Google Earth Blog http://www.gearthblog.com The amazing things about Google Earth Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:25:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 50387158 3D volcanoes and 3D data corruption http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/3d-volcanoes-3d-data-corruption.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/3d-volcanoes-3d-data-corruption.html#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:25:57 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18778 Google recently released 3D imagery for Mount Fuji in Japan. However, we discovered that there are a number of squares of the imagery that appear only in low resolution. We have come across this problem before and interestingly another location with a similar problem is Mount Vesuvius in Italy. Mount Fuji, Japan. Mount Vesuvius, Italy. […]

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Google recently released 3D imagery for Mount Fuji in Japan. However, we discovered that there are a number of squares of the imagery that appear only in low resolution. We have come across this problem before and interestingly another location with a similar problem is Mount Vesuvius in Italy.


Mount Fuji, Japan.


Mount Vesuvius, Italy.

A third volcano, Mount Saint Helens in Washington State, USA, also has 3D imagery but does not have any problems with the 3D imagery:


Mount Saint Helens, Washington State, USA.

The problem with squares of blurred 3D is not restricted to volcanoes. We know of a number of other places around the world where the same issue occurs. For the ones we know about, download this KML file. If our readers know of any others, please let us know in the comments.


Thank you to GEB reader Samppa for letting us know about this one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One location that had a similar problem a couple of years ago was Oslo, Norway. Oddly enough, that seemed to get fixed when the Google Earth client was updated.

Another type of 3D imagery anomaly is this one near Austin, Texas:

The above volcanoes are not the only areas where Google has captured 3D imagery outside urban areas. For a number of US parks see this post and for a number of other non-urban areas see this post.

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Ring-shaped geoglyphs in Peru http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ring-shaped-geoglyphs-peru.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ring-shaped-geoglyphs-peru.html#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 10:26:35 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18747 A recent story in the news is about some ring-shaped geoglyphs in Peru. It took a while to find the correct location in Google Earth, as the given location ‘Quilcapampa, in the Sihuas Valley’ was not recognised by Google Earth. Once we tracked down the location, we were able to find quite a number of […]

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A recent story in the news is about some ring-shaped geoglyphs in Peru. It took a while to find the correct location in Google Earth, as the given location ‘Quilcapampa, in the Sihuas Valley’ was not recognised by Google Earth.

Once we tracked down the location, we were able to find quite a number of rings. We have marked the ones we found and a few other possibly related structures and also one or two locations that may be unrelated.
To see them in Google Earth, download this KML file.

Below are the clearest circles that we found:

We also found the structures below. There are some circles and a dashed line. We believe they are modern structures.

Other ancient structures in Peru include:

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Post-earthquake Kumamoto in Google Earth 3D http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/post-earthquake-kumamoto-google-earth-3d.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/post-earthquake-kumamoto-google-earth-3d.html#respond Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:16:05 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18729 In April this year, the city of Kumamoto, Japan, suffered a series of large earthquakes. Google managed to capture aerial imagery of the city essentially during the event, after the first major event but before the largest shock and then captured another set of imagery from after the event. We had a look at what […]

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In April this year, the city of Kumamoto, Japan, suffered a series of large earthquakes. Google managed to capture aerial imagery of the city essentially during the event, after the first major event but before the largest shock and then captured another set of imagery from after the event. We had a look at what damage could be seen in the imagery, including a large number of landslides, collapsed buildings and a derailed train. From the overhead imagery it wasn’t easy to see the extent of the damage to buildings, even though we knew, based on ground level imagery, that there was severe damage in some locations. Now Google has updated the 3D imagery for part of Kumamoto with imagery captured after the event, and the extent of the damage to buildings is much clearer, especially because the roofs have been patched with light blue tarpaulin that is highly visible.


The suburb of Mashiki was the worst hit, and many houses are damaged beyond repair.


A historical building known as Janes’ Residence was completely destroyed. The rubble has been covered in the light blue tarpaulins

The Janes’ Residence was the first western-style house built in Kumamoto dating from 1871. It used to be in the grounds of Kumamoto Castle, but has been moved a number of times. Read more about it here.


