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Tag: tornado

Google Earth Imagery Updates: Tornadoes

by Timothy Whitehead on Jul.06, 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

Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer and on Tuesday we had a look at a couple of floods visible in the fresh imagery. Today we are looking at a number of tornadoes in the United States.

Elk City, Oklahoma.
On May 16th, 2017, an EF2 tornado caused major damage across the southern fringes of Elk City, Oklahoma causing one death and a number of injuries. Google Earth has a DigitalGlobe image captured just four days later.


Damaged houses in Elk City.


Interesting patterns in the fields caused by the tornado.

See the tornado and resulting damage from the ground in this YouTube video.

Eustace / Canton, Texas (two tornadoes).
On April 29th, 2017, two tornadoes occurred near Canton, Texas. See Wikipedia for a full description. We had a look at these tornadoes in May using Sentinel-2 imagery. Now there is higher resolution imagery from DigitalGlobe, captured just 6 days after the event. See below the paths of the tornadoes as far as we were able to track them in Google Earth imagery. The actual paths were longer and according to Wikipedia, the two eastern tracks shown was a single continuous tornado.


Destruction caused by the Canton / Fruitville tornado.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Adel, Georgia.
These were part of an outbreak of 81 tornadoes, the second-largest January tornado outbreak and the third-largest winter tornado outbreak since 1950, causing 20 deaths and US$1.3 billion in damage.

Although the Hattiesburg, Mississippi tornado occurred on January 21st, 2017, only part of its track has recent imagery. However, we were able to find the track in the imagery that exists. The tornado near Adel, Georgia occurred on January 22nd, and the imagery is from May 27th, 2017, four months later, but the track is still visible and the severe damage to Sunshine Acres mobile home park can be seen below:


Sunshine Acres mobile home park, Adel, Georgia.

According to Wikipedia, of the park’s roughly 100 homes, 45 were destroyed — 35 of which were obliterated. Although we don’t count that many structures, it is possible that many buildings were duplexes.

For the tracks of all the above tornadoes as far as we were able to trace them, download this KML file.

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The Canton, Texas Tornados with Sentinel-2 imagery

by Timothy Whitehead on May.29, 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

On April 29th, 2017 a tornado tore through Canton, Texas leaving 5 dead and over 50 injured.

We had a look at the Sentinel-2 imagery of the region and we can see two tornado tracks across Canton:


Two tornado tracks near Canton, Texas.

There were tornadoes reported in nearby Eustace and Caney City. We suspect they are reports of the tornado shown on the left below.

Tornado tracks as far as we could trace them in Sentinel-2 imagery.


Zooming in on Canton, we can see how the track passed over several residential areas.

A section of the left (western) track shows a relatively straight right edge with curved tails coming off the left edge. We believe we can conclude from the shape that the tornado was rotating clockwise. We do not know which direction it was travelling (north or south).

Hopefully, we will see higher resolution DigitalGlobe imagery at a later date.

To see the relevant Sentinel-2 imagery in Google Earth, download this KML file. We have also included the locations of all US tornadoes of 2017 as listed on Wikipedia. Keep in mind that Wikipedia’s tornado locations are often far from accurate.

There have been a number of other strong tornadoes in May, but the relevant Sentinel-2 imagery is not yet available on AWS.

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Google Earth Imagery Updates, Fire, Flood, Tornado!

by Timothy Whitehead on Jan.02, 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

Google recently updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer after nearly six months of no updates. So, there is a lot of interesting new imagery to see. Last week we had a look at some US wildfires. Today, we are staying with the US and having a look at some more wildfires, some floods and a tornado.

Blue Cut Fire, Cajon Pass, California
The Blue Cut Fire destroyed 105 homes and 213 other structures in August, 2016.

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Pilot Fire, California.
The Pilot Fire took place just a short distance to the east of the above Blue Cut Fire. We can see the extent of the burn in Google Earth and a number of houses that were saved by effective firefighting. See the KML file at the end of this post for the location in Google Earth.

Cold Springs Fire, Colorado, July, 2016


We can see the fire in progress.


And we can see the burnt area in later imagery.
 

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Some houses burnt by the Cold Springs Fire.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Flooding
Back in August we used Sentinel-2 imagery to see the severe flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more about the widespread Louisiana flooding event on Wikipedia.

There is now some DigitalGlobe imagery of Baton Rouge showing the flood in various stages:

Kokomo Tornado.
A number of tornadoes struck Indiana in late August, 2016, including one that hit Kokomo, Indiana, destroying a Starbucks in the process. The satellite imagery is not very good quality, although we can see the location of the Starbucks that was destroyed. There is however Street View from before and after the event showing that the Starbucks no longer exists:

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See in Google Maps

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

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The Dolores, Uruguay Tornado

by Timothy Whitehead on Nov.16, 2016, 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 have often looked at tornado tracks for the US and we recently looked at one in China but this is the first time we have come across one in South America.

