Brierley story featured in a Voyager layer
In November, Google updated the Voyager layer to Edition 3 featuring the story of Saroo Brierley who found his way home with the aid of Google Earth. The story has been made into a move called ‘Lion’.

No ‘historical imagery’ updates
Google has been very active with imagery updates, adding new imagery on an almost weekly basis. For the first half of the year we were able to track these changes with the help of ‘historical imagery’ and the Google Earth API. But, from about July onwards, although Google has continued to add imagery to the default layer, no updates have been made to ‘historical imagery’ other than the addition of the global Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics mentioned above. This has made tracking the full extent of imagery updates impossible.

Weather layers dropped
The weather layers were broken then fixed in 2015 and then broken again in 2016. Rather than fix it, Google chose to remove the layers from Google Earth. The layers removed were “Conditions and Forecast” and “Ocean Observations”. The “Clouds” and “Radar” layers still work.

Google announced that it will be shutting down Panoramio. The Panoramio layer in Google Earth is very popular and has a lot of photos in areas where Street View does not have coverage. The shutdown date is set for November 2017. We had a brief scare when the images stopped showing in Google Earth and we thought the layer had been removed early, but it turned out to be a technical problem that was soon fixed.

Google Earth Plugin / API
Having been deprecated in December 2014, Google announced that the Google Earth Plugin / API will finally be shut down on January 11, 2017.

Old versions
In addition to shutting down the Google Earth plugin / API, Google is discontinuing support for Google Earth 4 on January 11, 2017.

The post The biggest changes to Google Earth in 2016 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth 3D imagery progress for 2016

mar 27-12-2016

Over the course of 2016, Google Earth received about 90,000 square kilometres of new 3D imagery (about the area of Portugal). This represents a significant slowdown in new area covered:

New area of 3D imagery by year in square kilometres.

New area of 3D imagery by month in square kilometres.

However, a lot of previously existing areas received updates, either with freshly captured imagery or reprocessed imagery, but such updates are impossible to track in terms of area.

Three new countries received imagery this year, Tunisia, Malaysia, and most recently Slovenia.

As always, a big thank you to all the GEB readers who contribute to our KML map of 3D areas by alerting us to new areas and/or drawing outlines. If you submit outlines please be sure to follow the guidelines.

Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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New Street View coverage 2016

lun 26-12-2016

Today we are looking at progress made by Street View in 2016. The map below shows not just changes to Street View but also some other changes Google has made to Google maps over the course of the year. Subtle changes in the fonts results in much of the text being highlighted. In some cases labels have been moved or removed or added (usually this just means a change to what zoom level they appear at). There are also changes to the coastline of northern Greenland and more minor changes to coastlines and water bodies worldwide. Google has increased the promotion of user contributed views which resulted in blue dots being shown on the map even when zoomed out. In the past, one could only see them when zoomed in quite a long way. Sadly user contributed views still do not work in Google Earth. The blue dots are shown but you cannot view the imagery.

The map does not track updates to Street View where there was already existing Street View.

Changes to the Street View map over 2016. Blue: previously existing Street View, Red: changes to the map including Street View.
Large version

The main new recipients of Street View were:

Reunion in February

Sri Lanka in March

Kyrgyztan in May

Albania and Montenegro in November

Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in December

Bangladesh, Mongolia, the Philippines, Indonesia Thailand, and Bolivia saw significant increases in coverage.

A map in Street View on Réunion. See in Street View

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Why Santa’s base remains a secret

ven 23-12-2016

With Christmas this weekend and Santa being tracked around the world, but the exact location of his base near the North Pole remaining secret, it is a good time to talk about why the poles are not very well mapped.

Some of the factors mentioned below actually apply to latitudes above about 50 degrees and help explain the poor imagery in northern Canada, Europe, and Russia.

The North Pole
Google Earth only shows satellite imagery over land (and a small strip of sea along the coastlines). There is some occasional satellite imagery in the oceans to be found in ‘historical imagery’, but it is much harder to find since the recent addition of yearly global mosaics of Landsat/Sentinel-2 imagery. The North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and although it is covered in ice, Google Earth shows a map of the sea floor and not satellite imagery.

Sun-synchronous orbits
Almost all imaging satellites follow what is known as a sun-synchronous orbit. Read more about why and what the orbit looks like here and here. A sun-synchronous orbit does not cover the poles. The exact limit varies slightly by satellite. The limit of Landsat imagery is 82.7 degrees. You can see where the imagery ends if you switch to historical imagery then look at the northern edge of Greenland.

