Global Clouds with Altitude for GE 4

3D Global Clouds in Google EarthSince the new GE 4 Beta supports photo textures, it is now possible to do a new kind of globe-wide image overlay. A ‘barnabu’ has posted a new version of the Global Cloud layer which can place the current clouds (from satellite photos) at different altitudes. This is done by making a large spherical 3D model with the global cloud image as a texture. In this case, barnabu has created globes which are successively larger so the clouds can be at higher altitudes. He uses the new radio-button feature from KML 2.1 for choosing the models at the different altitudes. The highest one I think he did for fun because it results in a really weird picture.
One advantage to this approach is that when you zoom in below the clouds you can see the ground unobstructed. It is possible to write a program to make the normal global clouds go away at lower altitudes (and that works for GE 3 as well), but this way is more realistic and faster. The screenshot gives you an idea of how it is done (that is Typhoon Ioke still 1500 km from Japan, the clouds are artificially at 200km in height). But, you still can’t really see the clouds from below like you would in real life. The resolution of the clouds is too low because it has to cover the entire globe. If barnabu makes this 3D model into a network link, this would be a suitable enhancement for the “official” global cloud layer. By the way, I recommend upgrading to GE 4 if you haven’t already. Download it here (choose Version 4 on the right).

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Cool!
    Would be really nice to have a couple of cloud maps at different actual heights (bit difficult to get from satelite images of course…) and overlay them all at once.
    And would this a bit like what Google Earth itself is doing with the starfield in the background? Or is that simply a list of star locations plotted as white pixels at the right rotated locations. Perhaps Google could use this method with a very large globe model to actually show an image of our surrounding space (like, with faint milky way and all) instead of the current star field?

  2. it looks cool

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