According to Wikipedia it was an F3 rated tornado that struck the town of Dolores, Uruguay on April, 15th 2016. It destroyed at least 400 homes and buildings, killing five people and injuring more than 250.

Here are some ‘before and afters’ showing the damage caused:

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Unfortunately Google has not updated the ‘historical imagery’ layer since June, so we cannot see all the imagery. Google has chosen only parts of the relevant imagery for the default layer. This is most likely because the other parts have cloud cover.

You can see a video of the tornado here.

To find the location in Google Earth download this KML file

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Tornado tracks in Google Earth imagery

by Timothy Whitehead on Nov.03, 2016, 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 month we imported some placemarks from Wikipedia showing locations for all recorded tornadoes in the US for the last few years. We were hoping it would be useful for finding imagery of tornado tracks. However, it did not prove useful as the placemarks are based on reports of tornado sightings which are then later geocoded, probably based on the address provided by the person reporting it. This results in rather inaccurate locations overall.

So instead, we collected the locations of all the tornados we have covered in the past and also looked through the Google Earth historical imagery for more.


Tornado tracks. Red are tracks we have positively identified and blue are tracks we can see but have not yet matched to reported events.

We found the most tracks in Mississippi and Alabama. Although tornadoes are also common further north we believe that tornado tracks are much more visible in areas with forest than areas that are mostly open farmland. Damaged trees remain visible for a long time and are often cleared after the tornado, leaving visible strips of cleared land for years afterwards.

It is interesting that the majority of tracks follow approximately the same direction. Also interesting is just how long the tracks are. Many of them have clearly visible damage over 50 km and some more than 100 km.

To see the tracks in Google Earth, download this KML file. We have implemented it as a network linked KML file as we plan to update it over time.

Be sure to switch to historical imagery and check the appropriate dates to see relevant imagery for each tornado.

If any of our readers knows of more tornado tracks that are visible in Google Earth imagery, please let us know in the comments. We would especially love to find tracks in other countries as almost all of the identified tracks are in the US.

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Wikipedia data for US Tornadoes in Google Earth

by Timothy Whitehead on Oct.06, 2016, 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

Wikipedia has lists of notable tornadoes and tornado outbreaks worldwide for each year. For example, here is the list for 2016. There are also more detailed lists, such as this one for US Tornadoes from January to March 2016. The detailed lists give geographic coordinates and Enhanced Fujita Rating (EF rating).

We thought it would be interesting to see the locations in Google Earth. So, we imported the data for US tornadoes from Wikipedia going back to 2009. The pages for years prior to 2009 are organised differently so we could not easily import the data. We then used a variation of the tool we created earlier this year to check whether there is relevant imagery. This can take quite a long time, so we only did it for the stronger tornadoes – those with an EF rating of 2 or greater.

To see the results download this KML file. We provide the data either sorted by EF rating or by year. For the placemarks sorted by EF rating and EF rating 2 or greater, we have used a donut icon if there is imagery available within six months after the event.

Wikipedia states that the data comes from the US National Weather Service. The data does not show the paths of the tornadoes and there are often multiple placemarks for a given tornado. We also found the placemarks are not very accurate.

For examples of actual Google Earth imagery of the devastation caused by tornadoes see these posts.

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The Jiangsu tornado

by Timothy Whitehead on Sep.21, 2016, 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

Although Google has neglected to update ‘historical imagery’ in Google Earth since early June, they have been adding fresh imagery, and when it is reasonably good quality, it goes into the default layer and we can see it. One such instance is a region in Jiangsu Province, China which was struck by a deadly tornado on June 23, 2016. According to Wikipedia, the tornado killed at least 99 people and injured 846 others (152 critically).

We found a number of articles showing various photos of the destruction, such as here, here, here and here. But, actually locating the event proved more difficult. We first mapped out the area that had new imagery and started searching through it for signs of damaged buildings, but with an area of nearly 4,000 square kilometres we were not successful. We did find a raised railway under construction, and a long trail of destroyed houses that turned out to be planned road construction. The articles either mention major nearby cities or small villages that aren’t marked on the map and couldn’t be found through search. Eventually we found mention of “Danping Village of Chenliang Township” and we were able to find Chenliang. From there, the path of destruction was easy to trace over a distance of around 30 km.

To see the path of the tornado in Google Earth download this KML file.


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Although the latest imagery is not very high quality, near total destruction of houses all along the path of the tornado is clear, especially when comparing it with older imagery.

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Some damaged factories.

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A factory roof ripped to shreds.

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See a higher resolution aerial image of this factory in this article

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Google Earth Imagery Update: The Dallas, Texas Tornados

by Timothy Whitehead on Jun.20, 2016, 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

Google has recently pushed out another imagery update. Below we show approximate maps of where the new imagery from April, May and June can be found. There is almost certainly older imagery too, but it is harder to find.


