Google has made yet another weekend update to the Google Earth imagery. I’m expecting a lot of GEB readers will start reporting new imagery they find during the weekend. Please leave a comment here if you find new imagery –
which you can confirm by clicking on the “View in Google Maps” for a close-zoomed level, since Google Maps imagery does not yet have the update [UPDATE: Google Maps now has the new imagery, so you can’t confirm now.]. For this update, there are some significant changes which I immediately noticed – some really good news, and some bad. Comments on the significant changes will appear below the list of new imagery noticed. By the way, I immediately noticed the new Spot Image imagery for Oman and Yemen.
New and updated imagery:
Oman – Medium resolution Spot Image.
Yemen – Medium resolution Spot Image.
Guadaloupe – Not sure if this is new this month, but Isle des Saintes in Guadaloupe now has 3D terrain (previously the islands were flat).
Romania – Constanţa (Thanks ‘twist3r’)
Sri Lanka – Kataragama Peak (Thanks Martin)
France – Largentiere (Ardeche) (Thanks Maarten), Departments of Aisne, Ardennes, Eure, Eure-et-Loire, Lot-et-Garonne, Ariege, Haute-Garonne, Ardeche, Alpes-Maritime,
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Ain, Rhone, Allier, Doubs (Thanks Andreas)
Bulgaria – Entire country – Medium resolution Spot Image (Thanks Thilo)
Greece – “Lots of areas” have new high res (Thanks ‘psx’) – confirmed in Larissa, Kythira, Kamari
Niger – Dirkou (thanks ‘ACarvalho’)
Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia – new medium Spot Image (Thanks Neli)
Poland – Ciechanów (southern part), Kołobrzeg, Łask (winter photo) – Thanks ‘m_k’
India – Bina, Madhya Pradesh – (Thanks ‘Alok P.’)
Republic of Congo – Loubomo (Thanks ACarvalho)
Spain – Ferrol, Monte Coya (Thanks Vranton)
USA – Southwestern States colorization removed (see below); Contra Costa County, CA has new high res (Thanks Munden); Niagara Falls has been ruined with low resolution imagery! (Thanks Munden);
Chile – Castro and Chilo´e; Island hi-res (Thanks JP)
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq – these countries has been color processed to look consistent (Thanks Munden, Steven)
Libya – Some new Geoeye (May) just south of Sert (Thanks Munden)
Saudi Arabia – Riyadh got some GeoEye (Thanks Munden)
Canary Islands – Grand Canaria – new high res (thanks Ben)
Faroe Islands – New high res terrain (thanks Frank)
Maldives – Kudahuvadhoo (thanks Alsay)
Ghana – Tumu (Thanks Trevor)
Philippines – El Nido (thanks Eugene)
Mexico – Acapulco (thanks Mcmaster_de)
Egypt – Alexandria (thanks Mcmaster_de)
First, I’m very pleased because Google has removed some of the bad coloration they introduced to the southwestern US imagery back in early June. Many people complained (see the comments) about the way the new colorization process actually destroyed color information and made places in the southwest (which are normally desert brown), have a green cast on them. Thank you Google for listening!
Second, Google has introduced a new “coastline-cutting” tool to make the edges of the imagery conform to the shape of the coastlines. This is a pretty significant move as it effects imagery all over the planet. And, I have mixed feelings about this decision. On the one hand, it does make the land verses sea/bathymetry distinction more clear and pleasing to the eye. I’m impressed with how accurately the “cutting” has been done (so far, I haven’t checked everywhere yet 🙂 ). The previous technique has always showed aerial or satellite imagery rectangles as a patchwork of irregular shapes along the coastlines. Which did in fact make it a bit harder to distinguish land from water.
However, imagery of the areas of ports, bays, harbors, shallow waters (especially in the Bahamas), etc. have now been cut out in favor of the bathymetry. The base level imagery of Google Earth (and Google Maps after this update migrates there), will now have lost some very valuable information. The former technique formerly showed ships, aircraft flying in the area, water conditions, sub-sea surface conditions (shipwrecks, coral reefs, sea life, oil rigs, buoys, dive sites, and (very importantly to the boating world) anchorage sites. The new technique has in one fell swoop reduced availability of a great deal of valuable information to the boating world, marine biologists, economists, shipping industry, oil industry, coast guards, and more. (Oh, I should mention those of us who look for planes in flight have also lost many planes found over water). In Google Earth, you can still turn to the historical imagery mode and see imagery without the coastline cutting. So, all is not lost. But, you can’t turn on historical imagery (currently) with Google Maps. And, many people won’t realize the historical imagery will show the “missing” information. Let’s just hope Google doesn’t start cutting the imagery they get before they put it in the historical imagery database! [Update Oops, I’ve already found evidence of coastline cutting happening in the historical imagery!]
Another footnote: In most cases, anchorages are near the shore – so hopefully the new coastline cutting will not eliminate most anchorages from the imagery. But, passages across bays and harbors between anchorages may now only show the bathymetry instead of the imagery. A sense of ship traffic, and what the water looks like will only be available (maybe) in the historical imagery. UPDATE: Another positive note – the coast cutting does not appear to cut out the imagery for the lagoons for atolls I found in the Tuamotus. Just the outside of the coasts. That’s good!
What I can’t understand is why Google is trying so hard to balance making the planet look good in the “base” imagery layer of Google Earth at the risk of losing valuable information. While at the same time, they have built-in features that could easily give the users the best of both worlds. There’s a feature in KML that lets you fade-in/out different overlays of imagery based on zoom levels. So, with Google Earth it is possible to present a very nice looking earth while at the same time presenting as much imagery as possible. In Google Maps, they already present a different view until you zoom in close. Plus Google can easily add options to load a different tile-set just like they already do between say “Satellite” vs. adding “Labels”. How about “Full imagery”, or “Historical Imagery”, or “Uncut Coastline” options for Google Maps?