30 10/15

Adding Contour Lines in Google Earth

It took me the better part of a day to figure this out, so I thought I would write down the steps…

The Goal:WhitneyContours


First we need the contour data:

  1. Data comes from this excellent site (US Only):  http://viewer.nationalmap.gov/viewer/
  2. Zoom in on your area of interest
  3. Click “Download Data” in upper right corner of screen
  4. Select the first option to “Click here to draw and download by Bounding Box”
  5. Drag a rectangle that covers the area of interest
  6. Select “Contours” in the dialog and click Next
  7. You will be presented with a list the available products covering the selected area
  8. Select the Shapefile covering your are of interest
    1. The data we are looking for is “USGS NED 1/3 arc-second Contours” in the Shapefile format
    2. If you’re lucky, you will have just one Shapefile that covers your area
  9. The shopping Cart will open on the left side of the screen
  10. Click on the item and it will be listed in the bottom portion of the screen
  11. Then click on the “Download” option and save the file to your PC
    1. Note:  These can be very big files…
  12. Extract the zip file into its own folder (shapefiles are actually a collection of separate files)

Not as difficult as it sounds.  Here is a video…

Moving on to the Google Earth part…  Download and install Google Earth Pro – Which is now free!!

  • Open Google Earth and go to the location of interest
  • Figure out the highest and lowest points of interest and write down the altitude value for later
  • Set the view in Google Earth to just the area you are interested in – Top down view is good
  • Do File>Import
  • Change the file type to ESRI Shape (.shp), find and select your shape file.
    • Depending on the size of the shape file, it could take a while to process.  This is a lot of data!
  • Then you get to select what to import – Select Restrict to View (or All if you are patient)
    • Again, this will take some time…
  • Say Yes to the Contour Template prompt and you will end up at a dialog as shown below – select the color Tab
  • This dialog is a little funky (IMHO) – it took me a few tries to get it set up
    • Select “Set color from Field” and select “CONTOURELE” as the field of interest
    • Then it is just your particular tastes to set up a range of colors between your highest and lowest points
  • Once you are happy, click OK – GE will ask if you want to save the template – you do
  • Then wait again…  When it is done thinking, you can turn on the contours in your temporary places folder