The photorealistic atmosphere in Google Earth 7.1

The release of Google Earth 7.1 brought with it a number of nice enhancements, including the new starry sky, but the best-looking might just be the new experimental “photorealistic atmosphere” option, seen here:


(screen capture submitted by Dimitris Manias)

It looks amazing!

The new feature is still being tested and may be a bit buggy, but can be enabled on your computer right now if you go to [Tools] –> [Options] –> “Use photorealistic atmosphere rendering“.

To get a view similar to the image above, you need to do a few things.  First, of course, enable the photorealistic atmosphere.  Next, you’ll need to turn on the sun by using the [View] –> “Sun” option (or by clicking the sun icon at the top of the screen).  Lastly, to enable the sun to reflect on the water you’ll need to have the water surface enabled by going to [View] –> “Water Surface“.

Here are a few more screenshots taken using the technique above.  Wow!

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Amazing. Looks great. I live in the UK so would probably need a few more clouds 🙂

    • Mickey Mellen says:

      Dan — That’s the great part about it; turn on the “weather” layer to get the clouds, the “sun” to show dark/light, and suddenly things are looking remarkably realistic.

  2. This reminds me of my last year’s work,share to you!

  3. It would be interesting to hear some feedback on how different hardware configurations are dealing with the increased demands of the new lighting and atmospherics in Earth 7.1, there is certainly more overhead involved with running these enhancements. It’s been a long time since Google updated their recommended system requirements…

    • archangelmichael2 says:

      Correction. It would be interesting to hear some feedback period!

    • Frank Taylor says:

      That’s part of the reason why Google put a disclaimer on the new photorealistic atmosphere effects – because it might not work on some configurations.

  4. archangelmichael2 says:

    Why are there no night time pics? Does night time look incredibly fake and not trying to scare anybody away?

    Also will Google earth within 5 years have real time weather like Microsoft Flight Simulator X does that uses data from the nearest airport and possibly Personal Weather Stations that are hooked online?

  5. what does the sky look like in Beijing in GE 7.1? =p

  6. Google Earth ya no es un Mapa, ya es un “Simulador Global”. Solo falta las nubes en 3D

  7. If conditions are clear can you see the green flash at sunset over the ocean?

  8. SebastienP says:

    I’ve made a quick test to see how good this photorealistic atmosphere is. If you look at the two pictures below, you’ll see a view from GE and below, the same view from a plane in the alps. The two pictures are from the very same place in the alps, from the same distance:

    original picture from Michael Jago:
    I find that the atmosphere is too ‘blue’! How do I report this to the developer team?

  9. How can you keep the photorealistic atmosphere option enabled so when you restart application it’s on from start up? I have to keep enabling it everytime I start Earth. I know it’s still experimental and all, but I hope there is a way of keeping it on always as I don’t have any crashes or problems with it enabled.

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