My Google Map Blog

Tag: Site News

The Peru Floods with Google Earth

by Timothy Whitehead on May.22, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

A couple of weeks ago we had a look at three different floods around the world, including Lima, Peru. However, the flooding in Peru was very extensive, so today we are looking at some other locations around Peru.

Here is a ‘before and after’ showing how the Moche River, which passes through Trujillo, Peru, created a new delta:

before
after

Moche River delta creation.

Further north we can see how the Chancay River grew significantly wider:

before
after

Chancay River. We are seeing it after the water has subsided from it highest levels.

Zooming out and using Landsat imagery, we can see some large areas that were completely flooded. They are naturally swampy areas, but we could not find this extent of flooding in older imagery, so we believe it to be quite unusual.

before
after

Left: Google Earth imagery composed of Landsat/Sentinel-2 mosaic. Right: Landsat image from April 4th, 2017.

To find the above locations in Google Earth, download this KML file. We have included an image overlay of the Landsat image. We have also outlined all the 2017 imagery we could find for Peru. If you come across any other 2017 imagery in the region, please let us know in the comments.

The inland parts of Peru drain into the Amazon basin. There was also significant flooding there, but it is rain forest, so it is unlikely that we will see any high resolution satellite imagery (too much cloud cover). It also seems probable that as the water flows towards the ocean we will see floods along the Amazon in Brazil later in the year.

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Secret Mars Base found in Google Maps

by Timothy Whitehead on May.19, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Thank you to GEB reader James for sending us this amazing find. If you go to this location in Google Maps / Mars, you will find an image of a secret Mars Base:

After doing some research, we discovered that it is actually a Google Data Centre being built in anticipation of future Mars settlement.

So is it real? Well given that Google posted about it on March 31st, just before April Fool’s day, we think not.

We have previously looked at how to get HiRISE imagery into Google Mars. So we decided to try and find out which image Google used. We are fairly sure it is a section of HiRISE image ESP_037117_1755 captured on 27 June 2014. Unfortunately, Google has only included the colour portion of the image in Google Maps and Curiosity is just off the edge. However, if you know where to look, you can see Curiosity’s tracks going across the image.


Curiosity’s tracks, as seen in Google Maps / Mars


Curiosity as seen in the original image (not included in Google Maps).

If you want to explore the imagery more in Google Mars, download this KML file. We have included a screen shot from Google Maps of the Secret Mars Base, a low resolution version of the original HiRISE image, and a higher resolution version of the relevant area.
We have also marked the location of Curiosity at the time, and if you turn on the Google Mars layer: Mars Gallery->Rovers and Landers->MSL Curiosity Rover (USA)->Traverse Path, then it will help you trace the rover’s tracks in the higher resolution image. We have done our best to line up the imagery with the track. Turn off Mars Gallery->Rovers and Landers->MSL Curiosity Rover (USA)->Gale crater landing site as it adds imagery which will obscure the images in the KML file.

For a number of other posts where we managed to track down almost all the residents of Mars see here.

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The Strange Sights of Jiayuguan

by Timothy Whitehead on May.18, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

We were investigating China’s new Silk Road that has been in the news recently (find various maps via Maps Mania), and we came across some strange shapes in the city of Jiayuguan, China.


The most striking is this square with an ‘X’ and various zig-zag lines.


Next to it are two other shapes.

There are also many other zigzags that look like ditches and what look like power lines of various sizes crossing the area. If any of our readers knows what the shapes are, please let us know in the comments. We don’t think they are ancient ruins, as those are reasonably well documented and consist of a fort and a wall across the pass that is the Western end of the Great Wall of China (which actually consists of lots of separate walls).


Jiayuguan Fort

Nearby there is a large geoglyph apparently made with trees. According to this post it is the Chinese character ‘lóng’ in cursive script.


At 1 kilometre high, it must be a record, but we couldn’t find any references to confirm that.

On the nearby hills, there are three more geoglyphs that are part of the Rhythms of Life series by Andrew Rogers that we covered in 2011. Read more about them here.


“Rhythms of Life”. Part of the Rythms of Life series by Andrew Rogers.


“Caveman”. Part of the Rythms of Life series by Andrew Rogers.


“The Messenger”. Part of the Rythms of Life series by Andrew Rogers.

There are many other interesting patterns in the region such as a wavy line along the railway line that we believe is for drainage, and some buildings and other structures laid out in arrays.

To see the above locations and more in Google Earth, download this KML file.

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Calibration Targets 4: USA

by Timothy Whitehead on May.17, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

This is the fourth in our series on calibration targets. Today we are having a look at a number of locations around the USA.

The first is this interesting pattern at Fort Huachuca, Arizona:

We came across this article which mentions patterns at Walker Field, Maryland and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida amongst others. We couldn’t find a ‘Walker Field, Maryland’ on any map, and try as we might, we couldn’t find the pattern at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. But we did find a number of interesting sights at Eglin Air Force Base.


We are fairly sure this is a test pattern.


