New Blue Marble Add-on Version 2.0

Blue Marble time animation in Google EarthThis Blue Marble Version 2.0 add-on overlays a beautiful image of the Earth created by NASA, called the Blue Marble Next Generation, when viewing Google Earth from space. When you get get closer to Earth the blue marble will fade away so you can see Google’s satellite and aerial photos. This version of the Blue Marble add-on has some big improvements. You must be using the latest GE 4 (version 4.0.2413 or greater) for it to work properly. You can also turn on the real-time Global Clouds overlay in the folder (updates automatically every three hours). The clouds are turned off by default so it loads fast when you first bring up Google Earth. This version works much better as it uses built-in features to KML 2.1 to detect when to fade on and off the images. The version we published last week used a network link to communicate to a server to work properly. Move the “BlueMarble” folder to your “Places” to keep this around permanently. By the way, you will see a different version of the Earth each month – see this Blue Marble time animation for more information. Try this out, and see if you agree with me that Google should implement this for Google Earth!
Here’s a video demo of the new add-on:

Shortly after publishing the Blue Marble and Clouds add-on published last week, I was asked by Google to try and use a built-in feature with KML 2.1 to implement the same thing. Barry Hunter (who worked with me on this project) had tried something when KML 2.1 first came out last spring, but it didn’t work as expected so we used a network link client/server approach (NOTE: the version we published last week has the advantage of working with older versions of GE). After I experimented with the same approach, I discovered there is a bug when viewing an image overlay over zero degrees in latitude (the image overlay flickers or disappears). However, over the weekend I discovered a little hack that makes the bug disappear. A small blank transparent image overlay at high altitude over the equator prevents the flicker/disappearance. So, you need to have the image overlay called “Clearfix” turned on in the BlueMarble folder to make this work properly. And, you need the latest GE 4 beta (version 4.0.2413 or greater). Google has fixed the bug, and it works without the little hack in Google Earth after version 4.0.2413.
You can find the images for NASA’s Blue Marble Next Generation here. Thanks to Barry Hunter at Nearby for working with me on this project.

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.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. The KML-feature fade in/out is great! However, the behavior is not quick the way I like it. Could have something to do with the threshold for fading (I loose the pretty picture too early for my taste), but the bigger problem is in tilting. Apparently the height that the KML fade works with is not the eye alt shown in the bottom right corner. If you have almost the whole earth showing and you tilt so you get to look “over the top of the marble” (so to speak), this eye altitude will decrease, but the Blue Marble and clouds will disappear, which is counter-intuitive for me. With this behavior it seems to be near impossible to get the best views of the global clouds at altitude, because in those tilted views the clouds will disappear. Bummer. Could this be tweaked a bit…?

  2. Jarno, I agree the way the fade in/out works is not exactly intuitive. The KML 2.1 feature for controlling when fades occur is not based on altitude, it is based on some weird formula based on pixel counts. I’ve requested to Google they create a new tag to control based on altitude.
    Barry Hunter is working on an add-on for this to at least let you choose: Low, Medium, and High.
    If you want better control over the clouds. Download this version of Global Clouds by ‘barnabu’:
    You also might want to look at this:

  3. Again you did a great job with the use of the fading option of kml 2.1. Very nice!!

  4. Great work on this!

  5. Very nice. Can’t wait for the high res version. Thanks!

  6. It appears to re-download the picture every time I open google earth. Is there a way to stop this? ie cache the pictures locally.

  7. Which options i have to change, to change to fade-position? Now the Overlay will fade nearly 2000miles. I want that it will fade nearly 1000miles!

  8. The mix of monthly “average” snowfall in the north along with the current cloud cover creates an odd mix and misconceptions. Too bad someone at Google doesn’t just crank out current weather (radar and clouds) worldwide and put that in a layer. Also add in the current day/night shadow with city night light and users would start up looking at the planet “as it is now”. The data is all publically available. The high res Blue Marble layer will be great! Nicely done!

  9. The blue marble add-on doesn’t work in my google earth (v. 4.0.2722)- it appears all white. What’s the problem?

  10. Timothy – and others interested in cache versions.
    You can save the current month’s image to your local disk. First, download the file into GE. Select the “Blue Marble – XXXX” (where XXXX is the month) image overlay and choose “Properties” (or “Get Info” on the Mac). The “Link” will show you the URL for the current month’s image. Use your browser to visit that link and save the image to your local drive. Then edit the same “Link” and change it to point to your local copy. Move the new modified version of your “Blue Marble and Clouds” into your “My Places” folder. Now it will load the image from your local disk (much faster).

  11. This is a marvelous addition to Google Earth, however the Blue Marble image remains static, not updating monthly as noted above, and the clouds have shown the same image for weeks. (The GE version exceeds that shown above.)
    Both are set to update periodically every 3 hours; refreshing does not update the imagery, restarting GE does not refresh the imagery.
    I’ve seen this on multiple PCs at various locations, and am interested if there may be a workaround or fix available? Thank you.

  12. Ineed to use time lapse during 2002 for lawsuit research purposes.
    This will be invaluable in my research.
    Please advise and is this attachment a free download?

  13. The BlueMarble addon doesn’t work anymore. The URLs to the map image and the cloud images are now invalid. Any chance you find out the correct URLs and post an updated version?

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.