The northern limit of Landsat imagery is clearly visible in the global mosaics found in historical imagery.

Zooming in closer, we see there is a strip of near snow-free imagery that is not part of the yearly mosaics, but is probably composed of Landsat imagery gathered across many years.

Also interesting is that Google Earth’s country border outlines are significantly out of alignment in parts of northern Greenland.

At the South Pole an obvious circle marks the southern extent of Landsat imagery. There is a smaller circle near the pole, but we don’t know its origin. Also visible is a ‘seam’ along the antimeridian where the edges of the mosaic don’t quite line up.

Web Mercator
Most web-based maps use the Web Mercator projection. This projection has a number of advantages for web-based maps, but one disadvantage is that it does not cover latitudes above 85.05 degrees. Google Maps doesn’t just have poor mapping around the poles, they are actually off the edge of the map.

We can see an obvious circle in the Arctic Ocean in the global mosaics in historical imagery.

The northern circle is at about 83.6 degrees. This is the limit of the mosaics as created in Google Earth Engine, which is presumably based on the Web Mercator projection. We are not sure why it stops at 83.6 degrees rather than 85.05 or why the mosaics extend further north than the limit of Landsat imagery but don’t appear to in the southern hemisphere.

Light and snow
The poles are in darkness for half the year and even in mid summer, the sun is low on the horizon, which does not make for the best photographic conditions. If you look through Landsat imagery you will find that there is no imagery for the winter months at high latitudes. The Landsat satellites capture imagery even when there is snow cover, but most other satellites tend to avoid snow cover where possible. We had a look at the seasonality of satellite imagery in this post

Scientific and commercial interest
The main scientific and commercial interest near the poles tends to be along the coasts of Antarctica and around the edges of the Arctic ice sheet. Most wildlife is found near the edges of the ice. Scientists mapping ice flow are also mostly interested in the edges, in Antarctica they measure the speed of glaciers and the extent of ice shelves and in the Arctic the measure the yearly changes in the extent of the ice sheet. In the Arctic, commercial interests are in shipping routes and drilling for oil near the coastlines. Overall, there is not a lot of interest in the interior of Antarctica or the region around the North Pole.

Building a station at the North Pole would be difficult because the ice is constantly moving. At the South Pole is the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station.

The Google Earth graphics engine
The way Google Earth displays imagery is not optimised for the poles, resulting in lines appearing to radiate from the poles. Even if Google were to obtain imagery of the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, it is likely it would not be very clear in Google Earth.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Planet imagery for natural disaster response

jeu 22-12-2016

Satellite imaging company Planet has a programme for gathering satellite imagery for natural disaster response. Read more about it on the Planet blog. Although direct and timely access to the imagery for first responders requires emailing Planet and getting special access, there is actually quite a lot of imagery publicly available on the ‘disaster data’ page. It includes a list of recent disasters and some associated imagery and in many cases the option to download sets of imagery for the affected areas.

Pamplona, Cagayan Region, Philippines. Before and after Typhoon Haima. Image credit Planet.

Planet’s imagery is medium resolution in the 3-5 metre range, higher resolution than Landsat and Sentinel-2 but lower resolution than DigitalGlobe and CNES / Astrium. For a list of satellites and resolutions see here.

DigitalGlobe has a similar programme called ‘FirstLook’ whose imagery often makes it into Google Earth and much of the imagery we look at on this blog comes from that programme.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The sinking Millennium Tower, San Francisco

mer 21-12-2016

We often feature imagery from the European Copernicus programme’s Sentinel-2 satellite. The programme has other satellites, including Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B, that gather radar data rather than imagery. They seem particularly good at measuring altitude changes over time. For example, we saw a map of surface deformation after a major earthquake in Chile.

A recent story on the European Space Agency (esa) website is about how the satellites have been able to determine that the Millennium Tower, a sky scraper in San Francisco, is sinking by a few centimetres per year relative to other buildings in the vicinity.

Image credit: ESA. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets.

Given the sensitivity of this data it makes us wonder whether or not Google could use it to improve the accuracy of their altitude data. We have noted in the past some fairly major errors in their data, such as the sunken island of Gorgona and significant inaccuracies around Rio de Janeiro.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones