It’s always a clear day in google maps. Most of the clouds are edited out of the satellite view. The remaining few can still be found at higher zoom levels, and in this project we find them, name them, and preserve them, before they get edited out too.

The screenshots of the found clouds are posted to a tumblr (a few examples below), and marked on a the cloud map which you can browse below.

If you would like to name or dedicate a cloud, go to the cloud map, zoom in to a height of about 2000ft and start looking. Most clouds come with shadows – which makes it easier to spot them, just look for a black spot of the same shape as the white cloud. When you find one, add a marker, and edit the name and description.

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Seen from space, the face of the Earth is constantly changing, and mostly hidden under a cloud (on average, 68% of it.) Google map is a static representation constructed like all maps – by including the aspects of reality that serve the goal for which the map is produced, and excluding others. But it is such a big part of our lives that it habituates certain ways of thinking about the world. For example it influences the way we navigate the landscape – we tend to navigate it now by internalized mental google-maps-like overhead view rather than by remembering landmarks or other ground-level techniques of relating to the landscape. It also develops intuitions about what we know. It also gives us a full picture of the Earth, helping to internalize the idea that we know (or can know) everything. Clouds might make us think about the atmosphere as part of the Earth system, a necessary element with critical relationship to the land.

While clouds don’t usually figure in maps, google map is not just a map – it combines our idea of landscape with our idea of a map. The satellite view might be the most common way today to see the environment, ‘nature’ or ‘land’ represented. The ‘landscape’ is a pictorial tradition that encodes our cultural attitudes towards nature. ‘As a human-made projection, landscape is both text and site, partly clarifying the world and our place within in,’ writes James Corner. Picturing land is a practice of shaping our relation to nature. As the early surveyors and architects knew, ‘seeing’ it is more than a faculty of vision, and plotting of a landscape has been historically as much political and strategic as relational, cultural or physical. Google map, our everyday landscape, is a ‘god’s-eye view,’ rather than ‘a view from space.’ It is a picture of our knowledge rather than an image of the Earth.

‘Landscape’ originated as a format of a military survey that would be done for a sovereign or a military leader, attempting to make the lay of the land legible. But from the start it contained the problem of the spaces hidden from view, and thus from oversight and from the apparatus of power. Part of the solution was a higher vantage point, which eventually was replaced by the aerial view and then the satellite view. ‘Landscaping’ is a craft directly extending that positivist and imperialist attitude: a practice of not only fully taming nature but precisely composing it, at least within our view.

The clouds that can still be found in google maps are usually at points of imperfect stitching of images captured at different times, revealing the construction of the apparently seamless picture. Google’s algorithm collages many images together, picking the cloud-less exposure of any given area.

Here are a few more examples from the tumblr:

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