Google Earth Imagery update – February 2016

Google has finally pushed the most recently published imagery into the historical imagery layer, so we can find and map out the imagery. We have been aware of new imagery being in the default layer ever since Super Bowl 50, when Google added an image of the stadium captured on 1st February. But other than a few images we came across by chance we did not know how extensive the update was. Even now, we can only map out imagery by date, which means we can be sure that all February imagery is new and we can tell roughly how much January imagery is new by comparing with the map we made in January, but we do not know how much older imagery has been added.

Imagery in Google Earth dated February 2016.

Imagery in Google Earth dated January 2016.

To find the imagery in Google Earth download this KML file. It has been created using the Google Earth plugin and the outlines are only approximate. To spot the actual imagery switch to historical imagery when looking at one of the regions highlighted then switch back and forth between the most recent image and previous images and you will be able to see which images are new.

Cyclone Winston struck the islands of Fiji in the Pacific on February 20th, 2016. There are several images in Google Earth captured a few days later. However, they are poor quality and we have not yet been able to identify any damage caused by the cyclone.

The most interesting imagery we have found so far in this update is actually not recent imagery at all. Google has added a large quantity of aerial imagery of Japan captured not long after the 2011 tsunami. The imagery was added together with some aerial imagery from February 2016 as we mentioned in this post last week on the fifth anniversary of the tsunami. However, the older imagery had not yet been pushed into ‘historical imagery’ at that time so it was inaccessible.

It is well worth having another look at the devastation caused by the tsunami as the new imagery is noticeably higher quality than what has been available until now.

The above image was captured several weeks after the tsunami. You can see an upturned boat (1) amongst the debris more than a kilometre inland. You can also see cleanup operations beginning (2).

For the location of the above image use this KML file, but we highly recommend exploring the whole north eastern coast of Japan. Switch to ‘historical imagery’ and look for the aerial imagery captured in April 2011.

Some of the imagery was incorrectly processed and streaks off into the ocean, resulting in what we see below:

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


  1. Should we assume that the imagery update layer in Voyager is now defunct?

    The latest updates listed by country and date in the Voyager menu, or shown by red boundaries on Earth, seem to be late summer 2015 (even for example in Algeria where the GEB map shows 2016 updates). The same may also apply to 3D cities imagery, but new entries in the menu are not dated.

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      The voyager layer has been updated only once since it was first released and even then it did not include all updates that had been released in the intervening time. So although we hope that Google does update the Voyager layer at some point, it is currently very much out of date.

  2. ben reuter says:

    Thanks for the kml!
    BTW: chinese naval bases / yards got new images too.
    Sanya: 18.210664° 109.687156° and Huludao 40.717090°120.994846° (hidden in the history layer)

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      Thank you for the information. The imagery is dated December which is why my maps do not show it. I am sure there is a lot more ‘new’ imagery that is older than January or February but without a map from Google we cannot easily find it all.

  3. Thanks

  4. nareshkumar arjunbhai makwana says:


  5. Steve Moore says:

    Hi – apologies if this is inappropriate, but here goes! I am delighted with the range of historical coverage for Kent, England on the Earth mapping. Is there any chance that a similarly comprehensive spread of images will be available for the rest of the UK at any point soon?
    regards, S

Leave a Reply