Kumamoto Castle was badly damaged by the earthquake.

We have also created a Google Earth tour of the area showing all the light blue roofs, which you can view in Google Earth with this KML file or see in the YouTube video below.

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Taiwan wants Google to censor satellite imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/taiwan-wants-google-censor-satellite-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/taiwan-wants-google-censor-satellite-imagery.html#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:06:33 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18711 A recent story in the news says that Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has asked Google to blur imagery of some military structures on Itu Aba Island (also known as Taiping Island) in the South China Sea. The South China Sea is a hotly contested area with several countries, most notabley China, building structures on the reefs […]

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A recent story in the news says that Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has asked Google to blur imagery of some military structures on Itu Aba Island (also known as Taiping Island) in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea is a hotly contested area with several countries, most notabley China, building structures on the reefs of the Spratleys. We had a look at the progress last year and had a look at the latest imagery of Fiery Cross Reef in June this year.

As we have discussed before, censoring satellite imagery is more difficult than censoring other data. A number of countries censor aerial data, mapping data and 3D imagery and because those are often gathered within the countries in question, Google must comply with local laws. But satellite imagery is more difficult to censor. I has been done. It is illegal in the US to publish high resolution imagery of Israel, and Google is a US company so Israel appears in relatively low resolution in Google Maps and Google Earth. Also, imagery updates were stopped for Iraq, Afghanistan, the Ukraine and Syria although we do not know exactly how that was accomplished.

Back to this particular case, if the story is correct and if that was the only facility that Taiwan asked Google to censor, then it would appear they made a serious error. The result has been that many news outlets have published the imagery and it is now not only practically impossible to get rid of all those images, but it has become an object of attention. In addition, Google will be very unlikely to agree to censor it unless legal pressure can be brought to bear. If they were to censor it, a lot of people will notice, and it will become another news story, and then a lot of other countries will want their censorship requests to be honoured as well.

Another question would be who Taiwan wishes to hide the imagery from. Even if Google removed the image, it could still be purchased from the supplier Digital Globe, or imagery of the location could be ordered from various other commercial suppliers. A number of states also have their own spy satellites and the countries most interested in the region could probably capture aerial imagery of it if they wished.

The image that Taiwan wants censored is dated July 8th, 2016 and can only be seen in the default layer as it has not yet (as of this writing) been put in historical imagery.

The military structure in question can be seen below:

We have also created an animation showing that the airport was built since 2006 and the harbour is also being expanded.


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Damage by the Erskine Fire, California as seen in Google Earth http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/damage-erskine-fire-california-seen-google-earth.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/damage-erskine-fire-california-seen-google-earth.html#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 10:46:25 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18691 The Erskine Fire was a wildfire near Lake Isabella, California. It was only one of many wild-fires that occur in the California region every year (there are an average of around 8,000 fires per year). According to Wikipedia, the Erskine fire cost US$ 19.3 million, destroyed 309 buildings and caused two fatalities. We noticed a […]

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The Erskine Fire was a wildfire near Lake Isabella, California. It was only one of many wild-fires that occur in the California region every year (there are an average of around 8,000 fires per year). According to Wikipedia, the Erskine fire cost US$ 19.3 million, destroyed 309 buildings and caused two fatalities.

We noticed a reddish brown strip that appears to largely match the edge of the region that was affected by fire. We cannot tell whether it is a natural geological feature (that for some reason stalled the fire), a result of the fire itself or a result of fire-fighting efforts. If any of our readers knows what it is, please let us know in the comments.

From the aerial imagery the region appears to have very little vegetation, but it appears to have been more than enough to create an uncontrollable inferno.

Here are some ‘before and afters’ of the damage caused by the fire:

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after

This was the worst affected area, a suburb of a small town called South Lake.

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after

This KML file has placemarks showing the locations of the damaged buildings we were able to find as well as an image overlay from the map shown on Wikipedia showing the approximate extent of the fire.

