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The Dolores, Uruguay Tornado

mer 16-11-2016

We have often looked at tornado tracks for the US and we recently looked at one in China but this is the first time we have come across one in South America.

According to Wikipedia it was an F3 rated tornado that struck the town of Dolores, Uruguay on April, 15th 2016. It destroyed at least 400 homes and buildings, killing five people and injuring more than 250.

Here are some ‘before and afters’ showing the damage caused:

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Unfortunately Google has not updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer since June, so we cannot see all the imagery. Google has chosen only parts of the relevant imagery for the default layer. This is most likely because the other parts have cloud cover.

You can see a video of the tornado here.

To find the location 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

Lightning strikes map in Google Earth

mar 15-11-2016

We recently came across this article which talks about a study that uses lightning monitoring to better predict the weather. The study used data from the University of Washington based World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN), which gathers information about lightning strikes around the world using a network of ground based censors. The WWLLN website shows animated maps of recent lightning strikes, but also provides this KML file which shows 1 hour of global data ending 6 hours ago in Google Earth.

One thing I have personally noticed while living in Cape Town is how rare lightning is here compared to Zambia. This observation is borne out by this map that Frank put in Google Earth back in 2006 using a NASA created map.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Various new sights in Google Earth imagery

lun 14-11-2016

Today we are having a look at various sights that can be seen in recent additions to Google Earth’s imagery.

Puma Energy plant explosion
On August 18th, 2016 there was an explosion at the Puma Energy plant in Puerto Sandino, Nicaragua.
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‘Before and after’ showing the two tanks that exploded.

North Korean Floods
In late August, 2016, Typhoon Lionrock caused flooding in Japan, China, Russia and most notably, North Korea, along the Korean-Chinese border. According to Wikipedia, the North Korean flooding killed at least 138 people, and destroyed more than 35,000 homes, leaving over 100,000 people homeless.

Here are some ‘before and after’s’ showing some of the houses washed away. Be sure to explore the area in Google Earth, switching between current imagery and ‘historical imagery’ to see the changes to the river channel.


Folk Village in North Korea removed
A folk village, (or folklore park) has recently been dismantled, reportedly because it reminded North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of his uncle who was executed in 2013.

Gay Pride Parade, New York
In New York, we can see the Gay Pride Parade that took place on 26th June, 2016.

Find the above locations in Google Earth with 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

Street View comes to Albania and Montenegro

ven 11-11-2016

Thank you to GEB reader Adino for letting us know that Albania and Montenegro have recently received Street View.

Street View changes between October 3rd, 2016 and November 11th, 2016. Red: new Street View, Blue: previously existing Street View.
Larger version

Our ‘changes’ map above also picks out some other interesting features. Google has added land to the northern coast of Greenland. This may be due to the availability of better satellite imagery or it may have to do with melting ice making the coast line more visible. Also, Google Maps has recently started showing more of the blue circles for user submitted photos even when zoomed out.

Indonesia and the Philippines have also seen significant additions to their Street View coverage.

Google has also added an ‘expand’ button to the overview map in the Google Maps version of Street View which allows a split-screen mode. This makes exploring Street View much easier.

Beautiful stone paved Streets seem to be quite common in Albania. See in Google Maps

Aman Sveti Stefan, and island hotel in Montenegro. See in Google Maps

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Map Maker merging with Google Maps

jeu 10-11-2016

Google has just announced that Google Map Maker is being retired or, to put it another way, merged into Google Maps. Google Maps has slowly been gaining features that allow users giving feedback to provide more detailed information and Google plans to continue this trend until Google Maps’ functionality matches what is currently available in Google Map Maker. The Google Map Maker site will be shut down in March 2017.

Google Map Maker is not just a map editing tool, it also provides a community of dedicated mappers who provide support and a robust approval mechanism. Google suggests that members of this community move to the Local Guides Programme.

For those who don’t know much about Google Map Maker, it is a platform that allows members of the public to edit almost any feature in Google Maps. These edits then go through an approval process often largely managed by Google Map Maker users rather than Google employees. It has always been restricted to particular countries, but the list of countries has changed over time and has often included most parts of the world. A very significant proportion of the information you see in Google Maps came from members of the public via Google Map Maker, although this varies significantly by country and it is difficult to know just how much. In some countries, organisations have been formed around Google Map Maker by members of the public. See this Wikipedia page about the group Mapping Bangladesh for example.

Google has not been publicising Map Maker much for quite some time, preferring most feedback to come via the Google Maps interface. Google Map Maker has always been intended for those willing to put in extra effort, but for those willing to learn how to use it, it provides many map editing tools that are currently not available via Google Maps.

