Google Earth Blog
Frank Taylor here, still the publisher for Google Earth Blog. Five years ago I was deep in preparation for a 5+ year sailing expedition around the world, documenting the trip using Google Earth and other Google tools. So, I needed to recruit someone to help write the Google Earth Blog (GEB). I was very fortunate I already knew the perfect candidate, Mickey Mellen, and he enthusiastically took on the job. Mickey has done a fantastic job of continuing the GEB for nearly 5 years, and I couldn’t have been happier with his work. Fortunately for him, he also has an Internet services business that is taking off now. Unfortunately, this means he has to focus on the growing business and doesn’t have the time to continue writing the GEB.
We are 75% of the way around the world on our sailing expedition, but won’t be finishing the trip sooner than June of next year. So, the GEB needs a new writer for at least that long.
Here are the skills needed to be the primary writer of GEB (in order of priority):
- Google Earth enthusiast and expert user, english speaking/writing
- Familiarity with this blog and its content
- Willingness to respond to readers who ask for assistance, at least to refer them to proper sources of information
- Ability to grasp and write about the broad range of technologies using, or used by, Google Earth (GIS, science, 3D graphics, satellites, aerial photography, 3D modeling, etc.)
- Experience with blog writing, blogging tools and image processing helps
- US-based preferred
- Someone I know already a plus
- Willingness to improve GEB content quality a plus
- Ability to produce video demonstrations of Google Earth a plus
The writer will be paid based on a percentage of the revenues generated by ads on the web site. Please send me an E-mail (address at the bottom of this page) if you would like to apply. In your e-mail, present a case why you think you would be a good candidate for the job. Do not apply if you expect to be able to use GEB as an advertising platform for other products or services. Only apply if you think you can write the same kind of material as already appears in GEB. Links to your similar writings recommended.
We saw some great new Google Earth-related stories in July, and here are some of my favorites.
With the death of Louis Zamperini, we showed you a full timeline of events from his life.
We looked at some of the differences between Google Earth and Google Maps.
We found ways to explore earthquake fault lines using Google Earth.
We took a look at the great new 3d imagery in London.
We showed you some ways that people are using Google Earth to learn more about what happened with Flight MH17.
On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, we showed you some excellent visualizations from Erik Hellstedt.
We showed you how DigitalGlobe is helping to track forest fires in southeast Asia.
What was your favorite story from July?
DigitalGlobe is one of the leading providers of satellite imagery for Google Earth, and now they’re teaming up with the World Resources Institute to track fires across southeast Asia via their new Global Forest Watch Fires system.
From an article by Yuchen Wu in the Boulder County Business Report:
Nigel Sizer, global director of the World Resource Institute’s Forests Program, said, “With DigitalGlobe’s imagery, you can see down to the individual tree level and even identify species. DigitalGlobe imagery is processed as color-infrared, enabling WRI to quickly distinguish between healthy and dead vegetation, draw burn area boundaries, and detect burn scars in order to assign accountability to the fires.”
It’s a great way to use DigitalGlobe’s impressive ability to capture imagery to make a difference in the world.
You can read more in that article in the Boulder County Business Report or visit fires.globalforestwatch.org.
Most of you have heard about Google’s issues with Street View card and wi-fi sniffing. Regardless your thoughts on that, you’re bound to appreciate what the cars are now able to sniff: gas leaks.
According to an article by Trevor Mogg on Digital Trends, Google is beginning to test out cars that include methane sensors to check for gas leaks.
From the article:
The initiative turned up “thousands” of leaks from utility pipes beneath the streets, providing officials with data on pollution “that used to be invisible,” EDF’s Fred Krupp wrote in a blog post Wednesday.
Fortunately these leaks don’t pose any immediate threat to safety, and the utilities will monitor and deal with the more serious ones. However, EDF noted that such gas “has a powerful effect on the global climate, packing up to 120 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.”
