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How Often Does Google Earth Update?

Posted by Sydney on December 14, 2018

Google Earth (not to be confused with Google Maps) is the three-dimensional planetary browser that shows our entire planet (well, minus a few top-secret military bases) in satellite imagery and aerial photos. You probably use Google Maps every day, but Google Earth is usually more of a once-a-month kind of thing, when you want to see what your ex-wife’s new house looks or look at the roads through the national forest or something. But wait – is that a new car in her driveway? Or is it a car from three years ago before she moved in? How often does Google Earth update its imagery database?

How Often Does Google Earth Update?

According to the Google Earth blog, Google Earth updates about once a month. However, this doesn’t mean that every image is updated once a month – far from it. In fact, the average map data is between one and three years old.

What Does Google Earth Update?

Ah, there’s the rub. If you’re anxiously awaiting an update to your home town, don’t assume it will come around in Google’s next set of changes. Google does not update the entire map in each go.  Instead, they update pieces of the map. When we say pieces, we mean small pieces. A single Google Earth update might contain a handful of cities or states. When Google releases an update, they also release a KLM file that outlines the updated regions in red, thereby letting everyone know what’s been changed and what’s still waiting on a refresher.

Why Doesn’t Google Earth Update Continuously?

To understand why Google Earth doesn’t update continuously or do full updates all at once, you must first understand how they get the images. As we’ve already mentioned, Google Earth uses a combination of satellite images and aerial photographs. Both of these take time and aerial photographs in particular are expensive to acquire. Google would have to have hired pilots traversing the globe all of the time to keep up with potential changes.

Instead, Google opts for a compromise. They strive to keep each area of the globe within 3 years of age. Although, they are likely to target high-density population areas more frequently. So if you’re town had an update last year and you’re still waiting to see the new stadium that was built in the past 6 months, you might be waiting a while.

Will Google Earth Update Imagery Upon Request?

Unless you’re a governing body of some kind that has compiled its own package of aerial images to share with Google, they are unlikely to heed a request for an update. Google has a system in place for keeping the images as current as reasonably possible. If they entertained every request, they’re schedule would crumble. That being said, if you’re disappointed with your Google Earth view and are hungry for more up to date data, it’s possible there is more up to date data available and you’re just not looking at it.

This may sound strange, but check “historical” imagery to catch some more recent shots. Google doesn’t always put the most up to date imagery in the main part of the app. Sometimes they put slightly older images in the main part and put the up to date images in historical imagery. Sometimes slightly older images are considered more accurate as in the case of post-Katrina New Orleans. Google had updated the city right after the disaster. They later restored images of the city from before the disaster. These images were considered more “accurate” as the city had since started rebuilding and the devastation shown just after the floods was actually a less useful depiction than prior images. Of course, Google changed the images back after some backlash, but their principle stands. Always check historical images for something more up to date.

2 thoughts on “How Often Does Google Earth Update?”

Cliford Hanney says:
My hunting cabin in Karnes County TX has been on the property since 2013 but does not show up on any google earth or map view.
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Russ says:
9/14/2015 was last update of Advent, WV USA. So I take it we could be ready for an update some day soon?
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