New Virtual Earth with 3D Clouds

The new release of Virtual Earth 3D by Microsoft has very cool realistic 3D clouds. The clouds only appear when you are near the Earth’s surface for a localized region. But, they are based on real-time weather conditions for that location. Microsoft is obviously re-using some of their excellent Flight Simulator clouds rendering technology in the latest release of Virtual Earth. There are a lot of other features in the new release, but I was immediately impressed with these new clouds. They are especially awesome if you have a SpaceNavigator (which is supported by VE3D). The clouds are darker when thick, and there are different clouds types (cirrus, cumulus, party cloudy, etc.) according to weather conditions. To check out the new clouds, you have two choices: 1) load the new update for VE3D by going to and clicking the 3D button (you should be prompted to load the new version – make sure you restart your browser after installing); or 2) check out his YouTube video I’ve just made:

I’ve always been a fan of the later generation cloud visualizations in Flight Simulator. Now Microsoft has brought them to the virtual globe applications. Google Earth’s built-in clouds are more useful because you can get a global perspective of real-time weather conditions. But, these clouds in Virtual Earth sure are pretty for local conditions! [UPDATE: for comparison, here is a video showing the clouds in Google Earth 4.3.
One other note: it took a few moments for both the SpaceNavigator to work and for the Clouds to appear the first time I used them (possibly background installations/downloads occurring).

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. Microsoft Rocks! Unbelievable visualization – where do they find such smart people! It’s my life’s dream to work for those smart dudes.

  2. I can’t get Virtual Earth to work on my 10″ Eee PC, it installs successfully, and shows a 3D earth for about 2 seconds then a pop-up dialogue box appears for a slit second, then the map returns back to 2D.
    Maybe an issue with incompatable hardware?
    Has anyone else had this problem?

  3. I can’t find any Button on to switch to 3D mode. I have downloaded and installed latest Virtual Earth binary from Microsoft and testet with IE7, Firefox3 (Vista64) and IE6 (XP SP3), but there is no way to run 3D-Mode. Can anyone help?

  4. Duncan Brinsmead says:

    The clouds are pretty cool. One thing that really amazes me: all of Miami is fully populated with trees in Virtual Earth. It is not random trees, but 3D trees in the correct locations. It must be an automated technique, but it works pretty well. One interesting thing is that it adjusts for tree size, but frequently confuses the type( no doubt hard to get right). Palms are sometimes replaced with skinny poplars, etc, but it often gets it right. I haven’t seen the trees anywhere else yet.

  5. they should add cloud shadows
    still google earth has that position of the sun, sunrise and sunset.
    i love to where technology is going, between competition, this is going to a fantasy.

  6. I too at first didn’t have the possibility to switch to 3D, but that was because it switches to a different language or country setting.
    Try this:
    3D works, but no clouds…

  7. Although I am not a microsoft fan, this does look pretty cool.

  8. @Canoro:
    Thanks a lot! This worked quite well.

  9. “Microsoft Rocks! Unbelievable visualization – where do they find such smart people! It’s my life’s dream to work for those smart dudes.”
    — ironically one of the smart people that did this is working in Google now —

  10. which aircraft is used? I’m trying to build a flight simulator for the ATC so any RAF aircraft would be great because I’m trying to work out what the best way of building a realistic simulator is.

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