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Google Earth Blog
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.
Google has pushed out a new minor update to the desktop version of Google Earth. The new version is 22.214.171.1249 dated March 30th, 2015. Thank you to GEB reader AC for letting us know first (we have had several other readers since comment on the new version). AC told us about it over 2 weeks ago, but we were unable to confirm until last week as Google pushes out updates of this nature gradually. Your Google Earth should automatically update over the coming weeks, or you can, as we did, re-download and install it from the Google Earth website. We have successfully done this with Google Earth and Google Earth Pro on Windows and the consumer version for Mac OS X. We have also seen comments from Linux users on the help forums.
The previous version was 126.96.36.1991 dated July 10th, 2013, so this is the first update in nearly two years! Still, this is very good news as it suggests Google is still working on Google Earth for desktop and supports recent comments from Google about future updates to Google Earth coming.
We asked Google and confirmed just recently what we suspected. That this is a minor bug-fix release for the different versions of Google Earth, and they have not yet started rolling it out to all users yet due to testing with new installer software for some of the platforms. They said release notes will be forthcoming once it becomes more widely available. We’ll report here on the GEB when we know more.
GEB reader AC reported that it still crashes in Street View. We have so far failed to get it to crash in Street View in either the old or the new versions, despite testing a number of places that used to cause the crash. If any of our readers gets it to crash in Street View, please let us know the coordinates in the comments. There have been a few installer issues mentioned in the Google Earth help forums, and Google has responded they are working on them.
Loch Ness gets Street View
As part of the Catlin Seaview Survey Google have captured Street View from a boat that travelled the length of Loch Ness in Scotland and even stopped and took some photos in the water. We were not able to find the underwater footage from Google Earth, so we recommend sticking with Google Maps for this one. The water is very murky and the only monster to be found is the little green Nessie who replaces the Street View ‘yellow man’.
Glacier retreat creates new islands
As glaciers around the world retreat, new coastal islands are formed. Read more about it here. This would keep mapmakers busy, if it wasn’t for the fact that most of these islands are appearing in relatively uncharted territory. We noticed when looking at the Greenland Street View that Google Maps’ coastline of Greenland is quite inaccurate. Google Earth’s yellow coastlines are even less accurate globally, but they fade out as you zoom in so it is not normally noticeable.
Google Earth helps reunite a man with his family after 20 years.
Similar to the story of Saroo Brierley, a policeman in the Andaman Islands used Google Earth to help Ram Jeevan who ran away from his home in India at the age of 12 to find his way home. Find the full story here.
The post News roundup: Nessie, New Islands and Finding your Way Home appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
We looked at Google Earth Outreach and how they are helping a number of Canadian non-profits with environmental impact monitoring.
We looked at how DigitalGlobe is helping to track damage to tropical forests caused by fire.
We looked at how Street View cars are being used to find minor gas leaks, which are not a direct threat to health, but do contribute to global warming.
We looked at how Google Earth was instrumental in discovering a new chameleon species.
We saw maps of the fluctuations in polar ice caps produced by the US National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
We looked at how scientists are using Google Earth to help protect uncontacted tribes in the Amazon.
Additionally, the past year has seen a growth in satellite imaging, making it easier to monitor the environment. This includes projects like Google’s Skybox for Good program, the availability of Landsat data on Amazon AWS and companies like Planet Labs that are launching fleets of satellites to provide global coverage at higher resolutions than the Landsat imagery.
Google Street View is doing its part by going off-road and allowing us to explore remote places, such as the forest canopy in the Amazon jungle and under the ocean in a steadily increasing number of locations around the globe.
An often overlooked feature of Google Earth, elevation profiles were first introduced in version 5.2. The feature is easy to use, all you need is a path selected in your ‘My Places’ then go to the ‘Edit’ menu and select ‘Show Elevation Profile’.
If you want the elevation profile of a slice through a mountain or valley, simply draw a straight line using the ‘Add Path’ tool on the Google Earth toolbar. But it is not restricted to straight lines and much more often you will be interested in the elevation profile of a hike you are planning, or bicycle route. In this case, you can draw out the path as before, or if it is a route on roads/paths already marked on Google Earth, you can use the Get Directions feature right-click (CTRL click on Mac) on the blue line and select ‘Show Elevation Profile’.
Elevation profile of a route in the Swiss Alps.
If you hold your mouse over the elevation profile, it will show a red arrow on the map marking the location, and also display the height above sea level and gradient at that point.
Keep in mind that Google Earth’s elevation data is not very high resolution and should not be taken as anything more than a rough guide. We also discovered that on the route shown above there were several tunnels and bridges and the route in Google Earth that is used for the elevation profile follows the ground and not the actual road surface resulting in large bumps and dips in the elevation profile.
An interesting aspect of the ‘historical imagery’ feature in Google Earth is that when you turn it on Google Earth displays a different dataset for the ocean floor. Based on the copyright information, it appears the ‘historical imagery’ ocean floor is based on data from NASA, whereas the ocean floor seen in the default view is a combination of data from Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA and GEBCO.
