Google Earth Blog http://www.gearthblog.com The amazing things about Google Earth Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:09:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.1 50387158 Wish list for Google Earth for 2017 http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/wish-list-google-earth-2017.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/wish-list-google-earth-2017.html#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:09:33 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20130 Here is our wish list for 2017: Google has been making bug-fix updates to Google Earth, which have been very welcome (the crash that used to happen when moving placemarks was very frustrating), but there have been no new features added. We would love to see new features, or even a major update. Google has […]

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Here is our wish list for 2017:

  • Google has been making bug-fix updates to Google Earth, which have been very welcome (the crash that used to happen when moving placemarks was very frustrating), but there have been no new features added. We would love to see new features, or even a major update.

  • Google has recently shut down the Google Earth plugin / API. The main reason given for discontinuing it was that it relied on old technology called NPAPI that is considered insecure by browser makers and is being removed from browsers or made harder to use. We would love to see Google provide some alternative ways to control Google Earth via code and query Google Earth’s datasets. It could even provide information that could not be easily obtained with the old API such as imagery providers, or the boundary of a given image.

  • Given that the Google Earth plugin / API is now shut down, we will be unable to create imagery update maps. A few years ago Google would release update maps on a fairly regular basis. Over the last few years, however, it has only provided teasers in the Voyager layers, usually covering only a tiny fraction of all the updates that have taken place. It would be fantastic if Google was to resume publishing imagery update maps.

  • The yearly global mosaics of Landsat/Sentinel-2 imagery that were recently added to historical imagery are a welcome addition, but also come with some disadvantages. They make it much harder to explore historical imagery and in some places Google has got the settings wrong. We would like to see the altitude at which they fade out raised slightly and even better, the option to turn them off.

  • An interesting additional setting for the ‘historical imagery’ feature would be to allow the selection of a date range rather than the current maximum date. That way you could easily find all imagery within a given date range (especially if the Landsat / Sentinel-2 layers could be turned off).

  • The global mosaics are created by merging multiple images at any given location and as a result lose some resolution and do not show seasonal changes and events. It would be fantastic if Google could find a way to allow us to view the raw Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery in Google Earth. The ideal would be to have a special layer where you could view them. Currently, although the imagery can be obtained relatively easily, it still needs to be downloaded, processed and then inserted in Google Earth. It would not be difficult at all to process all the imagery and make it work with Google Earth. The only issue is processing time and storage, which Google has in abundance. Google already offers the unprocessed data on Google Cloud. It could at least add processed ‘true colour’ versions to the database, even better would be to break it into smaller tiles.

  • With Panoramio being shut down in November this year, it is time that Google finally fixes user contributed Street View in Google Earth.

  • We would also love to see ‘historical Street View’ added to Google Earth. It currently only exists in the Google Maps version of Street View.

  • Better navigation tools for Street View would also be nice. Some ideas from Google Maps could be incorporated into Google Earth.

  • Google Earth has seen a number of layers being dropped. Other layers do not work correctly and are not being updated and maintained by the original data providers. We would love to see a revitalisation of the layers. Google could start by having a look at projects in Google Earth Engine such as the Global Surface Water Changes map.

  • Google Earth’s altitude data is often far from accurate. There is better quality altitude data available from open sources. We would like to see Google update the altitude data.

  • We are generally happy with the progress made in 3D imagery and hope to see this continue.

  • We would like to see more of the solar system planets and moons included in Google Earth.

  • We would like to see improvements to the Tour functionality of Google Earth. It is an underutilised feature of Google Earth, partly because it lacks flexibility and partly due to the lack of Tour creation tooling.

  • We would like the ability to save ‘My Places’ to the cloud and sync it with other computers as well as allowing simultaneous editing from multiple locations.


The blue dots of user contributed Street View can be seen in Google Earth, but there is no way to view the actual photos.

See our wish list from a couple of years ago here. A few of our wishes and those of our readers were actually fulfilled.

What is your wish list for Google Earth in 2017? Let us know in the comments.

