Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

September 17, 2006

The spread of avian flu with time; new maps exploiting Google Earth’s time series function

Filed under: avian influenza,GIS,Google Earth — admin @ 8:44 pm

Google Earth last week introduced new functionality that allows one to map events against time. Clearly this is the ideal way to view the spread of avian flu worldwide, so I have adapted my existing flu maps to it. Only the new maps will be updated. The new link for the time-enabled maps is this one (the KML file).

You WILL NOT be able to view these maps correctly using the standard Google Earth client. You MUST FIRST install the latest GE 4.0 beta — download link here.

Once you have downloaded the map inside the new version of Google Earth, you will see a time bar at the top of the screen (see screenshot below). Click the button at the right-hand side of this bar to view the time series.

And to ensure it all works correctly, click on the button at the left-hand side of the bar, and select “”clamp beginning of time window.” Sorry for the complications, but this is the way the beta works at present, and to view the maps correctly you MUST do this..

The time bar allows further precise controls; to learn more about these, I recommend Brian Flood’s blog post on the new time function, and also Google Earth’s own help on the subject. For best viewing, I’d also strongly recommend, setting the speed of playback to slowest.

The new maps contain all the functionality of the former maps, such as description panels (see screenshot at bottom below) . My old flu maps will remain available at this link but this is now an archive — they will no longer be updated.

Moving forward, all my new flu maps will use the new Google Earth time functionality, and be available as dynamic time series at this bookmark.

Screenshot of maps with time series toolbar bar

The functionality on individual outbreaks remains the same; just mouse over the point to get location details, and double-click to call up ancillary data as a description panel.

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