Here is an early map that has been generated by this new data:
It’s a great idea, and hopefully it will be added to additional cars over time. There’s seemingly quite a few other pieces of data that could be useful to measure when you have an army of GPS-tracked cars driving around; weather data, road quality, etc. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes in the future.
Be sure to check out the full article on the Digital Trends website.
Urban agriculture can be a great thing, but can be difficult to effectively plan and manage. Flavio Lupia, along with other researchers from the National Institute of Agricultural Economics in Rome have been making great use of digital mapping tools to help research and plan ideal locations around the city.
You can read more about their work in this PDF document, which goes into detail about their work, such as:
The current version of the database contains more than 4,000 polygons spread over a total surface of about 35,000 hectares with a total farmed area of 400 hectares. The geodatabase was realized by interpreting the high resolution images of Google Earth for the year 2007 and 2013 allowing further analysis on the temporal evolution of the phenomenon.
Beyond that, here are some additional thoughts from Flavio:
- Despite in Italy there are some private and governamental bodies producing regularly very high resolution aerophotogrammetric scenes the restriction and policy distribution of the data don’t allow researchers to perform this kind of analysis.
- Although in Italy, especially during the last year, the concept of open-data is becoming more and more common this is still a theoretical idea since public administrations have releases very few geospatial data.
- GE allows to perform the photointerpretation process, the digitalization and the multi-temporal analysis with an easy to use single tool.
- The entire mapping project employed only human resources (researcher for the photointerpretation), no costs for tools and images acquisition and pre-processing thanks to GE.
- Even if the radiometric and spatial resolution of the GE imagery are lower than those provided by the Italian public bodies, the researchers demonstrated the fitness-for-use of GE for mapping urban agriculture. The images are sufficient to discover cultivated parcels as small as 8 square meters in size and allow to photointerpreters to use all visual element to identify cropping activities (tone, color, texture, pattern, etc.).
- Since 2011 GSV report the timestamp in the GE status bar. This helped researchers to have a clear idea about the acquisition time during the “virtual field check”. Nonetheless some limitations in the usability of GSV exist: 1.the temporal mismatch between GE imagery used for parcels identification (year 2013) and GSV (2011-2012). 2.the temporal variation among the single images of GSV, in fact scenes acquired in different times are woven together to form a continuous coverage along the streets (in our study area we found GSV images acquired in 2011 and 2012).
It’s an excellent use of Google Earth, and it should help result in great things for the city of Rome.
The post Using Google Earth to enhance urban agriculture in Rome appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and Erik Hellstedt at Geo-Animate.com has built an excellent visualization of the early stages of the war.
In Erik’s words:
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Within a week, the world’s great powers had mobilized and begun sending their armies to the frontiers. This GE animation begins August 1st and follows the daily movements of each army’s units through October 31st, by which time a near-continuous belt of trenches along this Western Front prevented any significant movement for nearly four years. At the end of this War of Movement animation, there were already millions of war casualties and countless shattered communities.
He’s continuing to develop the project, but what he has completed so far is extraordinary. Check it out for yourself at www.geo-animate.com/War-of-Movement.
Great work, Erik!
Thanks to sharp-eyed GEB reader ‘Nikola’, we’ve learned that Street View imagery is now available in a number of cities in Serbia.
Some of the new cities include Pancevo, Novi Sad, Belgrade and Niš. You can see it for yourself in Google Maps using this link or fly there in Google Earth by using this KML file and following the video below:
Three years ago we showed you the very useful visualization that the city of Douglasville, Georgia created to show how new road construction would be laid out. It was a great use of Google Earth and made it very easy for people to see how things would be situated.
The folks at Site3D are doing similar work, taking drawing layers and overlaying them on Google Earth. Even better, their various drawing layers are imported as individual Google Earth layers so that you can toggle off individual layers as needed.
They also support taking Google Earth paths via KML and importing them back into the Site3D software.
The post Engineering road systems and housing developments using Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Last week, Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board. While blame is still being passed around for the crash, there are some places using Google Earth to try to better understand what happened.
