[ Update: See this post for a KML to view to see the NOAA imagery in Google Earth. ]
Yesterday we had a look at some aerial imagery of the eastern coast of the US after Hurricane Matthew. The imagery comes from NOAA. We wondered what it would take to get the imagery into Google Earth. The NOAA has made the imagery available for viewing on this map and also offers the option to download it. However, the total size of all the imagery is over 24 GB. Also provided is the option to view the imagery as tiled data.
Most modern online maps use a fairly standardised method of tiling the map imagery. It is a relatively simple system that involves using the Mercator map projection and cutting off above 85.0511°N and below 85.0511°S, resulting in a map of the globe that is square. This is then divided into four squares, each of which is divided into four squares and so on. Each division is a zoom level. For the full technical details see this page.
Google Earth has a mechanism for presenting tiled data that is very similar to the above process. You can take a large image overlay and break it up into tiles in such a way that Google Earth only loads the tiles that are within the view and at a suitable resolution. The result is called a ‘Super-Overlay’. Google Earth Pro even has a built-in tool for creating these automatically which you can read more about here.
The only real alternative would be to set up a server with all the Super-Overlay files. This would probably work quite well, but running a server in this particular instance is not worth it. What would be ideal would be for Google Earth to natively support map tiles such that you could give it the details of the tile server and it would handle it from there.
NOAA imagery as seen in Google Earth. Some flooding near Charleston, North Carolina.