Google Earth Update Lets You See How Climate Change Has Dramatically Altered Our World
The latest update for Google Earth lets you see how climate change, urban expansion, deforestation, and more has affected different areas of the planet over the years.This update is the first major one in years for the popular satellite imagery viewing site and it now allows users to travel backward in time. Specifically, the new Timelapse feature takes you back to 1985 and from there, with the press of a “play” button, the site will show you how that location has changed since 1985 to now.
As you might expect, there’s a lot of human-based growth and while looking at how cities like Las Vegas, Shanghai, and Dubai have expanded is cool, it also speaks to how much nature has been lost over the past few decades. Below is a gallery of locations like Dubai, New York City, Antarctica, and Alaska, and what they looked like from above in 1985, followed by a picture of the same location in 2020.
“Using Earth Engine, we combined more than 15 million satellite images from the past several decades collected by five different satellites,” the About section of Google Earth’s new Timelapse feature reads. “The majority of the images come from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program that has observed the Earth since the 1970s. Since 2015, we have combined Landsat imagery with imagery from the Sentinel-2 mission, part of the European Union and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observations program.”The feature lets you search for individual places on Earth, but Google teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to create a “Stories” section that features five unique stories: Changing Forests, Fragile Beauty, Sources of Energy, Warming Planet, and Urban Expansion.
Each story features multiple locations based around a theme. For example, the Changing Forests story shows the effects of deforestation and also highlights some forest restoration projects that have happened around the globe.
All five of those stories and the rest of the world can be viewed in Google Earth’s new Timelapse hub and it’s well worth a look. For more science stories like this, read about how crystal caves show sea levels were raised 50 feet during a warm period in history and then check out this story about a space hurricane that rained charged electrons above the North Pole.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer, guide maker. and science guru for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.