Open Earth
January 19, 2010 7:19 PM   Subscribe

One of the great things about Google Earth is how extensible it is using KML. You can use it to show off placemarks, build 3D structures, track wildfires or hurricanes, and much more. Google Earth can be used as a scientific visualization platform. OpenEarth is an open source initiative that archives, hosts and disseminates Data, Models and Tools for marine and coastal scientists and engineers. Their KML data visualizations using Google Earth display some of the possibilities. [via]

OpenEarth provides some tutorials on how to get started with these types of visualizations.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab at Cal Tech has a similar project called OnEarth. The mosaic is continuously updated with images from MODIS TERRA. Info about the KML layers.
posted by netbros (14 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I noticed recently that there are now 3D models of most of the buildings in downtown Portland OR.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:27 PM on January 19, 2010

I was just wondering this morning if there were any Google Earth or Google Maps mash ups that have an open comprehensive historical atlas with version control like wikipedia. I didn't find anything that fully fit the definition, but here's a historical atlas of eurasia.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:56 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps worth a note is that KML is the cousin of GML, the language that, unlike KML, was deemed fit for information exchange (while KML is more a presentation/markup language), but, as the Wikipedia page might hint, was murdered by the good intentions of standards bodies. KML, Keyhole Markup Language, had far less wankery and far more adoption with the spread of Google Earth, even though KML often offers less than GML, especially in terms of data standardization and, the pride and shame of GIS, coordinate reference systems.

KML is a quick way to get tiled layers into Google Earth, for sure, but, trust me - technically, using KML for OnEarth is like using tables for your blog in 2010. It'll work, but, heck no, it isn't the good way to do it. See WMS (also unfortunately being handled by standards bodies) or TMS for that purpose.

Sorry for the detail; spent today processing MODIS imagery. Nobody makes this stuff easy.
posted by tmcw at 8:34 PM on January 19, 2010 [8 favorites]

For those who want to go in a slightly different direction - you may want to try:
- NASA World Wind
- Dapple (World Wind fork)
- World Wind Central
- Open GeoSpatial Consortium
- Open Source GIS
posted by jkaczor at 8:45 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

tmcw - since you seem to be so well informed - does Google Earth "respect" or mangle addition elements/attributes within a KML file during an import/export round-trip?
posted by jkaczor at 8:47 PM on January 19, 2010

One of the reason i love MF is that I get exposed to things that are so far outside my areas of knowledge I have no idea what they are.
This is one of those marvelous things.
posted by cccorlew at 9:14 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The MetaFilter users KML layer shows all users of the site that have filled in their lat/long fields in their profile.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:54 PM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some ALT text on those images would go a looooooong way.

Pfft, scientists. Just make them take ONE MARKETING CLASS ONCE! JUST ONE!
posted by Lukenlogs at 10:27 PM on January 19, 2010

I was just wondering this morning if there were any Google Earth or Google Maps mash ups that have an open comprehensive historical atlas with version control like wikipedia.

Not sure what you mean, but there's OpenStreetMap.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I noticed on the first site that they talk about scripting the analysis to make it repeatable, but it seems that all the geovisualizations are static output.

Is it possible to make something programmable in google earth so that it would be a real tool? I've only used it for displaying information that I have exported from ArcGIS and would love to know if you can make something interactive, aside from turning layers on and off.

My second google desire would be for google maps to have a third dimension so you you could do the type of google earth coolness but embed it in a website.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:24 AM on January 20, 2010

You can get doppler radar and severe weather KML overlay files here.
posted by tayknight at 6:29 AM on January 20, 2010

A KML for the earthquake in Haiti can be found here
posted by samsara at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2010

This is super-cool, thanks! With the rise of GPS enabled phones and geolocative services like Twitter and OpenStreetMap mapping, we're just on the cusp of some really interesting geohacking.

No doubt GIS-based systems are geographically superior. (Remember that day Google Earth shifted its reference frame and all placemarks were off by 2 miles? Good times!). But the GIS community has had 20+ years to produce useful consumer oriented tools and failed. Google Earth is an amazing desktop app for amateurs and KML is good enough to let third parties publish some very powerful interactive visualizations. Google's massive automatic datamart helps, too.

I'm with Womble in wishing there were more capabilities for doing georeferenced data visualizations. Google-maps-with-3D would be nice, or really any sort of browser-friendly 3d geographic capability. Google Earth does have a browser plugin version. It requires plugin installation by the user. The resulting javascriptable Google Earth may be a reasonable platform for doing more interactive visualization.
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on January 20, 2010

Thanks for the tip Nelson - some of the google-maps api examples are amazing!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:29 AM on January 20, 2010

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