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Observations about the 2016 ‘historical imagery’ updates http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/observations-2016-historical-imagery-updates.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/observations-2016-historical-imagery-updates.html#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2017 11:37:38 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20121 Earlier this week we released maps showing the imagery updates of 2016 according to the ‘historical imagery’ layer. The maps were created using the Google Earth Plugin/API, which Google has since shut down. It was scheduled to be shut down on January 11th. It was still working yesterday, January 12th, but is not today, January […]

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Earlier this week we released maps showing the imagery updates of 2016 according to the ‘historical imagery’ layer. The maps were created using the Google Earth Plugin/API, which Google has since shut down. It was scheduled to be shut down on January 11th. It was still working yesterday, January 12th, but is not today, January 13th.

Southern Hemisphere
The first thing to note about the maps of ‘historical imagery’ is that there is no imagery in the southern Hemisphere from July onwards. This is not because Google is not adding fresh imagery there, but because it only updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer for the Northern Hemisphere. During the first half of 2016, Google was updating ‘historical imagery’ almost weekly, but in mid-July they stopped and didn’t update it again until late December, but apparently only updated the Northern Hemisphere. They have been doing imagery updates for the Southern Hemisphere, but they can only be seen in the default layer.

Types of imagery
Google gathers aerial imagery for some parts of the world. We believe it collects the imagery itself as the imagery shows no attributions other than Google. There is also this page suggesting it sells aerial imagery, too. Aerial imagery can typically be identified by the size of the imagery patches. They tend to be large rectangles as opposed to the smaller rectangles or strips of satellite imagery. Aerial imagery is used almost exclusively for:

  • The continental United States.
  • Western Europe, excluding the Scandinavian countries.
  • Japan.

A few countries have received a mix of both satellite and aerial imagery:

  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia.

If you see Google aerial imagery from 2016 anywhere else, please let us know in the comments.

Satellite imagery all seems to come from two suppliers, DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum.

Reasons for imagery
Aerial imagery, especially in the US, appears to be gathered on a schedule, with the US being covered approximately once every three years. Satellite imagery appears to be gathered for three basic reasons:

  1. To capture particular events. DigitalGlobe’s ‘FirstLook’ program gathers imagery of natural disasters, man-made disasters, political instability and human interest. See the FirstLook map to get an idea of what is covered. Most FirstLook imagery eventually makes its way into Google Earth. We have covered a number of these locations in previous posts. Imagery gathered for particular events tends to be of poorer quality, sometimes being black and white or false colour and having a high percentage of cloud cover.
  2. Particular locations of interest to the suppliers DigitalGlobe and CNES Astrum. This is especially noticeable with DigitalGlobe imagery, which is gathered very regularly for certain locations, usually cities.
  3. Random locations where the imagery suppliers managed to get good quality imagery because weather conditions were just right.

We do not know whether or not Google ever makes special orders for satellite imagery or what their agreements are with the satellite imagery suppliers.

Weather
Weather plays an important role in the gathering of imagery. Google avoids snow cover and cloud cover where possible, both of which are quite seasonal. This results in a curious pattern of imagery gathering, which you can see in this map.

Population
Sparsely populated areas such as mountains and deserts typically get a lot less imagery than highly populated areas.

Censorship
Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and the Ukraine are censored and got no updated imagery during 2016. We do not know how the censorship is achieved, but it is most likely not up to Google. Our guess is that the satellite imagery providers have been paid to not supply imagery to Google for those countries. Imagery is being gathered, and it would appear that you can buy imagery for those countries via TerraServer and other suppliers.


India and Pakistan got good coverage for 2016.

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Is Google selling Terra Bella to Planet? http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-selling-terra-bella-planet.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-selling-terra-bella-planet.html#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:01:05 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20101 A recent story in the news is a rumour that Google may be planning to sell its satellite imaging business Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) to satellite imaging company Planet (formerly Planet Labs). Google acquired Terra Bella, then Skybox Imaging, in mid 2014. At the time, Terra Bella had two satellites, SkySats 1 and 2. […]

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A recent story in the news is a rumour that Google may be planning to sell its satellite imaging business Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) to satellite imaging company Planet (formerly Planet Labs).

Google acquired Terra Bella, then Skybox Imaging, in mid 2014. At the time, Terra Bella had two satellites, SkySats 1 and 2. It added five more satellites to its constellation in 2016, SkySat 3 in June and then SkySats 4 through 7 in September. It has more launches planned for 2017, with some sources suggesting a fleet of 21 satellites by the end of the year.