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AI facial recognition is too good, in two different ways! http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ai-facial-recognition-good-two-different-ways.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ai-facial-recognition-good-two-different-ways.html#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:11:42 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18668 Artificial intelligence based facial recognition is improving over time. However, it is a bit too good at recognising faces as two recent stories illustrate. The first problem is Google’s automatic facial recognition as used to blur faces in Street View imagery, tends to err on the over eager side and ends up blurring faces of […]

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Artificial intelligence based facial recognition is improving over time. However, it is a bit too good at recognising faces as two recent stories illustrate. The first problem is Google’s automatic facial recognition as used to blur faces in Street View imagery, tends to err on the over eager side and ends up blurring faces of statues, people in paintings, and now even a cow. Read more about it here (expect a lot of bovine puns).


A cow in Cambridge, England, has its face blurred for privacy reasons. See in Street View

The second story found here and here says that artificial intelligence based facial recognition can still identify faces fairly accurately even with face blurring. This would suggest that Google’s efforts to blur people’s faces in Street View may soon be thwarted and they will need to redo it all with a more secure method. The easiest reliable method is to completely cover faces with a square of solid colour. Another sightlier alternative would be to subtly warp faces in addition to blurring them so as to fool facial recognition algorithms. This should work until reliable body recognition becomes common place (yes that’s a real thing and probably works even better on cows than facial recognition does).

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The Jiangsu tornado http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/the-jiangsu-tornado.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/the-jiangsu-tornado.html#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 09:59:17 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18681 Although Google has neglected to update ‘historical imagery’ in Google Earth since early June, they have been adding fresh imagery, and when it is reasonably good quality, it goes into the default layer and we can see it. One such instance is a region in Jiangsu Province, China which was struck by a deadly tornado […]

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Although Google has neglected to update ‘historical imagery’ in Google Earth since early June, they have been adding fresh imagery, and when it is reasonably good quality, it goes into the default layer and we can see it. One such instance is a region in Jiangsu Province, China which was struck by a deadly tornado on June 23, 2016. According to Wikipedia, the tornado killed at least 99 people and injured 846 others (152 critically).

We found a number of articles showing various photos of the destruction, such as here, here, here and here. But, actually locating the event proved more difficult. We first mapped out the area that had new imagery and started searching through it for signs of damaged buildings, but with an area of nearly 4,000 square kilometres we were not successful. We did find a raised railway under construction, and a long trail of destroyed houses that turned out to be planned road construction. The articles either mention major nearby cities or small villages that aren’t marked on the map and couldn’t be found through search. Eventually we found mention of “Danping Village of Chenliang Township” and we were able to find Chenliang. From there, the path of destruction was easy to trace over a distance of around 30 km.

To see the path of the tornado in Google Earth download this KML file.


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after

Although the latest imagery is not very high quality, near total destruction of houses all along the path of the tornado is clear, especially when comparing it with older imagery.

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Some damaged factories.

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A factory roof ripped to shreds.

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See a higher resolution aerial image of this factory in this article

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Malaysia and Tunisia get 3D http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/malaysia-tunisia-get-3d.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/malaysia-tunisia-get-3d.html#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 10:10:29 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18660 Malaysia and Tunisia have recently received their first 3D imagery. Tunis and Sfax in Tunisia and Sungai Petani in Malaysia. The interesting upside down triangle architecture of the Hôtel du Lac, Tunis. Constructions sites are the easiest way to work out the date of 3D imagery. This construction site in Sungai Petani, Malaysia, tells us […]

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Malaysia and Tunisia have recently received their first 3D imagery. Tunis and Sfax in Tunisia and Sungai Petani in Malaysia.


The interesting upside down triangle architecture of the Hôtel du Lac, Tunis.


Constructions sites are the easiest way to work out the date of 3D imagery. This construction site in Sungai Petani, Malaysia, tells us the 3D imagery was captured since the most recent satellite image from January 2016.

As we have previously mentioned Google appears to be slowing down in terms of new area covered by 3D. However, they are doing a significant amount of updates of existing areas.