We are not certain whether this is a test pattern or serves some other purpose.


Various markings on this airfield appear to be for calibration.

The spots marked ‘H’ on the runways, are, we believe helicopter landing spots. Do any of our readers know what this symbol means:

Landing spot markings on runway.

There are also no less than 14 separate landing fields in the area. There are also a number of other long structures that we think are probably shooting ranges.

Here is a very old pattern at Cuddeback Lake, California:

A calibration pattern at Cuddeback Lake. There are two more that we have marked in the KML.

There are also two large bulls-eyes at Cuddeback Lake, but we are not sure what their purpose is:

A few more examples from around the USA:

Travis Air Force Base, California.


Beaufort Marine Corps Base, South Carolina.


NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

You may also find this article intersting. It was the source of most of the above locations.

To find the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.

Next we will be going international. We have found examples in India and South Africa. If you know of any others around the world, please let us know in the comments.

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Calibration Targets 3: China

by Timothy Whitehead on May.16, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

This is the third in our series on calibration targets. Note that such targets are used for both satellite imagery as well as imagery captured from aircraft. Today we are looking at some calibration targets in China and other interesting sites found in the same region.

Thank you to GEB reader Kengrok for pointing us to this site showing a variety of patterns:

Next is a set of lines that we covered back in 2011

Nearby is another similar shape, next to a large square. Plain squares are actually quite common for satellite calibration targets, but this particular square probably serves some other purpose as it is not an exact square and is much larger than is typically used.

Here is a smaller square that at first sight appears to have bomb craters on it, but looking back at when it was either being made or repaired, it looks like the patches were always there.

Older image on the left.

Here are what appear to be fake houses used for target practice. The later deterioration might be due to bombs being dropped on them or it might just be weathering, but the older image certainly looks like they were bombed – but again, we may be mistaken.

Here are some large scale markings that look reminiscent of runways, but we believe were never used as such:

For scale, the small square above and bombed houses are marked with arrows.

We believe these next two are either calibration targets for radar, or tests to see if certain patterns can be used to hide objects from radar:

Although it has nothing to do with satellite calibration as far as we know, there is an enormous scale model of a region from the disputed border between China and India. We previously looked at it in 2006.

before
after

Comparison of the scale model (left) and the region it represents (right).

And finally, here is some giant writing:

We don’t know if it is intended to be read by satellites or from passing aircraft. The ground seems fairly flat so we don’t think it is intended to be read from the ground.

For the locations of all the places mentioned in this post, download this KML file

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How do you Move a Vast Imagery Archive?

by Timothy Whitehead on May.15, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Satellite imaging company DigitalGlobe recently wrote an interesting blog post about their vast archive of imagery and how they are moving it to the cloud.

Some interesting statistics from the post:
One image from WorldView-3 can be 30 gigabytes.
The DigitalGlobe archive is around 100 petabytes.
Their archive increases by 10 petabytes per year.

Comparing this to what we learned about Planet’s archive earlier this year, Planet has an archive of 7 petabytes. Before Planet launched the latest batch of 88 satellites and purchased Terra Bella from Google they were adding 7 terabytes daily or 2.5 petabytes per year to their archive. We estimate that they are now adding about two and a half times that daily or over 6 petabytes per year.

So, although Planet has the world’s largest imaging satellite fleet (actually, it is the world’s largest commercially-operated fleet of any type of satellite), their volume of imagery being gathered in terms of data storage required appears to be lower than DigitalGlobe’s. This is probably because DigitalGlobe’s satellites are higher resolution and thus produce much more data per area covered. It is also probable that DigitalGlobe’s satellites gather more optical wavelength bands.

DigitalGlobe have, until now, kept most of their archive in-house in a vast tape-based storage system. However, they are now moving to the cloud (Amazon Web Services). Rather than attempt to upload 100 petabytes to the internet, Amazon sent them a whole shipping container, a solution known as ‘Snowmobile’, complete with built in data storage, which DigitalGlobe then copied their data to and sent it back to Amazon. Interestingly, according to Amazon, 100 petabytes is the upper limit of their ‘Snowmobile’ solution (per truck).

We don’t know the exact size of the Google Earth database, but we estimate it to be several petabytes at least. So if you ever needed an offline version, then you would probably need a large suitcase-sized container at least.

The DigitalGlobe blog post features one of their images showing ‘Snowmobile’ outside DigitalGlobe’s headquarters but that image has not made it into Google Earth. However, we did manage to spot it in Street View:

Ground based imagery looking at an archive of satellite imagery.

The post How do you Move a Vast Imagery Archive? appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Going Back in Time: The Armero Tragedy

by Timothy Whitehead on May.12, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Last week we had a look at the Mocoa Landslide in Colombia. While doing research on that event, we came across a similar, but much bigger event known as the Armero Tragedy, also in Colombia, but it happened in 1985. Google Earth has yearly global mosaics going back to December 1984 (more about the exact date later) created from Landsat and Sentinel-2 imagery. In this particular location there is also imagery from 1970.

