The best of Google Earth for September 2016

Although Google has been adding new imagery to Google Earth, they have not been updating historical imagery since June, so we cannot make a map of the latest imagery. We did, however, look at a few locations this month which have recent imagery, including the damage caused by the Erskine Fire in California and the trail of destruction left by the Jiangsu Tornado in China. We also discussed an image of Itu Aba Island in the South China Sea that Taiwan apparently wants censored.

Google added quite a lot of interesting 3D imagery this month, including two new countries, Malaysia and Tunisia. The imagery of Tunis has since been removed but that is probably only temporary. The imagery of Sfax, Tunisia remains and a second location, Ipoh, has been added in Malaysia. The city of Kumamoto of Japan was also updated with 3D imagery captured after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake and we had a look at the signs of earthquake damage, most notably a lot of blue tarpaulins used to patch the roofs. Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the US National Parks Service and in honour of the occasion Google released 3D imagery of a number of US Parks. We created some Google Earth tours showing off the imagery. We also had a look at some volcanoes as featured in 3D imagery, including Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Vesuvius in Italy and Mount Saint Helens in the USA.

WorldView-4 and SkySat launchesDigitalGlobe’s latest satellite WorldView-4 was supposed to be launched this month. However, the launch was postponed till October. Terra Bella successfully launched several new SkySat satellites in a joint launch with Peruvian earth observation satellite PerúSAT-1.

‘The Eye’, a rotating island in ArgentinaWe had a look at a number of interesting rotating islands around the world prompted by a story about one found in Argentina. If you haven’t already, be sure to also check out some further examples from the Google Earth Community.

Ring-shaped geoglyphs in PeruWe had a look at some circular geoglyphs that were recently studied in Peru.

AI facial recognition is too good, in two different ways!We discussed two issues with modern facial recognition technology. Google’s automatic facial recognition as used in Street View often blurs objects that should not be blurred, including a cow. At the same time, a recent study suggests that blurring imagery does not fool facial recognition software.

Global Fishing WatchA partnership between Google, Oceana and SkyTruth released a program called Global Fishing Watch that monitors fishing activity around the world.

Ships in Google Earth’s 3D imageryWe released a KML file that catalogues ships that appear in Google Earth’s 3D imagery. The focus is on cruise ships, but ferries and a few other classes of ship are included as well.

Cloudy places are hard to photograph from spaceWe discussed the difficulty of trying to gather good satellite imagery in locations that have year round cloud cover.

Land lost vs. land gainedWe had a look at a study of land lost vs land gained done using Google Earth Engine.

Remembering 9/11 with Google EarthIn memory of 9/11 we created an animation using Street View imagery showing the new World Trade Center buildings.

Weird altitude effects in Google EarthWe had a look at some weird altitude effects related to 3D imagery and Google Earth tours.

Italy’s earthquakeWe had a look at imagery from Terra Bella of the damage caused by an earthquake in Italy and also looked at the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, which also gathered imagery of the event.

Were US spy satellites from the 70’s better resolution than Google Earth?We had a look at declassified imagery from US spy satellites and were impressed by the resolution, although it is not quite as good as what is currently available in Google Earth.

Higher resolution contours with Mapzen altitude tilesWe updated our contour drawing script to use Mapzen image tiles rather than their API and found that it works much faster, which allows for much higher resolution contours.

Google Earth Update – Version: released a bug fix update to Google Earth which resolves many of the installation issues as well as fixing an annoying crash when moving placemarks around.

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.

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. Please refer me to someone who can freelance with me to create a real estate video with 3D modeling of a proposed development on a vacant piece of land located in rural Montana. I understand the site can be “lifted” using Google Earth and then the modeling can take place using Google Sketchup. I’ve not been able to locate an expert. Only Sketchup users seem to reply and they do not seem familiar with Google Earth.

  2. ok

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.