Note that a few of the most recent finds for this month are not included in the above chart, as we have not yet finished drawing the outlines.

To see the full coverage of 3D imagery in Google Earth and find out what other recent additions there are, download this KML file.


York Minster in York, England.

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Global Fishing Watch http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/global-fishing-watch.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/global-fishing-watch.html#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2016 10:52:46 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18644 Although it is not directly related to Google Earth, Global Fishing Watch does use geographic ‘big data’, so we thought it would be worth covering. Global Fishing Watch is a partnership between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, which aims to track the world’s fishing fleets and monitor where they fish. This will help to identify illegal […]

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Although it is not directly related to Google Earth, Global Fishing Watch does use geographic ‘big data’, so we thought it would be worth covering. Global Fishing Watch is a partnership between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, which aims to track the world’s fishing fleets and monitor where they fish. This will help to identify illegal fishing as well as assist in the management of fisheries. Read more about it on Google’s Lat Long blog.

To use it, start here. It requires you to sign up to use it, but the signup process is fast and free. We believe the signup is required because of the sensitivity of the data and they require you to acknowledge that you realise the data may be inaccurate, among other things. Learn what you can do and how to use it from the tutorial here.

They do not provide an API nor any way to export data to Google Earth. The data can be accessed by their research partners via Google Earth Engine. They state, however, that the underlying ship tracking data is a commercial data-set, so they cannot distribute it freely. We really wish that shipping data and aircraft data could be made available freely, but Global Fishing Watch states that it downloads 20 million data points per day, so whoever is managing the data collection must have significant costs. There are sites such as MarineTraffic for ships and FlightRadar24 for aircraft that let you see real-time data for a significant proportion of the world’s shipping and aircraft, but if you want any historical data it has to be paid for. We have long wanted to get hold of some historical tracks so we can write algorithms to find ships and aircraft in historical imagery, but we have not managed to find any source that provides such tracks free of charge.

We came across this interesting track that follows lines of longitude (every four degrees). And then another ship takes over and continues the pattern further west. Was it doing some research as well as fishing?

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Ships in Google Earth’s 3D imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ships-google-earths-3d-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2016/09/ships-google-earths-3d-imagery.html#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 12:47:18 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=18629 We have long had a fascination with cruise ships in Google Earth. Cruise ships represent a significant amount of area and deserve to be mapped, but because they move from place to place this poses an interesting mapping problem. Some time back we had started making a collection of placemarks for various ships in 3D, […]

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We have long had a fascination with cruise ships in Google Earth. Cruise ships represent a significant amount of area and deserve to be mapped, but because they move from place to place this poses an interesting mapping problem.

Some time back we had started making a collection of placemarks for various ships in 3D, but never got around to completing it. In some cases, the name of the vessel can be seen in the imagery, but at other times, identifying it requires a bit of detective work. Yesterday, GEB reader Frank (not Frank Taylor), who also contributes outlines for our 3D imagery KML, sent us a collection of placemarks for cruise ships and ferries in 3D, which was much more comprehensive than ours. So, we have combined it with our collection and are providing it here in case our readers are interested.

Grab the collection here. We have implemented it as a network link and may update it over time, but do not guarantee that we will have time to do a lot of regular maintenance.

Remember that Google Earth does not have a ‘historical 3D’ feature, so when 3D imagery gets updated, the placemarks will no longer be correct. We found that a few of the placemarks we had created in the past no-longer have cruise ships at those locations. Also interesting is that some of the cruise ships in the imagery have since been sold and renamed or in some cases, such as the Sky Wonder, have since been scrapped.

A number of cruise ships appear more than once in the 3D imagery. For example:


Norwegian Pearl, in Seattle (west coast of the US).


Norwegian Pearl, in Miami (east coast of the US).


Crystal Serenity in Barcelona, Spain.


Crystal Serenity in Livorno, Italy.

If you are interested in collections of ships visible in 2D imagery, be sure to check out the Google Earth Community transport collections.

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