The Armero Tragedy was caused by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia. The eruption melted glaciers on the volcano, causing multiple landslides and mudslides, which later combined together through a narrow valley and then came out on top of the Colombian town of Armero, killing 20,000 of its almost 29,000 inhabitants. Interestingly, the location of Armero is showing in Google Earth as a town named ‘Armero tragedy’.

Looking through the global mosaics in Google Earth’s historical imagery, we can see the enormous mud flow from the tragedy even in the oldest mosaic dated December 1984. So it would appear the mosaic actually incorporates imagery from multiple years or is incorrectly dated, as the tragedy occurred on November 13, 1985. We obtained original Landsat imagery from the USGS’s Earth Explorer, including an image dated November 17th, 1985, just four days after the event, and another one from March 22nd, 1985 for comparison.

before
after

‘Before and After’ of the Armero Tragedy.


Armero today is just a grid of streets and foundations.

See the relevant parts of the Landsat images in Google Earth with this KML file.

The post Going Back in Time: The Armero Tragedy appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

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Watching North Korea from above

by Timothy Whitehead on May.11, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

The most recent Google Earth imagery update included some images of Pyongyang dated April 22 and April 23, 2017. It’s a pity they weren’t from a week earlier as North Korea celebrated its 105th anniversary on April 15 with a spectacular march past. There was another march for Army Day on April 25th.

We also came across a story that highlights the dangers of trying to interpret satellite imagery without sufficient background information. There was a story that was published by a number of media outlets that said that North Korea appeared to be building artificial islands with military installations on them. A parallel was drawn with China’s island building efforts in the South China Sea. However, a quick look at the locations mentioned in the story reveals that the islands in question are not artificial. Then the website 38 North published this article, essentially debunking the entire story. It turns out the islands and related construction are just part of a land reclamation project, not unlike many others along North Korea’s coasts. We can see it being constructed starting in 2011 using Google Earth’s Landsat/Sentinel-2 mosaics:


Land reclamation wall being constructed.

 

Not far to the west there is a similar wall that has been there since at least 1984 (the oldest available imagery). Below we show the extent of land reclamation behind the sea wall:

before
after

‘Before and after’ showing land reclamation in North Korea 1984 to 2016.

Another interesting story from 38 North is this one, where they spotted North Koreans apparently playing volley ball near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Unfortunately, that imagery has not made it into Google Earth.

For the locations above and some outlines of 2017 imagery, download this KML file.

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Calibration Targets 2: Edwards Air Force Base

by Timothy Whitehead on May.10, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

A few weeks ago we had a look at some calibration targets used by the classified Corona spy satellites. Today we are looking at a set of calibration targets and other interesting features at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

We start with one of the most obvious features at the site: The largest compass rose in the world. According to Atlas Obscura its purpose is to help with emergency landings. It was created in the 1930’s long before satellites existed and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.


The compass rose points to Magnetic North.

There are several emergency runways painted on the lake bed, and there are also a couple of very large rulers:

(1) A ruler with markings at each quarter mile. (2) Another ruler with numbered markings at each mile.


(1) Another part of the ruler with quarter mile markers. (2) and (3) Markers used for calibration.

There is also a long row of special calibration markers spread out over 18 miles:

Most of the calibration markers are rectangles containing sets of three white bars in different sizes. This one also features three large squares with three different shades of grey:

Many of the markers have old aircraft or vehicles near by. Presumably used for testing how well the satellite or aircraft camera can identify them.


This marker also has a bullseye


An aircraft, helicopter, pressurised tank and other structures probably also used for testing imaging.


A variety of interesting aircraft on show near one of the entrances to the base.


More aircraft on show at one of the entrances.

Be sure to explore the whole base in Google Earth as there is a lot more to see! We have marked some of the interesting stuff we found in this KML file

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A couple of observations about the new Google Earth’s imagery

by Timothy Whitehead on May.09, 2017, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

When the new Google Earth was released, one of the first things we noticed was the faint Google copyright notices in white, which have long been a feature in Google Maps, but never before seen in Google Earth. At first we thought Google had made the decision to incorporate the copyright notices into the new Earth, but as we discovered last week the new Google Earth uses the same imagery as Google Maps and the copyright notices are baked into the imagery. If we compare the two products, we find that at any given zoom level, the copyright notices are in the exact same locations:

before
after

New Google Earth. Google Maps

Google Earth has long had a problem with image distortion at the poles. The new Google Earth has a similar problem, but generally seems to do much better. Near the North Pole, the sea floor imagery is much clearer in the new Google Earth:

before
after

Google Earth Classic. New Google Earth

We can tell that the same original sea floor image was used because there is a white stripe at the antimeridian that can be seen in both versions of Google Earth and Google Maps.

The South Pole has a white circle in the new Google Earth (and Google Maps). This is not a significant problem at this time as Google doesn’t have any good imagery of the South Pole anyway.

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