Since launching 15 years ago, Google Earth has displayed detailed 3D imagery of our planet from numerous vantage points. Recently, they introduced Timelapse in Google Earth – an interactive 4D experience consisting of 24 million satellite photos captured over the past 37 years. A big motivating factor for creating this latest development was to expose people to the impact of climate change. You can view how any place has changed over the past four decades.

You can explore the past four decades of change an development with Timelapse for Google Earth.

The Google Earth team worked with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to develop the technology that powers Timelapse. Their research revealed five areas where our planet was experiencing the most rapid development and change: forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, sources of energy, and fragile beauty. Clicking on any of these categories takes you through a guided tour of some of the spots in the world where change has been noticeable.

Timelapse was made with what Google refers to as ‘pixel crunching’ in Earth Engine, the company’s cloud-based platform for geospatial analysis. The quadrillions of pixels needed to make Timelapse in Google Earth possible are the result of more than 24 million satellite images gathered from 1984 to 2020. ‘It took more than two million processing hours across thousands of machines in Google Cloud to compile 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single 4.4 terapixel-sized video mosaic — that’s the equivalent of 530,000 videos in 4K resolution,’ explains Rebecca Moore in the official blog post announcing Timelapse.

To help create what is known as ‘the largest video on the planet,’ Moore credits the U.S. government, NASA and the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat program, plus the European Union, and their Copernicus program with its Sentinel satellites. Over 800 Google Earth Timelapse videos in 2D and 3D are available for public use at g.co/TimelapseVideos. You can also view the videos on YouTube. Google encourages educators to use Timelapse to teach about the impact of climate change.

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