A look at Central Papua, Indonesia before and after Google's reconstructed cloud-free imagery. Google said that tropical regions tend to be partly cloudy.
We suppose it's Photoshop for the earth. Like magazine art directors make unsightly blemishes disappear from models, Google is making earth's obscuring cloud cover disappear.
"Mining data from a large number of Landsat images of each area allowed us to reconstruct cloud-free imagery even in tropical regions that are always at least partly cloudy," wrote Matt Hancher, tech lead of the Google Earth Engine on the Google Maps blog.
After mining "hundreds of terabytes of data" from the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA's Landsat 7 satellite, Google as able to create a map of the earth with 15 meters per pixel. That means the resolution is sharper than ever seen before. Coupled with cloud removal, and users are likely to see the earth more up close than ever before. Still, Google will be working on minimizing the "stripes" and other less-than crystal photos from Landsat 7 images, which will likely be changed out with Landsat 8 images next year.
Most of the images are truly crisp and beautifully textured, so much so that one feels like a deity surveying its creation. Take a look so you can feel a bit god-like.