First is the photo below, found via Twitter, which is using Google Earth to show the path of the flight, the path of the missile, and the crash site. At this point I’ve not been able to find a KML file for this image, but the image itself is rather striking:
Next is a series of images of the crash site, provided by DigitalGlobe. As they often do after a major news event, DigitalGlobe was able to capture imagery of the crash site to help document it from the air. They were unable to capture imagery on July 17 due to cloud cover, but have some from a few days around it.
They’ve also released two KML files to show some of the imagery:
That info comes to us from Amy Svitak at Aviation Week, who has a full article with more photos that is worth checking out.
Sylvan Lane at Mashable recently posted an in-depth look at nuclear disasters over the years, and he made solid use of Google Earth and Google Maps to explain each event. Along with discussions of Chernobyl and Fukushima, Sylvan also took a look at Three Mile Island and Kyshtym.
You can check out the full article for yourself over on Mashable.
To highlight other nuclear facilities around the world, the folks at Google Sightseeing have put together a few “nuclear power megaposts” over the years.
The first post covered nine reactors around the world, and the second post covered seven more. As they always do, they’ve posted KML files for all of the sites that they listed in the posts (part one – part two).
It turns out that a few days ago while we were telling you about the new 3D imagery in London, Google had also pushed out quite a lot of fresh satellite imagery. Thanks to ‘munden’, ‘dario’ and ‘Wguayana’ for letting us know about it.
Some of the updated areas include:
- Canada: Halifax
- China: Dinghai, Fangjia, Longtoujing, Nanyaowan, Caoluzhen
- Croatia: Karlovac, Zagreb
- Germany: Heidenheim
- India: Mumbai, New Delhi
- Lebanon: Beirut
- Moldova: Chisinau
- Russia: Putayatin, bukhta Krasheninnikova, Severomorsk, Polyarny, guba Zapadnaya Litsa, Monino, Sevastopol
- Thailand: Bangkok, Phai Ling, Sattahip
- United States: Florida (Carrabelle, Keystone Heights, Tallahassee), Kansas (Kansas City), Maryland (Assateague Island, Princess Anne, Snow Hill), Missouri (Kansas City), Nevada (Las Vegas), Virginia (Cape Charles, Wallops Island)
- Venezuela: Ciudad Guayana, Puerto Piritu
If you find any other updated areas, be sure to leave a comment and let us know.
This Sunday 45 years ago, July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.
One great way to experience the landing is by viewing this amazing Google Earth tour that Sean Askay put together a few years ago.
As you can see in the tour, the landing that Armstrong made was remarkable. With very little fuel, he had to carefully maneuver the ship into a gentle landing. Paul van Dinther created a game to simulate the landing that he calls the Apollo 11 Moon Lander. The game is very fun, and quite challenging – here is a review written by Frank when it was released. In the years since then, Paul has updated the game with some new graphics, Facebook integration and bug fixes. You can also watch this short video of the game in action:
You can check out the game for yourself at planetinaction.com/moonlander/.
Lastly, of course, is the excellent “Moon” feature in Google Earth, released in 2009. There is some remarkably sharp imagery in places on the moon, and even 3D models of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.
Google has finally added 3D imagery to London, and it appears they’ve done a great job with it. As with other recent cities, it appears that their techniques for creating this imagery continue to improve and London seems to be the best-looking 3D city we’ve seen so far!
In particular, streets are smoother than many others we’ve seen, and buildings tend to have fewer random artifacts sticking out of them. It’s imperfect, but improving very quickly. As I’ve mentioned before, I hope that Google eventually uses street view imagery to improve it further, but this is certainly another step in the right direction.
To try it for yourself, you can grab this KML file to fly to London, and just make sure you have the “3D Buildings” layer turned on.