It makes sense that Google would choose to sell Terra Bella as it really is not a particularly good fit with its other businesses. Terra Bella specialises in medium resolution satellite imagery – higher resolution than Landsat and Sentinel-2 but lower resolution than DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrum the two main suppliers of satellite imagery for Google Earth. Terra Bella’s focus is cheap satellites and rapid or regular acquisition (enabled by launching a relatively large number of satellites). This is the exact same market that Planet is in, except Planet currently has a much larger fleet. Planet makes its own cheap satellites it calls Doves. We do not know how many are currently in orbit, but in just one launch last year it deployed 12 at once. You can see some others being launched from the Space Station on Planets Blog. Planet also acquired RapidEye in 2015, which consists of a fleet of five satellites.

We have only once seen a Terra Bella image in Google Earth and it was removed soon after we discovered it. It appeared to have been a test of some sort and was in the middle of the Sahara where Google probably thought nobody would notice it.


A gif animation of the Burning Man festival created by Terra Bella.

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SpaceX in Google Earth http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/spacex-google-earth.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/spacex-google-earth.html#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:11:41 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20092 This weekend, on January 14th, SpaceX hopes to return to flight with their first launch since the explosion last September on the launchpad of their rocket carrying the Amos-6 mission. As fans of SpaceX, we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some SpaceX related sights in Google Earth. Space […]

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This weekend, on January 14th, SpaceX hopes to return to flight with their first launch since the explosion last September on the launchpad of their rocket carrying the Amos-6 mission. As fans of SpaceX, we thought this would be a good time to have a look at some SpaceX related sights in Google Earth.


Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, location of the launchpad explosion. Image captured one month after the explosion.


If you switch to ‘historical imagery’ with the 3D buildings layer turned on, you can see a 3D model of a SpaceX rocket on the launch pad.

SpaceX is noted for being able to (some of the time) land the first stage of their rockets either on land or on an autonomous spaceport drone ship.


Space Launch Complex 1, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX’s east coast landing site.


One of SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships named ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port of Jacksonville, Florida.


One of the drone ships in Port of Jacksonville, Florida as seen in 3D imagery. We are not certain which as there is no name and the deck layout is slightly different from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’

‘Of Course I Still Love You’ can also be seen in Port Cape Canaveral in October 2016. See the KML file at the end of the post for the location.


A successfully landed first stage being unloaded from ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in Port Cape Canaveral in June 2016. See in Street View.

Note that you can also explore some of the launch complexes in Street View.


‘Just Read the Instructions’, SpaceX’s west coast drone ship seen in Port of Los Angeles, California.


The SpaceX testing facility in McGregor, Texas


SpaceX headquarters, 1 Rocket Road, Los Angeles. The X is drawn with solar panels. Also note next door neighbour Tesla.

For the above locations and more, including the location of a planned private spaceport at the southern tip of Texas, download this KML file.

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Two stages of construction in Google Earth 3D imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/two-stages-construction-google-earth-3d-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/two-stages-construction-google-earth-3d-imagery.html#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:47:45 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20064 Thank you to GEB reader Jacob for bringing to our attention an interesting effect in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, there is a building in the 3D imagery that seems to be a combination of imagery from when it was still under construction and imagery from after its completion. The result is […]

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Thank you to GEB reader Jacob for bringing to our attention an interesting effect in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. In Kingston, Ontario, Canada, there is a building in the 3D imagery that seems to be a combination of imagery from when it was still under construction and imagery from after its completion. The result is quite interesting and worth exploring in Google Earth. Find it in Google Earth with this KML file. Be sure to turn on the 3D buildings layer.

The 3D imagery was only recently added to Google Earth (first reported by GEB readers on January 3rd, 2017) but, based on historical imagery the building was constructed between May 2014, when there is no building visible, and September 2015 when it is mostly finished. So at least some of the imagery used to create the 3D is several years old.

We have previously noted a case where a building could be seen in different stages of construction depending on zoom level and an instance where whole buildings were missing from the 3D imagery.

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Google Earth imagery update outlines for 2016 http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-update-outlines-2016.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-update-outlines-2016.html#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2017 10:03:59 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20051 Today we are releasing our map of Google Earth imagery updates for 2016. Download this KML file to see it in Google Earth. Let us know in the comments if you find any interesting sights that we have not yet covered. Eastern Europe got noticeably more imagery than Western Europe. We guess this is because […]

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Today we are releasing our map of Google Earth imagery updates for 2016. Download this KML file to see it in Google Earth.

