The New imagery of flooding near Council Bluffs

Since June of 2011, Council Bluffs, Iowa and the surrounding area has experienced record flooding along the Missouri River. Google has a data center in Council Bluffs, along with many employees that live in the city and surrounding region.

Along with our neighbors, we watched with concern as the Missouri River rose to a level not seen in decades. We are grateful for the extraordinary work of the City of Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, the Army Corps of Engineers and others who kept the city and much of the surrounding region safe. Our hearts also go out to those who have lost homes and businesses to the rising waters.

We recently worked with our satellite provider, GeoEye, to acquire updated imagery of some of the affected area. This imagery is now available as a KML file and will be live in the Historical Imagery section of Google Earth in the coming days. We hope that it will be of use to emergency responders and the general public.

Eppley Airfield and region to the north (before and after)

Area between Council Bluffs/Omaha and Blair, Nebraska (before and after)


The new look of Google Maps

Hot on the heels of our new style for the Google Maps user interface, today we are pushing out some further improvements to our map design to match the updated look and feel and further improve the usability of our maps.

Amongst the changes you will find a plethora of subtle changes, designed to make the map cleaner, more focused, more visually harmonious, and easier to use. Some highlights to look out for are a brighter and more cheerful color palette, a more integrated and less visually noisy labeling style, subtle improvements to footpaths and minor roads, and cleaner building and land parcel rendering.

Most of these improvements, like many that we’ve made over the last couple of years, are gentle enough that many people won’t even notice the difference. When you add them together, however, and then compare to how the map looked even as recently as two years ago, it’s remarkable to see how dramatic the change is.

Compare how our maps of New York looked in 2009, then again the same time in 2010, and now with the new tiles for 2011. The improved colour scheme and less jarring label outlines help the labels to feel part of the map, as opposed to a distracting overlay. It’s also easier to distinguish the city name, neighborhoods, and roads through subtle changes in label color:

The visually heavy highway shields are now integrated into the road labels, and the brighter and cleaner style shifts the focus onto the road names and prominent landmarks in the area. London is one place that benefits from this:

The style evolution has enabled us to place more information whilst still making the map feel simpler. In the case of Sydney, thinner and cleaner roads, better representation of tunnels, more subtle footpaths in the parks, and more subtle labeling all contribute:

We hope you enjoyed this quick retrospective and find the new improvements to the map style helpful. There are many more than have been highlighted here, so have a look around Google Maps today and see if you can spot any improvements to your local area.

Mapping History with Google Maps

Maps & Motion


Maps+Motion is a great way to visualise the growth of Dutch cities and Manhattan in New York with Google Maps.

Essentially the application allows you to view side-by-side the modern maps of cities with maps of how the cities looked at different times in history. The screenshot above, for example, shows a map of 1450 Amsterdam with a modern map of the city.

The application currently allows you to view the historical growth of Den Haag, Harrlingen, Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam and Zuiderzee in the Netherlands and Manhattan in the USA.