Google Earth Timelapse Gives A 33-year Glimpse At Earth’s Human Led Transformation

Google Earth Timelapse is now offering a 33-year glimpse at the Earth’s human-led transformation transformation. Viewers can peruse thirty-three images of the Earth that span from 1984 to 2016 in numerous locations throughout the world. Some of these images include the rise of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, and the urban expansion of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Google used its Earth Engine to sift through three quadrillion pixels from more than 5,000,000 satellite images. It then took the best pixels to create the thirty-three available Timelapses. Google encoded 3.95 terapixel global images into 25,000,000 overlapping multi-resolution video tiles. The majority of the images came from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program. The 2015 and 2016 images also included material from from the Sentinel-2A, which is part of the European Commission and European Space Agency's Copernicus Earth observation program.

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The urban sprawl of Las Vegas, Nevada 

Google Earth incorporated technology its introduced just this past June. The Landsat 8 satellite, which was launched in 2013, captures images in greater detail with truer colors. Google mined nearly a petabyte of data from Landsat and subsequently developed as many “cloud-free” images as possible. It then used the same API that scientists utilize for tracking global tree and water coverage. Google also worked with Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab's Time Machine library in order to create a tool for viewing zoom-able and pan-able timelapses.

Google has been expanding its capabilities this past year, having recently created a Google Earth VR that is available to download for free through Steam. Google Earth VR includes cinematic tours of places like the Amazon River, the Manhattan skyline, the Grand Canyon, and the Swiss Alps. According to Google, “Google Earth VR lets you explore the world from totally new perspectives in virtual reality...You can fly over a city, stand at the top of the highest peaks, and even soar into space”.