New Google Earth Update Lets You See More Than 30 Years of Change

Change, as they say, is inevitable. But often, it is invisible as well.

On a planetary scale, the slow reshaping of land, water, and habitats often goes unnoticed because of our limited, earthbound perspective.

Fortunately, thanks to a huge leap forward in software engineering, we can now bear witness to many of the ways our world has evolved over time. Google Earth has released its biggest update yet, allowing users to reach back more than 30 years and see how changes, both natural and man-made, have shaped the globe.

Photo: Unsplash/Nasa

The feature, called Timelapse, combines “more than 24 million satellite images from 1984 to 2020,” according to an announcement from Google. “As far as we know,” the post continues, “Timelapse in Google Earth is the largest video on the planet, of our planet.”

Created in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, and drawing on satellite and engineering data from NASA, the EU, and the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat program, Timelapse “is the visual evidence of dynamic change on our planet from climate change and human behavior,” as Google stated on Twitter.

Usable either as part of Google Earth in an application or browser window, the data has also been used to create stunning time-lapses of natural and man-made changes over the course of the last three decades. These time-lapses are available for viewing at Google’s Earth Engine site, as well as YouTube.

Photo: Unsplash

As a teacher, my first thought was that this data and presentation are a great learning opportunity. Whether used to track a city’s growth or the loss of habitat due to climate change, this information is not only stunning to watch unfold but a chance to sharply present the very real changes that have taken place in just a short amount of time. Fortunately, Google agrees, adding in their announcement that “Our hope is that it will be used to educate and inspire.”

Writing further on this topic in their announcement, Rebecca Moore, Director of Earth Engine & Outreach for Google Earth added, “In collaboration with our partners, we’ll update Google Earth annually with new Timelapse imagery throughout the next decade. We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues.”

Photo: Unsplash

See more enlightening and enthralling timelapses here, or read more about the Timelapse project here!

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