[UPDATE: see the release of new imagery for New Orleans.]
Many folks in the media (and even in Congress) have been asking Google why last September they changed the imagery for New Orleans, a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, to show New Orleans the way it looked before the storm. Here is Google’s official response:
In order to publish the best data possible, we must take into account a combination of factors including imagery date, resolution, and clarity. The latest update from one of our information providers substantially improved the imagery detail of the New Orleans area. The detailed imagery was taken before Katrina.
We are working to update Google Earth with more current New Orleans imagery, and continue to make post-Katrina imagery available on a dedicated website: http://earth.google.com/katrina.html
In fact, even with the free version of Google Earth you can get the network link for post-Katrina imagery (from the web page they provide) and see the overlay of all the images available. Click on the colored placemarks, which show the hundreds of photos available) and you can download images for the area you want to see – including New Orleans (the screenshot here shows the stadium).
Google was given great credit by the media for its efforts after Katrina for georeference thousands of aerial photos taken by the government and making it available within a day or two after the Hurricane struck. It was a great aid to the efforts of officials to help rescue countless people, and to establish initial damage estimates. Although it probably wasn’t the best decision to replace the imagery with pre-Katrina, it’s not like the post-Katrina photos weren’t available.