Posts Tagged ‘KML’

Growth of Wal-Mart, Google Earth Animation

January 27th, 2009 No comments

Here’s a Google Earth time animation showing 3176 Walmart store openings in the USA, from 1962 to 2006. See how the business started out with a single retail location in Arkansas, then spread at an accelerating rate across different regions.

Video showing the animation running in Google Earth:

Grab the KML file for Google Earth here:

Walmart 1962-2006 (300kB)

  • Once it’s loaded, use the time control slider top of the main Google Earth window to play.
  • Because this is Google Earth, you can fly around and zoom in and out during the animation.

For anyone thinking this visualization looks vaguely familiar – hands-up, it’s not my idea, the animation is inspired by FlowingData‘s very slick, slippy-map animation of the same data, released last year, here.

To replicate that I’ve used the same KML carpet bombing technique as the flight path animations I knocked together a while back – each time a placemark appears I rapidly cycle through a sequence of Icons of decreasing size, to provide some visual punch.

Note: The location data isn’t all that precise in this – I think it’s just based on zip code area locations, not street addresses. But the stores generally aren’t too far away from the placemarks – look for the massive grey buildings with a zillion cars parked out front.

Google Earth – Complete US Air Routes

February 6th, 2008 9 comments

USA Flight Map: All Routes, All Airlines - Google EarthA couple of weeks ago I put together a small collection of Google Earth airline route maps for various countries. These work interactively, using mouse hovers over airport Icons to activate and reveal destinations.

The previous files each had fewer than a thousand routes, and were fairly limited in scope. So, I was wondering, how effectively do these scale up ? As it turns out, surprisingly well.

The following Google Earth networklink opens a file including 13287 scheduled routes within the USA, between 714 airports.

Flight Maps (USA) (2 MB)

Data is from the US Bureau of Transportation’s most recent monthly flight stats: October 2007. Strictly speaking it’s not really a route map in the same way as my other files – rather, it’s a map showing where scheduled airlines flew that particular month.

Viewing Suggestions:

  • Because of the high number of placemarks and long distances involved, this all looks much better full screen [F11].
  • To permanently lock on a set of lines:
    1. Right click on the entire file, a folder or airport,
    2. Go to Properties,
    3. Select the Style, Color tab,
    4. Then increase the line opacity.
    5. Hit OK.
    6. The only way to fully reverse this, and get the mouse over effect back,  is to re-download or re-open the file.  To do this within GE: right-click on the root folder: US Flight Maps, and select refresh.
  • Don’t forget you can hold down the middle mouse button and swing the view around while keeping the flightpaths displayed.

Google Sky Orrery x3

January 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Current Relative Positions of Inner Planets, in GSkyRelative Positions of Outer Planets, in GSky

Two new additions to the family of animated Solar System diagrams for Google Earth Sky.

These Orrerys combine KML Screen Overlays to display a top-down view of current planet positions in the top left corner of the screen, and run on a 3 month time-loop alongside the default Our Solar System Layer.

To squeeze everything into the corner of the window, the original animation showed the planets spread evenly apart – only giving part of the story about relative locations.  Here I’ve added two further options which split the Solar System in two,  and display accurate average orbital distances:

  • A chart showing the positions of the Inner (Terrestrial) planets; Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars
  • Another for the Outer (Jovian) planets;  Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, plus the Earth for reference.

These are available alongside the original through a single KML Networklink. 

Planets in Orbit (60kB)

– Download the file and select the option you want displayed.

– Then click the Time Slider play button.

If the networklink is stored under My Places, the file will automatically update either if Google change the time span of their planets layer, or when I add  anything else – e.g. a diagram including the Moon.

ZIPScribble Animated

January 20th, 2008 5 comments

Animated ZIP (code) Scribble Map in Google EarthThis is a Google Earth, time animated version of the U.S .ZIP map in my post from a couple of days ago. Based on Robert Kosara’s ZipScribble maps. 

The KML file contains 43,000 lines connecting every ZIP code in the country, TimeStamped in ascending numerical order.  

Just a slight warning: This is a very large and detailed time animation. It runs smoothly on my 3-year old PC (the little GIF above is from a real time capture), but may not work on some computers.

ZIP Scribble Map (USA) (650kB)

Viewing the File

  • Hit the play button in the Time Control, top right of the screen, or just drag the slider left or right. 
  • time_delta_google_earth.JPGExpand the time span to increase the number of ZIP Codes displayed at any time.
  • Deselect folders in the left sidepanel to alter the scope of the animation.
  • Change the visualization to a cumulative animation by selecting clamp beginning of time window in the time option dialog  – accessed through the white clock icon to the left of the time slider.


  • The numbers shown under the Time Control are 5-digit ZIP codes without the leading zeros.
  • States are different Colours. No significance in the choice of colour – it’s just for contrast with one another and the terrain.
  • White lines indicate the sequence jumping a State boundary.

P.S.  for a different take on visualizing ZIPs,  check out Ben Fry’s  Java, zipdecode.

KML ZIP Scribble Map

January 18th, 2008 2 comments

US ZIP code Locations, in Google Earth

About a year ago, Robert Kosara at published a fascinating set of visualizations demonstrating the overall structure of ZIP (and post) codes in various countries, for obvious reasons he called them ZipScribble maps. Robert compiled  PDF maps of the USA,  and a dozen more countries

The concept he uses is remarkably straightforward:

 1) Plot the centroid of every ZIP code area onto a map.
 2) Join these with lines, dot-to-dot, in ascending numerical (or alphabetical) order.

I know several people did similar things for various parts of the world, but I don’t think anyone ever published one of these in KML (?)

Anyway, as you can see from the picture at the top of the post, inspired by Robert’s maps I’ve compiled a visualization for Google Earth, showing a complete set of 43,000 U.S. ZIP codes.  Bordering States are shown in different colours.  White lines indicate where the sequence jumps across a State boundary.

It’s interesting to combine the file with Google Earth’s default Borders and Labels layer to see how the organization of the codes relates to the underlying geography.

Download the file here:

ZIP Scribble Map (USA) (320kB)

There’s a chance this one might cause problems on some computers – 40,000 data points is a lot of information for GE to handle 🙂 .   Before switching on all the States (only a quarter are on by default) it’s probably wise to close any other KML files, or complex layers like Weather and 3D buildings.

Data Source:

1999 U.S. Postal Service ZIP Codes (U.S . Census website)