This is nifty! That smoke cloud certainly adds a lot of interest to the map--although it also does what you say: creates a level of realism, although that level is approaching photographic level vs. the representational level of a map. This will change when & if roads, cities, labels and such are added, of course.
Nifty test run! The oceans could use more detail to complete the effect, but I like what you have done so far. Good work.