Google Maps’s newest depiction of the San Francisco Bay area includes certain features, like the new span of the Bay Bridge, that just weren’t there in 2013. // Google/Landsat
“More than 1 billion people use Google Maps every month, making it possibly the most popular atlas ever created.
On Monday its users will see something different when they examine the planet’s forests, fields, seas and cities.
Google has added 700 trillion pixels of new data to its service. The new map, which activates this week for all users of Google Maps and Google Earth, consists of orbital imagery that is newer, more detailed, and of higher contrast than the previous version.
Most importantly, this new map contains fewer clouds than before—only the second time Google has unveiled a “cloudless” map. Google had not updated its low- and medium-resolution satellite map in three years.
The improvements can be seen in the new map’s depiction of Christmas Island. Almost 1,000 miles from Australia, the island was largely untouched by human settlement until the past two centuries. Its remoteness gives it a unique ecology, but—given its location in the middle of the tropical Indian Ocean—it is frequently obscured by clouds. The new map clears these away: