Monday, February 02, 2009

Google Earth 5.0 - Wow All Over Again

Remember when you first discovered Google Earth, how amazingly fun and easy it was to use? All the rich data, so beautiful to look at? Google has just added three terrific new features to the new version 5.0 that bring the excitement back to using Google Earth. It never left, of course, but these features are really worth taking a look at. Download Google Earth version 5 here.

Above is the new bathymetry, or ocean surface topography. I'm showing the east coast of the U.S. near New Jersey and New York Harbor because these ocean surface data show the nick mark where the paleo-Hudson River poured into the Atlantic Ocean as well as the broad continental shelf. Check out Bryan Alexander's blog for what he finds interesting about the bathymetry.

Feature number 2 - historical aerial photographs. This is huge. This is what we want to do in GIS software all the time. Looking back in time at how a place changes is a very powerful tool. With version 5.0 click on the Clock icon (circled in green below) to see what aerial photograph years are available for preview
Below I'm showing the three 'archival' aerial photographs for the Vassar College campus. Google isn't going back very far here in Poughkeepsie. We have aerial photos from the 1930s, but this is a great start. Below, in order, is 1995, 2004 and 2006. I've circled the time line bar that allows you to know when the photographs were taken; you can easily slide back and forth through time. You can see that Vassar, since 1995, has gotten a new gym, a new observatory and a new parking lot.

The third new feature is the Tour.
You could always make a tour in Google Earth. I think tours are a great way to fly up a river or zoom around the world quickly, but now Google has added a Record a Tour icon to the toolbar (circled in green above). I tried it out rather quickly and it is a breeze. It records your movements in Google Earth and your voice. This will be terrific for presentations when you're not sure of the strength of internet access. I'm not sure how Google has done this, but the movie making feature in the Pro version never worked for me. This might be the ticket.

Here is my recording using the Record a Tour function. You need version 5.0 to play it.

Finally, this feature may have been part of a previous version of Google Earth and I just didn't notice it. It is the Add Content button in the Places layer (circled in red below), When you click on Add Content, you are taken to a Google directory where you can find some of the more interesting data layers that have been built for Google Earth.
This new version of Google Earth seems to have caused quite a buzz. I first heard about it in Twitter. Thanks Dan Cohen. Also, check out Google's LatLong blog and The Official Google Blog for more information. Or the Ogle Earth blog that linked to the New York Times article about the new version. See the image below from the Times article.


Bryan's workshop blog said...

Nice post! I learned a lot from your fuller exploration.

How widespread is Google Earth use on campus, these days? Or where is it being used?

Meg said...


Thanks for posting! As for Google Earth use here, I would say it's used a fair amount. But this is one of those geospatial tools that can be used "behind my back" for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it's so darned easy to use. One cannot use ArcGIS, for example, without me having a little bit of a clue, also for a variety of reasons...

Biology, geography, education, hispanic studies, earth science, those are departments I know are using GE.

Thanks again, Bryan!