Monday, April 02, 2007
This weekend, there has been a lot of discussion about our imagery of New Orleans in Google Maps and Google Earth. I thought I'd give you some background that may clear things up, and also let you know about new imagery of the region now available.
In 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, a very motivated group of volunteers at Google worked with NOAA, NASA, and others to post updated imagery of the affected areas in Google Maps and Google Earth as quickly as possible. This data served as a useful reference for many people -- from those interested in understanding what had happened, to friends and families checking on the status of loved ones and property, to rescuers and relief workers. Shortly after the event, we received a voicemail thanking us for the role Google Earth played in guiding rescuers to stranded victims.
Several months later, in September 2006, the storm imagery was replaced with pre-Katrina aerial photography of much higher resolution as part of a regular series of global data enhancements. We continued to make available the Katrina imagery, and associated overlays such as damage assessments and Red Cross shelters, on a dedicated site (earth.google.com/katrina.html). Our goal throughout has been to produce a global earth database of the best quality -- accounting for timeliness, resolution, cloud cover, light conditions, and color balancing.
Given that the changes that affected New Orleans happened many months ago, we were a bit surprised by some of these recent comments. Nevertheless, we recognize the increasingly important role that imagery is coming to play in the public discourse, and so we're happy to say that we have been able to expedite the processing of recent (2006) aerial photography for the Gulf Coast area (already in process for an upcoming release) that is equal in resolution to the data it is replacing. That new data was published in Google Earth and Google Maps on Sunday evening.
Make no mistake, this wasn't any effort on our part to rewrite history. But it looks like this April Fool's joke was on us.