Make Your Own Big Blue Marble

October 9th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
NASA Terra MODIS imagery from Oct. 8, 2014 mapped into Google Earth.

NASA Terra MODIS imagery from Oct. 8, 2014 mapped into Google Earth (click for large version).

Since you folks paid for it, you might as well know how to use it….

You can access the latest (or any previous day’s) MODIS data from either the Aqua or Terra polar-orbiting satellites, import it into Google Earth, and make your own Big Blue Marble.

I didn’t know how to do this until recently. I had to ask in a NASA meeting we were having, and even the knowledgeable people present had to ask someone else.

1) go to the MODIS Worldview website
2) choose the month and day (along the bottom)
3) choose either the Terra or Aqua satellite (upper left)..they sample 3 hours apart, nominally 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
4) click on the camera icon (upper right) for downloading data,
5) choose a resolution (I chose 5 km for a quasi-global image, 250 meters would be for a smaller region…there is a filesize limit involved here)
6) resize the “camera window” to get the area you want
7) choose KMZ for the Google Earth file format, and click “Download”

After the file downloads to your computer, you should get a prompt to open the file in Google Earth (downloadable here). Then, you can use all of the other Google Earth functionalities to cruise around the world.

The highest resolution available is 250 meters, so don’t expect to see streets and trees like the high-resolution aircraft imagery in Google. At best, you can pick out some interstate highways. But what you get is daily data, with today’s data only a few hours after it is collected.

18 Responses to “Make Your Own Big Blue Marble”

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  1. MODIS data available at the Worldview website only extend back to May 11, 2012.

  2. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Thanks Roy. I can see all the storm clouds over my house.

  3. Mark Bofill says:

    Wow! .. I feel like I ought to be able to use that to my advantage somehow, although I’m at a loss just this minute to put my finger on how.

    Am I too easily impressed?


    Anyways, thanks Dr. Spencer!

  4. JohnKl says:

    Hi Roy,

    If this system actually fully replaced the current Google Earth/Chrome to the extent that one could place their cursor anywhere over a 3-d Earth image and zoom in on some specific location and view it from all terrestrial or higher pov’s we’d be on to something! Tell them to work on it and…

    Have a great day!

  5. Thanks, Dr. Spencer.
    The EOSDIS Worldview (Alpha) website looks very interesting.

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  8. Aaron S says:

    Im curious if people have ideas what the breadth of warm colors from moderate methane that spans across the mid continent correlate to, perhaps cows? Or what else people think? Except for the hot spot over the San Juan basin with abundant coal bed methane extraction, the bigger swath doesnt seem to correlate to hydrocarbons or fracking (as far as I can see). So I am sure a bunch of greenies are not happy. Total waste of NSF dollars…lol.

  9. Rich says:

    Really exciting!

    Tiny tip: if you select both Terra and Modis you can choose which to view in the Google Earth sidebar after download and compare them.

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