Natural Resources Canada has created a digital topographic map for the entire country that can be viewed in Google Earth. The map is based on the WMS map service, which can be a little tricky to set up in Google Earth so I went ahead and set them all up. Just click on the link beneath the screenshot to access the maps.
The main map layer (Toporama) contains all 16 of the data layers. Most people will only need to use this layer. The farther you zoom in, the more detailed the map will become. The highest detail is based on the 1:30,000 CanVec database.
I have also included each layer individually in case you just want to pick and choose which data to view. Note that each layer has different view extents, so data may not be visible if you are not at the correct zoom level.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology has numerous global overlays available that can be viewed with Google Earth. These overlays are on WMS servers, which can be a little tricky to set up in Google Earth, so I have done the hard part and all you have to do is download the file below the screenshot to access all of them. This following layers are included:
1990 Land Characteristics – The Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) layer covers the continental United States and shows general land characteristics from 1990. This overlay is available in eight different formats (real color, pseudo-color, red band, etc.)
Landsat7 Global Mosaic - The Landsat7 layer covers the entire Earth and shows a mosaic of imagery obtained from the Landsat7 satellite. I believe this imagery was probably obtained in the early 2000’s. This overlay is available in 15 different formats (real color, pseudo-color, Pan Sharpened, red band, thermal band, etc.)
Blue Marble Next Generation Global Mosaic - The Blue Marble layer covers the entire Earth and shows a mosaic of imagery obtained from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua and Terra satellites. I believe this imagery was probably obtained in the mid 2000’s. There are separate mosaics for each month of the year and also various other options, such as the ability to view the mosaics with or without bathymetry shading.
SRTM Reflectance - The SRTM Reflectance layer covers the entire Earth and shows data collected by the Space Shuttle in 2000. This data was used to generate a highly accurate elevation grid of the Earth. There are separate mosaics for each of the four subswaths and and an average. In addition, a 90 meter SRTM Derived Elevation Model is included.
National Elevation Dataset (NED)- The National Elevation Dataset layer covers the continental United States and shows a grey scale elevation map. 30 meter and 90 meter versions of the overlays are provided.
MODIS Dailey Planet - The Dailey Planet layer covers the entire Earth and shows a continuously updated mosaic of imagery obtained from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua and Terra satellites. I believe the age of this imagery is typically less than 24 hours old with the Terra imagery from the morning and Aqua imagery from the afternoon.
Much more information about each of these layers is available at the OnEarth website
The Norwegian Mapping Authority has created a series of maps covering Norway that can be viewed with Google Earth. The following map layers are included.
- Topographic Map (four different versions)
- Sea Territories Map
- Bathymetric Map
- Sea Charts
- Municipal Maps
- UTM Grid
- Administrative Divisions
- Vector maps for Europe
These maps are from a WMS server. Just click on the link below the screenshots to access in Google Earth.
Note that some of the maps only work at the city or street level. If you try to view them at a regional level, you will likely just see a screen of black. If that happens, just zoom in until the map becomes visible.
The Global Geographic Names database contains the names and location of approximately 6.5 million features of interest throughout the world. The features include mountains, government buildings, forests, parks, and many more. Many of the locations in this database are already included in the default Google Earth installation when you enable the Places of Interest layer; however, they are sometimes difficult to see if you do not have the Google Earth view in exactly the correct location and the Places of Interest layer does not contain all of the entries.
This list was created by merging the Geographic Names databases maintained by the USGS and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (both updated as of December, 2009). Only the feature names, classification and locations were extracted from the source databases to keep the file sizes manageable in Google Earth. Even with just the basic information, this is almost 300 megabytes of raw data and 1.5 gigabytes of KML code.
The placemarks were broken down into 2×2 degree tiles sections which will load and unload automatically as you navigate around the earth. Just zoom in close to the earth and the placemarks should become visible automatically. Dense urban areas might take a few seconds to load, depending on the speed of your internet connection. They won’t become visible until you are fairly close to the earth.
Click on a location to bring up a balloon with a link to search Google for the place of interest.
The MODIS sensor on the Aqua and Terra satellites capture amazingly detailed natural color imagery every day from all over the Earth. The imagery is detailed enough that you can easily see cloud formations, snow coverage, smoke from large fires, etc, for the entire US. And the best part is the imagery from these satellites is available in almost real time and is typically online within a few hours of it being captured. There are several MODIS datasets available for viewing within Google Earth.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center has created MODIS Today, a repository of MODIS imagery for the Continental United States that updates every day. In addition to the current MODIS imagery, about 2 years of historical imagery is also available online from the MODIS Today website making it possible to watch storms and other meteorological events as they progress from one day to the next. They have made the imagery available in Google Earth format (just look for the Open in Google Earth link at the top of their web site).
OR……I have created an easy to use index that includes the current (Today’s) imagery and all of the historical imagery (through 12/13/2009), which can be accessed directly from Google Earth. Just download the file below the screenshot to access the imagery via this method. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to updated the new links to the historical imagery every day, but I’ll try to do an update every few months.
The historical imagery is organized by Year and Day of the year. For example, a1.07324 is interpreted as the 324th day of 2007 from the Aqua satellite.
These are very high resolution SuperOverlays. They will increase in resolution as you zoom in, but might take a few seconds to load. Unfortunately, the SuperOverlays are not optimized very well, so they are a bit slower than they need to be. But the image quality is excellent nonetheless.
The NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology has created the OnEarth website, which contains numerous global imagery overlays. One of these overlays is the DailyPlanet, which is a continuously updated near real-time overlay of imagery from the MODIS Terra satellite. This overlay covers the entire Earth and is updated as new imagery becomes available from the satellite.
There are many sources of world time zone data and maps available. I have combined several of them into a single file for Google Earth which will let you easily switch between the different versions and use the one that works best for your purpose.
Eric Muller Version – This version covers the United States only. It is included because it has a much greater level of detail than other time zone maps of the Unites States.
Valery35 Version - Created by Valery35 at the Google Earth BBS. Static map consisting of colored polygons showing the time zone boundaries.
Shimakaze Version - Created by Shimakaze at the Google Earth BBS. Static map consisting of the time zone borders. I’m including it because the resolution of the data appears to be greater than any of the other sources.
Barnabu Version - Created by Barnabu of the the Google Earth Visualization Blog. Dynamic map which shows polygons of the time zones. Clicking on one of the time zone polygons shows the current Standard time and GMT offset.
CIA Word Factbook Version - From the CIA World Factbook. This is a traditional digital map that I converted to be viewed in Google Earth.
H.M. Nautical Almanac Office Version – From the U.S. Naval Oceanography Portal. Another digital map the I converted to be viewed in Google Earth.
If you know of any other good time zone data or maps, please post a comment and I will try to add it to this collection.
Note: Given the complexity of how global time zones work, there are likely errors and inconsistencies with most/all of these maps and none of this data should be considered “official”. Here is a great source of time zone data.
The group over at Natural Earth have put together a great collection of public domain map data and made it freely available online. There are numerous global datasets provided at several different scales. Bad news is most of the data is provided in SHP file format, which does not import directly into the free version of Google Earth. Good news is I have taken the following 13 map layers and converted them for Google Earth.
- Base Map – Shaded Relief Map
- Oceans and Seas
- Lakes – Major Lakes
- Rivers – Major Rivers
- Geographic Areas – Great Plains, Congo Basin, etc.
- Geographic Points – Mountains, Depressions, etc.
- Geographic Lines – Date Line, Tropic Lines, etc.
- Glaciated Areas
- States – States, Provinces, etc.
- Urban Areas
- Cities – Major cities
Each layer can be turned on or off independently allowing you to mix and match the data however best fits your needs. Most of the features have been categorized by size or relative importance. Larger rivers have larger names and thicker lines. Larger cities have larger names and placemarks, etc. This makes it easy to generate a map of the data you need, and whether you’re planning O2 coverage areas or conducting research for a environmental paper.
Each layer is activated by a Network Link, which is typically between 1-5 megabytes. When you first enable a layer, it might take a minute to download. Also, slower computers might have a difficult time displaying some of the layers with colored polygons.
Below area few examples of what can be created with the Natural Earth Map Maker.
There are numerous vehicle simulation add-ons available for Google Earth.
Of course there is the Flight Simulator that’s available by default. But there are several others that third parties have created. Below is a list of a few that I’ve come across and some tips for using them.
Post a comment if you know of any others.
Available by default in Google Earth by hitting CTRL-ALT-A, or form the Tools Menu. This simulator allows you to fly a fighter jet or a small single-engine general aviation aircraft in Google Earth. The controls are pretty basic, but you’ll probably still need to read the instructions first if you want to do anything complicated, like landing.
By default, the Google Earth Flight Simulator does not come with any graphics other than HUD display. A few people have created additional add-ons to enhance the experience.
The Ship Simulator allows you to pilot various ships using the free Google Earth Browser plug-in. Just go to http://ships1.planetinaction.com/ and it will load the simulation, or give you instructions on how to install the plug-in if you don’t already have it.
The Ship Simulator comes with a working control panel, numerous view modes, and even some sounds. Also very easy to use.
Driving and Walking Simulators
The Driving Simulator allows you to enter a starting location, a finish location and a cute little car will drive the route in Google Earth. You can also follow along on the progress with an overhead map view.
There is a similar tool called First Person Camera. This one puts you on the ground with a 1st person perspective and lets you run around the streets of San Francisco.
The website www.sea-seek.com has several simulators available for touring areas in the website’s database of exotic locations. You can choose from a helicopter, airplane, sail boat, or even a sub-marine to explore the ocean floor.
Monster Milk Truck lets you drive a milk truck around in Google Earth. The Milk Truck will react to the terrain and jump over hills.
An alternative version of the Monster Milk Truck, is the Lunar Rover. Instead of driving a Milk Truck on Earth, you’ll be driving a Lunar Rover on the moon.