Part of the business model of Google Earth has always been that free access to seeing all of the imagery helped raise the visibility of the satellite and aerial photography businesses. But, if a business wants to use this imagery, they are supposed to purchase the imagery from the provider mentioned at the bottom of the Google Earth screen (see Google’s geo-permissions guide).
During the past 10 years of Google Earth and Maps development, Google has increasingly developed sources of their own imagery. Everyone is familiar with their Street View imagery. Google’s 3D cities (introduced in 2012) are developed using aerial imagery which they also make available in their maps. And, with the purchase of Skybox, Google will soon have their own satellite imagery.
Now Google is taking the next step. Google has announced their imagery will be available for sale, initially to businesses in the US through their Google Maps for Business imagery program. The imagery can be used in a variety of ways explained in the program materials, including Google Earth. Interestingly, in what was perhaps a mistake that fortells the near future, they state they are selling “high-quality satellite photography” in the announcement – although I think they meant to say aerial photography.
It should be noted that using Google Earth historical imagery feature (introduced in 2009), businesses can also view alternative imagery available from other imagery businesses if they are available for their location. So, although Google is now competing with these businesses, their competitors have equal visibility.
We’ve talked about Earthquakes quite a lot over the years, as Google Earth is a great tool for visualizing those types of events. However, we’ve not shown very much related to the actual fault lines themselves.
Ervin Malicdem at S1 Expeditions recently took a look at the West and East Valley Fault System in the southern Philippines. The fault line is growing in interest for a simple reason that Ervin explains:
The last known activity along this fault line was the year 1658 and is estimated to be active every 300 years plus or minus 100 years. As of the time of this writing, it has been 356 years ago and is well within the potential period of its movement.
He has created an excellent overlay that shows the fault line in comparison to infrastructure along the path of it.
The USGS also has some solid fault line maps that you can use in Google Earth. If you visit their Quaternary Faults in Google Earth page, you’ll find a variety of KML files that you can download and explore in Google Earth.
Scientists from the University of Missouri and the University of New Mexico have been using Google Earth imagery to track an uncontacted tribe in Amazon rainforest in Brazil. While Google Earth adds a level of convenience for the researchers, tracking the tribe from afar can be essential to their survival. From Mongabay.com:
Small populations like these risk imminent extinction due to various threats. But contacting these tribes may prove even more disastrous. Diseases commonplace in our society, like the common cold, can wipe out large portions of such tribes in a matter of days. Therefore, using satellite images to regularly and remotely survey their populations, and track their movements could prove a good non-invasive way of keeping a close eye on the tribes and protecting them from afar.
The researchers have had difficulty finding the tribe in more recent satellite imagery, possible due to the tribe’s movement to escape drug traffickers in the area, but they continue their search to regain information about their current location.
Be sure to check out the full article on the Mongabay website.
The post Protecting uncontacted tribes in the Amazon rainforest with Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
Houston, we have a problem! The technology that brought mainstream 3D geospatial visualization to the web browser is rendering on borrowed time.
It appears that the Google Earth Plug-in is on the brink of deprecation.
Google has not made any official announcements about deprecating the Earth Plug-in, but the Google Chrome team has continued to push forward with their advancement of web standards.
In the Chrome team’s drive for modernization, they have announced that in September of this year Chrome will no longer support legacy plug-ins. As if to leave no doubt, they specifically mentioned our beloved Earth Plug-in.
The world has certainly changed since that day in October of 2008 when the Earth Plug-in was first released to the world. Back then there were no iPads, and Android releases weren’t yet named after desserts. In the time since, mobile has become pervasive and the web has been optimized for small screens; legacy browser plug-ins have become an anachronism.
I am personally still in denial about this harsh reality. I spent many hours of my life developing with the Earth Plug-in and showing off nifty 3D browser-based demos. It is hard to believe that those glory days of visualization are fading to memory.
As I march toward acceptance of this prolific deprecation, I am starting to date 3D technologies again. I have played with Cesium, but she is rough around the edges and has the usability of an old handheld GPS unit. I have thought about licensing something from a traditional GIS vendor, but can’t justify the expense. In a moment of desperation, I even gave World Wind another, albeit fleeting, look.
