If you have Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, you can import it into Google Earth Pro so you can use it as part of your visualizations. If you have Google Earth Pro, you can import many kinds of GIS data directly using the methods described in this tutorial. If you are using the free version of Google Earth, there are other tools for converting GIS data to KML, a few of which are listed at the end of this tutorial.
GIS data is spatial data that is georeferenced to real-world locations on the Earth. There are two types of GIS data, both of which you can import: vector data and raster data. Vector datasets consist of points, lines, or polygons representing objects on the map. Raster datasets are regular grids of data, which can represent images such as satellite or aerial photography, continuous surfaces such as elevation models, or thematic classes such as land cover or habitat maps.
In order for Google Earth Pro to import your data and place it in the correct location on the Earth, all GIS data must have the correct coordinate system defined. For example, ESRI shapefiles must have a projection file (.prj) associated with them and GeoTIFFs must have a Tiff World File (.tfw) associated with them.
This tutorial will guide you through how to import GIS data into Google Earth Pro so it can be used as part of your Google Earth visualizations. We will import a shapefile of rivers and a GeoTIFF of land cover in Southeast Asia. The rivers dataset was created from data downloaded from the Digital Chart of the World. The land cover dataset was created from data downloaded from the Global Land Cover Characteristics (GLCC) database.
1. Open Google Earth Pro.
1. Select Import... from the File menu.
2. Select your data's file type from the Files of type menu. For this example, choose ESRI Shape (*.shp) from the file type menu, select Rivers_in_Southeast_Asia.shp, and click Open.
If you have MapInfo .tab data, choose MapInfo (*.tab) from the Files of type menu, select your TAB file and click Open.
3. A message will appear, stating that the file contains more than 2500 features and could cause application performance degradation.
When you see this message, you can choose to import just a sample, restrict to your current view, or import all.
4. Click the Import all button.
5. A message will appear, asking if you would like to create a Style Template. Click Yes.
In the next Style Template Settings dialog box, you will create a style template for the rivers, which will include colors, labels, and icons.
6. Under the Name tab, choose the field in the shapefile that you would like to use for the name labels for the data in Google Earth. You can use the preview table to view which field contains the content you would like to use for the labels.
For this example, select "NAM" in the drop-down menu. This is the field in the shapefile that contains the names of the rivers.
7. Under the Color tab, select to Use single color, and click on the color swatch to the right. This causes the color settings to appear.
8. In the Select Color dialog box, choose a color for the river dataset. For this example, select a blue color, and click OK.
9. Under the Height tab, keep Clamp features to ground selected. This will keep the rivers clamped to the ground, following the terrain.
10. Click OK to finish your style.
11. A dialog box will appear, asking if you would like to save the style template you just created. If you wish to save it for future use, click Save. Otherwise, click Cancel. For this example, click Save.
Your GIS data has been converted to KML, and the data now appears in Google Earth. Notice how the KML is also listed in the Places panel under your Temporary Places folder. To save it in Google Earth for future sessions, select and drag this file to your My Places folder before closing Google Earth.
Once you have imported your vector dataset, you can optimize your files and limiting the number of points displayed at higher alititudes, by using the Regionate tool.
1. To import a raster dataset, select Import... from the File menu. Select the appropriate file format from the file type menu at the bottom, select the file you want to import, and click Open. For this example, select file type GeoTIFF (*.tif), select the LandCover_SEAsia.tif file, and click Open.
2. In the New Image Overlay dialog box that appears, give a name to your raster overlay, and click OK.
Because the raster dataset in georeferenced to a coordinate system, it is automatically placed in the appropriate location. The land cover GeoTIFF has been imported into Google Earth and is located in the Places panel.
If your imported image is larger than the maximum size supported by the hardware, you will be given several choices:
In addition to importing GIS data into Google Earth Pro, you can also use many other tools and software programs to convert GIS data to KML files for use in Google Earth. GIS software, like ESRI ArcGIS and MapInfo, have tools to export GIS data into KML format for use in Google Earth.
Have questions about this tutorial? Want to give us some feedback? Visit the Google Earth Outreach Discussion Group to discuss it with others.