After last week’s attempt to create directional vector graphics for Google Earth, a commenter left a note saying that you can in fact control the heading of an icon, which would solve most of the problems posed. I just had a go playing with the <heading> tag under <iconstyle>, and it does indeed work, sort of.
My aim just now was to recreate in Google Earth the weather symbols that meteorologists often use, such as these (from which I stole the graphics). Again, I didn’t intend to do a good job; I wanted to see if it’s possible.
These weather symbols have two main components — wind speed/direction and percentage cloud cover. Only the wind speed/direction has a directional component to it, so I decided to split the symbol into two overlaid icons, with only the wind component being fixed by a <heading> tag. (This has the added advantage of needing to create far fewer symbols, because you can mix and match different components.)
The result is that while the cloud cover icon is always “right side up” like conventional icons, the wind icon will point in the direction dictated by the <heading> tag — though only accurately if you look at these icons from directly above. View them at an angle, and the direction is only accurate every 90 degrees as you rotate.
(Note: I used the ruins of Taxila — an ancient Buddhist seat of learning and a town populated by Alexander the Great — as the backdrop for the test icons. Download the KMZ file for an added “feature” I discovered while veering off the beaten path there, oh, 12 years ago. No guarantee it’s still there, though the stuff did grow wild everywhere.)