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Google promises to drive away the clouds with updated Maps and Earth satellite imagery

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Google has updated its map imagery with a new set of images from NASA's Landsat 7 satellite, creating a world the company promises is "virtually cloud-free" and more detailed. In a blog post, the Google Maps team outlined a comprehensive revamp of the satellite maps used in Earth and Maps. Starting with satellite images, Google splices different shots together to create a smooth composite without any clouds obstructing the view, even in areas that will always have at least some clouds over them. The image on the right below shows the new images, placed alongside Google's old satellite photo on the left.


Besides removing clouds, Google also had to splice out black bars that appeared in the images because of a Landsat glitch, and add new images to let it update its view of the world. The new images capture things like increasing agricultural development or — more depressingly — progressive deforestation. Google has always relied heavily on multiple government survey satellites; last year, it created a series of time-lapse videos using Landsat footage. As Google notes, a new Landsat 8 satellite launched earlier this year, and the company will be pulling from it as well, though it didn't mention using anything from the latest Landsat 8 data set released earlier this month.