June imagery.


May imagery. Red: Recently added imagery. Blue: Imagery as of June 12th.


April imagery. Red: Recently added imagery. Blue: Imagery as of June 12th.

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

As you can see above the new April imagery is almost exclusively aerial imagery, mostly of the US and a bit of Japan. Clearly aerial imagery takes a bit longer to process than satellite imagery. Strangely we have not yet seen any aerial imagery of Europe this year and very little satellite imagery.
[Correction: There are a few small patches of aerial imagery. ]

On December 26, 2015, there was an outbreak of at least 32 tornados, many of which were in the Dallas, Texas area. There is now some aerial imagery captured on April 28th, 2016, five months after the disaster. Nevertheless, the destruction is still very much in evidence, with the tornado scar over the Garland/Rowlett area visible from quite a high altitude. We have identified the tracks of the three strongest tornados.

We have in the past looked at low resolution imagery of the Garland/Rowlett area using both Landsat imagery and Sentinel imagery, but although we could clearly see the tornado scar, we could not see damage to individual houses.

Below are some ‘before and after’ comparisons. Drag the dividers left and right to compare the imagery.


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The above are all from the Garland/Rowlett tornadowhich was the strongest, but we show only a tiny fraction of the damage caused. Be sure to check out the imagery in Google Earth with this KML file as a guide. There is quite a lot of new construction in the area so when looking for damage be sure to compare with historical imagery as a house under construction looks remarkably similar to a severely damaged house.

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Google Earth Imagery Update: LaPlace tornado

by Timothy Whitehead on May.30, 2016, 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

Google has recently pushed out another imagery update. We have mapped out the approximate locations of imagery for March, April and May, 2016. The last update we did maps for was this one. There was a minor update since then, but we did not generate maps other than identifying that there was only one image from May at the time and it was of the Fort McMurray wildfire.


May imagery


March imagery. Red:Recently added imagery. Blue:imagery as of May 10th.


April imagery. Red:Recently added imagery. Blue:imagery as of May 10th.

To view the outlines in Google Earth download this KML file.

On February 23rd, 2016, a tornado struck LaPlace, Louisiana. It was one of an outbreak of 60 tornadoes that struck over two days. It was a relatively mild tornado measuring EF2. The imagery is from April 7th, 2016, so more than a month after the tornado struck.


The path of the tornado. It didn’t leave much of a track visible from this altitude.


Zoom in a bit and notice the blue rooftops marking out that path the tornado took!


Most of the damage seems to have been at least temporarily repairable with blue roof tarpaulins. However, some completely destroyed houses can be seen.

Do any of our readers know why blue is the preferred colour for roof repair tarpaulins?

Be sure to explore it in Google Earth with this KML file.

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Snapsat Beta for Landsat imagery

by Timothy Whitehead on May.04, 2016, 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 have previously had a look at how to get Landsat imagery into Google Earth. We have used a number of different techniques over time, but in all cases, obtaining high quality Landsat imagery required a large download (typically over 700 Mb) and several stages of image processing to combine multiple bands into a full colour image.

We recently discovered Snapsat, a website dedicated to making it easier to obtain processed Landsat imagery. In March last year, Amazon announced the availability of Landsat data on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Snapsat builds on the AWS, offering to provide easy access and processing of the Landsat data. It appears to have been set up mid last year not long after the Landsat data was made available on AWS but not much work appears to have been done on it since then. However, it still works well and makes obtaining processed Landsat imagery remarkably easy. Learn how to use it here.

As we mentioned in this post there was a Tornado which struck Dallas, Texas in December last year. There is no imagery yet in Google Earth showing the main path of destruction. So we tried out Snapsat by downloading a Landsat image of Dallas from January 12th. The process was straight forward and only required a download of 107 Mb as opposed to the 772 Mb required to download the same imagery from Earth Explorer. And we can see the track of the tornado.


Tornado track, Dallas, Texas, as seen in Landsat imagery. Ends of the track marked with arrows.

There are, however, a few disadvantages to using Snapsat. The website does not do pansharpening, a process whereby a higher resolution grey-scale image is used in combination with the three colour bands to create a higher resolution image overall. This means that the imagery obtained via Snapsat is not the highest quality possible. Another issue is that the downloaded file does not include Geo-coding information so it cannot be automatically imported into Google Earth Pro. However, since we usually have to crop the imagery anyway, manual positioning is often necessary and not very difficult.

We got the same image from Earth Explorer and used GIMP to process the imagery (very inexpertly) and the result is noticeably sharper because of the pansharpening.


Tornado track, Dallas, Texas, as seen in Landsat imagery, with basic pansharpening via GIMP

To see the two overlays in Google Earth download this KML file.

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