Let us know in the comments if you find any interesting sights that we have not yet covered.

Eastern Europe got noticeably more imagery than Western Europe. We guess this is because Western Europe mostly already has high quality aerial imagery. Most of the updated imagery in Western Europe is aerial imagery attributed to Google and we believe gathered by Google.

The Ukraine is an exception as it is still censored along with Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which received new imagery in 2016.

The maps show the approximate locations of imagery updates from January to November 2016 classified by month. As far as we know there are no December images yet in ‘historical imagery’. The maps are created using the Google Earth API / plugin, which is set to be shut down a couple of days from now (January 11th, 2017).

There is some recent imagery in Google Earth that has not yet made it to ‘historical imagery’, which is not included in the maps. Also keep in mind that Google sometimes adds old imagery, so during the course of 2016 they would have added quite a lot of 2015 or older imagery which is not included in these maps and in the future they will add more 2016 imagery.



Imagery updates dated 2016, January to November

Speed up the animation by dragging the slider to the left to better see the seasonality of imagery, a topic we have discussed a few times in the past:
Preferred seasons for gathering imagery
2015 imagery updates animated

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A River Runs Red http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/river-runs-red.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/river-runs-red.html#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:39:16 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20032 While looking through the recent imagery updates we came across this story about a river in Russia that turned red. DigitalGlobe captured some imagery of the location, including both a colour image and a black and white image, captured on the same day. Unfortunately, Google Earth has a problem that we have previously discussed in […]

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While looking through the recent imagery updates we came across this story about a river in Russia that turned red. DigitalGlobe captured some imagery of the location, including both a colour image and a black and white image, captured on the same day. Unfortunately, Google Earth has a problem that we have previously discussed in that if two overlapping images are captured on the same day, it is impossible to see the image that has been overlapped. In this case, the black and white image has been placed on top of the colour image and since we are specifically looking for colour, this is a problem.

Nickel producer Norilsk Nickel initially denied claims that its nearby metal processing plant was to blame, but later admitted responsibility. A look at the satellite imagery of the area in Google Earth makes it abundantly clear that the plant is responsible, and that the red colour has been leaking for years. There are actually two different streams leading away from the waste water pool and both show clear signs of discoloration. It is not clear from the articles about it which of the streams are in the photos.


The location as seen in Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery


The stream that runs south of the waste water pool as seen in DigitalGlobe imagery. The water colour appears to vary between green, yellow and brown. But colours in satellite imagery are not always accurate.


The stream that runs north of the waste water pool. The water itself looks a muddy greenish, but the sand is clearly stained red.

To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.

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Google Earth Imagery Updates, Italian Earthquake, Burning Man, Train Crash http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-updates-italian-earthquake-burning-man-train-crash.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-updates-italian-earthquake-burning-man-train-crash.html#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 11:59:51 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=20021 Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer in Google Earth and we have done a series of posts on the various interesting sights: Wildfires in the US More US wildfires, US floods and a Tornado Floods around the world and the Calais Jungle Migrant camp Today we are looking at a few more locations around […]

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Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer in Google Earth and we have done a series of posts on the various interesting sights:
Wildfires in the US
More US wildfires, US floods and a Tornado
Floods around the world and the Calais Jungle Migrant camp

Today we are looking at a few more locations around the world.

Italian Earthquakes
Italy suffered two major earthquakes last year in August and October, which we have covered previously (August earthquake, October earthquake. There is now some DigitalGlobe imagery of some of the worst affected areas.


Amatrice, Italy was near the epicentre of the August earthquake.

2016 Burning Man Festival

There are a couple of images of last year’s Burning Man Festival.


Texas train crash
On June 28th, 2016, there was a fiery train crash in Texas involving two freight trains. The Google Earth imagery is from July 3rd, 2016 after some cleanup has been done.

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after

 
To see the above locations in Google Earth download This KML file.

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Low resolution imagery in Google Earth historical imagery http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/low-resolution-imagery-google-earth-historical-imagery.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/low-resolution-imagery-google-earth-historical-imagery.html#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:12:30 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=19988 We have recently had several enquiries or comments pointing out that a lot of the imagery in Google Earth ‘historical imagery’ is very low resolution and we thought it would be best to do a post explaining it. The low resolution imagery in question is a set of yearly (from 1984 to date) global mosaics […]

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We have recently had several enquiries or comments pointing out that a lot of the imagery in Google Earth ‘historical imagery’ is very low resolution and we thought it would be best to do a post explaining it.

