Google said it has added a real-time weather layer for Google Earth to help travelers plan their trips or see what the weather is like around the world.
Downloaded by more than 700 million people around the world, Google Earth is a free desktop application that lets users search for satellite images of maps, terrain and buildings, from the depths of the oceans to the reaches of outer space.
The application, one of the few non-Web apps Google makes, has been getting several refinements of late.
Google Earth 5.2 now offers images of rain and snow over areas as the conditions are occurring, according to Google software programmer Quarup Barreirinhas.
Amateur meteorologists and ordinary users alike will enable the clouds layer in the control panel of Google Earth to zoom in to a particular location where it might be raining or snowing.
Google's data for precipitation covers some areas in North America and Europe. Users who want to try this feature can enable the radar layer in Google Earth 5.2 to see if the relevant weather information is available.
In preparation for a trip to the American Southwest earlier this year, Barreirinhas checked the status of Hurricane Alex via Google Earth 5.2 in advance. The swirling mass in this screenshot highlights the precipitation.
Noting that the hurricane was entering Mexico and Texas, he zoomed in and saw rain along the coastline of Texas.
Google released Google Earth 5.2 in June, adding a Web browser and support for Apple's iPad tablet and other utilities, including the ability to view elevation, speed and other information as a graph layer.