The new release of Virtual Earth 3D by Microsoft has very cool realistic 3D clouds. The clouds only appear when you are near the Earth’s surface for a localized region. But, they are based on real-time weather conditions for that location. Microsoft is obviously re-using some of their excellent Flight Simulator clouds rendering technology in the latest release of Virtual Earth. There are a lot of other features in the new release, but I was immediately impressed with these new clouds. They are especially awesome if you have a SpaceNavigator (which is supported by VE3D). The clouds are darker when thick, and there are different clouds types (cirrus, cumulus, party cloudy, etc.) according to weather conditions. To check out the new clouds, you have two choices: 1) load the new update for VE3D by going to local.live.com and clicking the 3D button (you should be prompted to load the new version – make sure you restart your browser after installing); or 2) check out his YouTube video I’ve just made:
I’ve always been a fan of the later generation cloud visualizations in Flight Simulator. Now Microsoft has brought them to the virtual globe applications. Google Earth’s built-in clouds are more useful because you can get a global perspective of real-time weather conditions. But, these clouds in Virtual Earth sure are pretty for local conditions! [UPDATE: for comparison, here is a video showing the clouds in Google Earth 4.3.
One other note: it took a few moments for both the SpaceNavigator to work and for the Clouds to appear the first time I used them (possibly background installations/downloads occurring).