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How might one export image(s) from image overlays in a KML file to a standard geo-referenced raster format like geotiff?

Use case: NASA's Earth Observatory has a time series of the changing Athabasca Oil Sands, (kml). It's hard to get a personally meaningful sense of scale from the line scale bar on those images, or from viewing the scale bar in Google Earth. So I'd like to superimpose things I'm familiar with, but to do that I need to have them in a more manipulable format, with scale.

(I know that for this particular use case I can get the source geo-referenced images from NASA and just sidestep the whole conversion issue. However it's the general question I'm interested in answers for.)

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Warning: untested hack ahead

A KML file is just another xml file with a special markup. The KML/KMZ format has been OGC standardized in 2008 and one can learn a lot by just opening and looking at them. In any case the reference is here.

In your case the Athabasca kml files shows a structure in which the base element is like the following:


this element is repeated many times both in both a spatial and a time series.

I believe it should not be difficult to craft a script to fetch each of those Icon links and the create world files for each of them, thus in fact converting them into geotiffs. The process could use some help from the ImageMagick convert tool for png to tiff/jpeg conversion.


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I've found that the WorldFile Tool works quite well. I'm now looking at ways to 'batch' it so I don't have to do things manually with every file in a directory.

EDIT: Actually, I just found this shell script that appears to do exactly what I want (even using kmz rather than kml) and now I just need to get the 'unzip' command working in Windows!

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It looks as though the world file tool is no longer available? – Stephen Lead Mar 28 '14 at 1:21
link to shell scrip is broken. – Deep Jul 31 '15 at 1:25
I have updated the URL in the answer above, and also hosted a copy on my website at:… in case the link goes down again. – Darren Cope Jul 31 '15 at 12:46

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