Measuring Tree height in Google Earth. 3D canopy, and Street view.

Turn on Google Earth’s 3D Buildings Icon. Create a polygon filter and adjust at desired altitude to filter height and find tallest tree. Google 3D renderings are photo realistic, and tend to be better than 95% accurate on flat land.

eastmoreland sequoiaTreeCanopy

Jennings Lodge trees

Accurately measuring trees on slopes and steep terrain is much more difficult. In this instance, subtracting crown height from base Google DEM terrain (non 3D mode) elevation will give a good proxy of height, yet DEM data itself can be inaccurate by as much as 50 – 100 feet. 3D Mode has finer and more exact elevation data. It is also worthy to consult other elevation databases to ensure accurate elevation at the base of the tree.

To Measure trees in Google Street view first select the desired location of the tree’s trunk, or directly under where the tree’s highest point is.  Add a placemark at this location, then turn on the Google Street View mode. While in Street view mode, adjust the height of the placemark until it aligns with the top of the tree’s crown. This method is even more accurate than the 3D mode, as the 3D polygons some times do not render the top 5 or 10 feet or more in slender trees, steeples, etc:

tree heights

Martins sequoias

My post at Google’s forum: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gec-open-forum/rsf8Ul4NPGo

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2 Responses to Measuring Tree height in Google Earth. 3D canopy, and Street view.

  1. bigtrees says:

    Nice work. This method can save an awful of time and money for urban foresters, arborists and the like!

    • rephaim23 says:

      Yeah, it can give good estimates anyways. I have field tested both methods and find them usually 95 -99% accurate, or about as good as a clinometer. Unstable ground and steep terrain will throw off estimates of height for thed 3D function however, so subtracting 3d crown height from a precise elevation DEM is key! Some of Google Earth’s own standard DEM (digital elevation model) is actually incorrect, and the photogrametric DEM in 3D mode is more accurate in my experience. But yeah, for quick eyeball estimates within 5 or 10 feet, the street view works quite well most of the time. So distortion of distance and angle could throw off the height readings by a couple percent or more, but probably almost within the margin of error a Clinometer is proofed at (within 1% to 1 degree of accuracy, clinometers can be accurate if used with care and precision).

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