None of those options are bad, they are just different, and won’t work for my 3D geo visualization needs.
My sincerest hope is that Google will announce an API for their WebGL instance of the “new Google Maps”. Although, even if a new 3D API is announced soon, I assume it won’t have feature parity with the Earth Plug-in, and won’t support the same instantiation and interaction methods.
That is to say, whatever 3D greatness Google releases next won’t be a plug-and-play replacement for the Earth Plug-in, and will require website administrators to refactor their code and redevelop their current offerings.
In summary, as I reflect back on all of the panning and zooming I have done in the Earth Plug-in, I am comforted knowing that I am a better neogeographer today for having crossed paths with this nifty piece of technology. On a personal level, I really hope that the Earth Plug-in enjoys her retirement.
Afterthought: It is unclear what a one year deprecation policy actually means when an entire class of technology is overcome by external events.
Update: It is important to note that Firefox has also started to distance themselves from NPAPI plug-ins like the Google Earth Plug-in: https://blog.mozilla.org/security/2014/02/28/update-on-plugin-activation/
The post Goodbye Old Friend: Implicit Deprecation of the Earth Plug-in appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
A group of archaeologists in Asheville, North Carolina are using Google Earth to document the history of slavery in their city. The project is described as the following by Audie Cornish of NPR:
In Asheville, North Carolina, an effort is being made to do more in remembering the city’s slave history. A team of archaeologists is using technology to map gravesites in a cemetery that served the black community in that city for generations.
The maps have been around for a while, but in a less than useful fashion. As with many uses of Google Earth, adding geographical context is key as Jeff Keith explains:
Before we made this map and put it on Google Earth, we still had a map, per se. It was, you know, a flat, 2-D representation of the 1,961 graves that in the 1990s, a team of archaeologists went out and probed the earth and actually discovered were all these graves were. But it wasn’t on a map like it is now in terms of being represented in geographical space. Now we can see where it’s situated in the context of Asheville as a whole.
To see their work in action, you can visit the South Asheville Cemetery “online grave viewer”, which uses the Google Earth API to display the info directly on the site.
Pterosaurs, the first flying vertebrates that lived between 66-228 million years ago, went extinct around the end of the Cretaceous period. To help make it easier to understand where they lived, Matthew McLain at Loma Linda University has worked with come colleagues to put together PteroTerra, a Google Earth-powered database of pterosaurs.
An article on CBS News explains why McLain is tackling this project:
“Anybody can just pull this up really fast — the point being that you’d be able to plot where all these different specimens are on Earth, and you might be able to see if there was any sort of trend that maybe we haven’t noticed,” McLain said.
McLain said that other paleontologists have approached him to discuss starting databases for other ancient beasts, like the marine plesiosaur. He would like to create a database of dinosaur footprints and trackways, as a way to get a broader geographical view of dino travel.
Great work, Matthew!
We’ve talked about crime on here quite a lot over the years, many of which we discussed in this post last year.
Scott Dickson at Bair Analytics recently wrote a post that talks about some of the ways that he uses Google Earth to help with crime analysis. He talks about some great ways to use basic features, such as:
Another feature I use quite often is the “Show Ruler” tool. This tool allows you to measure distances on your maps. There are a number of criminal law penalty enhancements in Texas that increase penalties for offenses if they occur within a specified distance of a school. This tool allows you to easily determine just how close the offender was to that certain geographic feature.
He also talks about his bigger picture use of Earth:
Google Earth also makes it very easy to export your map as an image file that you can then drop into a report or presentation. I use this feature quite often when I create briefings on crime series or other types of bulletins. The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is true. By including maps in your presentations or briefings you can easily communicate geographic relationships. They also make your reports visually appealing.
It’s an excellent use of Google Earth, and it’s worth reading his full post at BairAnalytics.com to learn more.