Another product that Google recently announced it would be merging with Google Maps is Panoramio.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Animating in Google Earth – Part 3: the time toolbar

mer 09-11-2016

This is the third post in our series on animating in Google Earth

Today we are looking at how the Google Earth time toolbar works.

The Google Earth time toolbar is used in three different instances and works slightly differently in each case:

  • When you open ‘Historical imagery’.
  • When you turn on the ‘show sunlight’ option (rising sun icon on the Google Earth toolbar).
  • When you open a KML file that has time data attached to its contents. The time data for a given item may be either a specific point in time or a span of time.

  1. The ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols allow you to zoom in or out of the toolbar. This is especially useful if you have a large KML file with a lot of time-stamped features and need to select a specific time, or in ‘historical imagery’ when there are a large number of images for the location you are viewing.
  2. The play / pause button causes the toolbar to automatically run from left to right (past to future) along the timeline. How fast it plays and whether or not it repeats depend on the settings discussed below.
  3. The spanner icon opens the settings window.
  4. The ‘x’ closes the time toolbar. When you are in ‘historical imagery’ or ‘sunlight’ mode, this has the effect of turning off the feature and going back to the default view. When you have a time-stamped KML item selected the ‘x’ is greyed out and you cannot close the toolbar.
  5. and 6. The ends of the toolbar have buttons that move the slider by increments. What an increment is depends on the mode you are in. In historical imagery mode this moves between available images. In the other two modes it moves by a fraction (about one sixtieth) of the toolbar.
    The date represented by each end is shown below the ends.
  6. and 8. In ‘historical imagery’ mode and ‘sunlight’ mode, there is a single slider showing the point in time being displayed. The slider can be dragged along the toolbar to show a different time or you can click on any point on the toolbar to jump directly to that time.
    Understanding the slider is critical for time based animations.
    When you have a KML file with time-stamped data, then the slider has two parts. When they are separated, Google Earth displays all items with a time-stamp between the two sliders. If your data has single time-stamps then it is necessary to separate the two sliders a bit or you will never see the data. How much you separate them affects how long each time-stamped item will show for during an animation. If your data has time ranges instead of single time-stamps then it is better to have the sliders clamped together.

Time-stamped KMLs to experiment with include the animated earthquake data from the USGS, such as Past 30 Days, M2.5+ Earthquakes, animated and the U.S. Presidents tours we looked at yesterday.

The settings dialog box allows you to select the start and end times shown on the toolbar, select the timezone to use, adjust the speed of the animation (when you press the play button) and whether or not to repeat the animation. The speed adjustment is just a slider and affects how quickly the slider gets from one end of the time toolbar to the other. It appears to be unrelated to the actual length of time being displayed. This can make it difficult to make animations with an exact speed.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Past US Presidents with Google Earth

mar 08-11-2016

With the US presidential election taking place today, it is a good time to learn more about the past presidents of the United States. We came across this page by Google, showcasing the Google Earth API. However, as the Google Earth API no-longer works in most browsers, it is better to explore it in Google Earth using the KML files provided.

For your convenience we have put all the KML files into a single file that you can download here. We also fixed a few KML errors in the file so that the timeline feature works properly. You can click on the ‘play’ symbol in the time toolbar to see the progression of new states being added to the union over time.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Animating in Google Earth Part 2 – Importing Models

lun 07-11-2016

This is the second in a series of posts discussing animating in Google Earth that we started last week. Today we are not looking at animation itself, but how to get a model into Google Earth that you can animate.

3D models can be obtained from a variety of sources. One resource is the SketchUp 3D Warehouse, which has a large number of models, including most of the old style 3D buildings found in the Google Earth 3D buildings layer. When downloading them, they are offered in a variety of formats, sometimes including KMZ ready for Google Earth. If that is not available try ‘Collada file’ if is available. If the only option is SketchUp file format then you will need to the free version of SketchUp to convert it to a Collada file.

There are many other sites with 3D models available such as this one. Where possible you should look for files in Collada format ( .dae file extension). Other formats can be converted but you will need to find the appropriate software first.

We found this 3D model, created by NASA, of the Mars rover Curiosity.

It is in a format used by the open source 3D modelling program Blender. So we installed Blender, opened the model then exported it to Collada format. Unfortunately, it would not immediately open correctly in Google Earth, as Google Earth’s Collada support is somewhat limited. From the KML documentation:

Google Earth supports the COLLADA common profile, with the following exceptions:
* Google Earth supports only triangles and lines as primitive types. The maximum number of triangles allowed is 21845.
* Google Earth does not support animation or skinning.
* Google Earth does not support external geometry references.

The key here is the lack of support of a feature in the Collada format called a polylist. Luckily, in many cases it is simply a matter of editing the Collada file in a text editor and replacing all instances of the word ‘polylist’ with ‘triangles’ (it is also necessary to make sure ‘triangulate’ is ticked in the export options in Blender).