The low resolution imagery in question is a set of yearly (from 1984 to date) global mosaics of Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery that Google added to Google Earth in November last year. It is a wonderful addition and allows us to see how the planet has changed over the past 26 years. We have done a number of posts on the imagery including creating a tool to allow you to animate the imagery with a dynamic tour.

When the imagery was first added to Google Earth, it only showed in ‘historical imagery’ mode and only when you were zoomed out and would transition to normal higher resolution imagery as you zoomed in. However, it would appear Google got it wrong with the most recent update to ‘historical imagery’ and for half of the earth it does not go away as you zoom in. This doesn’t prevent you from seeing the high resolution imagery if you move the slider on the time toolbar, but it does make it harder to explore imagery and users not very familiar with ‘historical imagery’ or not aware of the new Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics may not realise what is happening and think there is a problem with Google Earth.

It would appear, based on places we have checked so far as well as a map of recent imagery updates that we are currently working on, that the problem occurs only in the north-eastern quarter of the globe including all of North Africa, Europe and to the east, north of the equator. South of the equator and the western half of the globe starting at the Cape Verde Islands (around longitude 20° W) in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa and all the way to the antimeridian is working correctly with the Landsat / Sentinel-2 mosaics fading out at an eye altitude of about 10 – 20km (depending on screen resolution). Also, for the whole globe, the mosaics do not fade out over the oceans, although as far as we know, the image used for the oceans in the mosaics is the same for all years – but different from the image that is used as the base layer in ‘historical imagery’ which can still be seen if you move the date to before 1984.

In the image above we are looking at the equator where it crosses Sumatra, Indonesia. In the upper half of the image, north of the equator, the Landsat / Sentinel imagery has not faded out whereas south of the equator the higher resolution imagery is showing. The same effect can be seen along the equator where it crosses in Africa. The actual high resolution imagery in this particular case is not particularly good imagery being black and white and cloudy. This is because the particular location is difficult to photograph because of high levels of cloud cover being mostly tropical rain forest.


The region where the Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery does not fade out correctly.

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Google Earth Imagery Updates – Migrants and floods http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-updates-migrants-floods.html http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2017/01/google-earth-imagery-updates-migrants-floods.html#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 11:54:49 +0000 http://www.gearthblog.com/?p=19962 We have recently been looking at the latest imagery updates added to ‘historical imagery’. So far we have been looking at the US, including wildfires and more wildfires, floods and a tornado. Today we are moving on to other parts of the world. Calais Jungle The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant camp in […]

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We have recently been looking at the latest imagery updates added to ‘historical imagery’. So far we have been looking at the US, including wildfires and more wildfires, floods and a tornado.

Today we are moving on to other parts of the world.

Calais Jungle
The Calais Jungle was a refugee and migrant camp in Calais, France, situated next to the English Chanel. Most of the people who lived there were trying to get to the United Kingdom. The camp was evacuated and closed in late October, 2016. The latest image in Google Earth is from August, 2016, so we cannot yet see it after the closure. However, we can see how the camp grew between 2013 and 2016.


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Flooding in India, August, 2016
In August, 2016, eastern and central India experienced severe flooding, killing at least 300 people and affecting millions.

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after

This is part of the Ganges flood plain near Patna, India

before
after

Extensive flooding near Patna, India even in areas that are not obviously flood plain.

Flooding in Bangladesh, August, 2016
Also due to the same heavy monsoons that caused the flooding in India above, Bangladesh experienced severe flooding, killing at least 42 people. The imagery is from August 23rd and we believe that the worst of the flooding was over by then, but we can still see some flooded areas.

Flooding in Vietnam, October-December, 2016
Central Vietnam experienced severe flooding at least three times from October to December, 2016. The imagery in Google Earth is from early November.

before
after

It is often hard to tell, even when comparing with older imagery, what is normally or seasonally wet land (lake, river, flood plain) and what is unusual flooding.

Flooding in Japan, August, 2016
Typhoon Lionrock caused major flooding in northern Japan. The imagery in Google Earth is from after the flood, but we can see some of the damage caused.

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after

 
To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file. We have also outlined the extent of the relevant imagery for each location.

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