The NASA supplied data as seen in ‘historical imagery’
The default view with data from a variety of sources
It is interesting how whole underwater mountains are completely missing in the NASA data and some locations look quite different in the two data sets. The NASA data is of lower resolution and presumably obtained by a different method.
Another interesting effect is how satellite imagery that extends into the oceans is mapped onto the sea floor topography. If necessary you can correct this in Google Earth Pro by turning off ‘Terrain’ in the layers.
As we have noted in the past the tracks across the ocean floor are not signs of alien activity, but tracks of higher resolution data obtained from ships.
We have also looked at a map from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, which is based on gravity measurements from satellites. You can view it in Google Earth with this KML file.
For best results when viewing the ocean floor, turn off the ‘Water Surface’ option in the ‘View’ menu.
In June last year the Google Chrome team announced that they would be ending support for NPAPI based plugins by September 2014. NPAPI is an ageing technology used by, most notably, Java, Silverlight and the Google Earth plugin. It is being dropped largely because it is considered a potential security risk.
In September Google released a 64-bit version of Google Chrome that did not include support for the Google Earth plugin or other NPAPI based plugins. However, the 32-bit version still supported it and has continued to support it. Over time, however, Chrome has been making it increasingly difficult to run NPAPI plugins, requiring the user to explicitly allow a plugin to run before displaying it.
Now, Google has just released Chrome version 42 that drops support for NPAPI plugins by default. It is still possible to get them back is via a Chrome flag, but presumably that option will soon be disabled too.
For now, if you really need the Google Earth plugin in Chrome 32-bit, you can reenable NPAPI by entering the url: chrome://flags/#enable-npapi in the address bar then selecting ‘Enable’ below the ‘Enable NPAPI’ section then relaunch the browser.
The Google Earth plugin itself was deprecated in December and is set to stop working on 12th December 2015.
Firefox is also slowly phasing out NPAPI plugins and as far as we know the latest Internet Explorer only allows them in the 32 bit version in compatibility mode and not at all in the 64-bit version.
The post Chrome now making it harder to use the Google Earth plugin appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
When looking around Google Earth in historical imagery, we have noticed an interesting trend with regards to the frequency of satellite imagery updates. It seems that Europe and the USA get significantly less satellite imagery than much of the rest of the world.
Although much of the less populated world has rather poor and infrequent coverage, some population centres seem to get very frequent updates. Here in Cape Town we have recently been getting several updates per month. We were recently looking at an area near Santos Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and it has no less than 12 images so far in 2015. Even the relatively small town of Livingstone, Zambia has had two updates this year. Many large cities in the US and Europe, such as New York, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin and London still have 2014 imagery.
We have been wondering why this is. We will make a few guesses, but would welcome input from our readers too.
The USA and Europe are covered with high quality aerial imagery and thus new satellite imagery, which is of lower resolution, is usually relegated to ‘historical imagery’. Possibly Google, or the satellite imagery providers they source the imagery from, do not see the need for satellite imagery in those regions. Aerial imagery is typically more expensive to gather on a regular basis although we expect this to change in the future with as the cost of drones and high resolution cameras continues to fall.
Google tends to avoid satellite imagery with excessive cloud cover, and most notably, snow cover. So does this essentially mean that much of the Northern hemisphere will never get good coverage over the winter months?
Some of the recent Cape Town images can be explained as a ‘special event’ where imagery has been captured and put in Google Earth because it contains something interesting:
To see general trends up to October last year, this map is interesting. We hope Google updates it at some point to show more recent months.
The post Frequency of new satellite imagery in Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.
As part of an advertising campaign for the Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai have used the cars to write a message from a girl called Stephanie to her father who works on the International Space Station.
The message was created on January 18th, 2015 and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest tire track image. The image is not yet in Google Earth, so we have created an image overlay based on a screen shot from the YouTube video.
We had a look at the location in the Landsat imagery, but the sand is so bright it is not possible to see whether the writing is still there. Let’s hope DigitalGlobe or another satellite imagery provider got a good image and we see it in Google Earth eventually.
It is not the largest artwork ever made with tracks in sand. That title, we believe, is held by Jim Denevan, whose Black Rock Desert piece we have looked at before. He apparently used a roll of chain fencing pulled around by a truck. Also featured in that post is the Mundi Man or Eldee Man by Ando, drawn in Australia using a tractor, but it is quite a bit smaller than the Hundai message. The Nazca Lines of Peru are much older and were created by removing reddish pebbles from the surface exposing the lighter ground underneath.
If you are as interested in maps as we are, then you probably already know and follow Google Maps Mania.
Yesterday, April 13th, they turned 10! Happy Birthday!
They were initially focused on Google Maps, but back then there weren’t that many other on-line maps available. Now, however, there is an extraordinary variety of maps out there. To give you a taste, just in the last few weeks they have covered:
And much more. So head on over and have a look!