We were then able to simply drag and drop it into Google Earth.

As you can see below, however, it has some purple cubes labelled ‘Don’t render’ from Blender that we don’t want.

We will have to analyse the Collada file and see if we can remove them.

Another problem we encountered is that Google Earth does not automatically zoom in on the model, and if it is very small relative to your view, when you drag the model into Google Earth it can be difficult to find the model.

The post Animating in Google Earth Part 2 – Importing Models appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Animating in Google Earth

ven 04-11-2016

This is the first in a series of posts on animating in Google Earth. It is generally well known that Google Earth can display 3D models provided in KML files. Less well known is that it is possible to do basic animation in Google Earth. We have looked at a number of amazing Google Earth animations over the years, but relative to the other content for Google Earth, animations are extremely rare. There are a number of reasons for this, including a lack of good information regarding how to create these animations and easy to use tooling.

Today we are exploring the three main types of animation and their pros and cons.

In general, none of the animation methods are trivial, and almost all require some programming knowledge or custom tools to achieve a reasonable animation. Google does not provide any tools for creating animations but they do provide basic documentation for each mechanism.


Google Earth tours provide a mechanism for animating models. The animations are defined within the KML as documented here. Although KML can be typed out by hand this is completely impractical and it is necessary to have a tool that generates the KML as required.

– The person creating the tour has near complete control over what the user sees. This can be useful as it is quite easy to loose track of a moving model in Google Earth.
– Smooth animations along a line or constant rotation are handled automatically and need a lot less lines of KML than the time-based method.

– The complete control by the tour creator comes at the cost of practically no control by the user. The tour can be paused so the user can look around, but the user cannot change the view much while the tour is playing so live animations cannot be fully explored.

When to use
This is best used for models that move over a long distance that the viewer would easily lose track of. It is also ideal when you want to include other information that is best suited to being presented in a tour.

Steven Ho’s Maokong Gondola of Taipei

To see it in Google Earth, download the KML from Steven’s blog.

Captain James Cook’s exploration of Australia by Colin Hazlehurst. (not working, but you can see them on YouTube).

Time-based animations

This uses the Google Earth time toolbar in conjunction with time stamps in a KML file. The relevant KML documentation can be found here.

– This technique does not take control of the user’s view point so they are free to move around and look at the animation from different angles.

– It does not have a smooth animation feature, so smooth animations require a lot of frames, which results in very large KML files for long animations.
– The time toolbar can be confusing and users may not even realise that they must use it to view the animation. In addition, the speed of the animation is set by the user, and achieving a specific speed is difficult.

When to use
This is best suited to short, repeating animations.

The London Eye animation by Barnabu.
Turn off the Google Earth 3D buildings layer for best results.

This technique is also used for animations that do not involve models, such as the USGS animated KMLs showing earthquakes over time.

Google Earth API

This uses the Google Earth plugin. Animations can be directly controlled via JavaScript in real time.

This provides the greatest level of control and allows very complex animations.

The Google Earth API has been deprecated and could be shut down at any time. In addition, it is only supported in a few browsers (Firefox for example).

The Monster Milktruck consists of a driving simulator in Google Earth.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Tornado tracks in Google Earth imagery

jeu 03-11-2016

Last month we imported some placemarks from Wikipedia showing locations for all recorded tornadoes in the US for the last few years. We were hoping it would be useful for finding imagery of tornado tracks. However, it did not prove useful as the placemarks are based on reports of tornado sightings which are then later geocoded, probably based on the address provided by the person reporting it. This results in rather inaccurate locations overall.

So instead, we collected the locations of all the tornados we have covered in the past and also looked through the Google Earth historical imagery for more.

Tornado tracks. Red are tracks we have positively identified and blue are tracks we can see but have not yet matched to reported events.

We found the most tracks in Mississippi and Alabama. Although tornadoes are also common further north we believe that tornado tracks are much more visible in areas with forest than areas that are mostly open farmland. Damaged trees remain visible for a long time and are often cleared after the tornado, leaving visible strips of cleared land for years afterwards.

It is interesting that the majority of tracks follow approximately the same direction. Also interesting is just how long the tracks are. Many of them have clearly visible damage over 50 km and some more than 100 km.

To see the tracks in Google Earth, download this KML file. We have implemented it as a network linked KML file as we plan to update it over time.

Be sure to switch to historical imagery and check the appropriate dates to see relevant imagery for each tornado.

If any of our readers knows of more tornado tracks that are visible in Google Earth imagery, please let us know in the comments. We would especially love to find tracks in other countries as almost all of the identified tracks are in the US.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones