The new feature, called Timelapse, is Google Earth’s biggest update since 2017. It’s also, according to its developers, the biggest video ever taken from Earth to Earth.
The feature brings together 24 million satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2020 to show how human activity has transformed the planet over the past 37 years.
Visual evidence can get to the heart of the debate in such a way that words cannot communicate complex issues to everyone.
Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth.
Moore herself has been directly affected by the climate crisis. She was among many Californians evacuated from last year’s wildfires.
However, the new feature allows people to witness more distant changes, such as the melting of the polar caps.
With Timelapse in Google Earth, we have a clearer picture of our changing planet at our fingertips, showing not just the problems but also the solutions, as well as mesmerizingly beautiful natural phenomena unfolding over decades.
Some of the climate impacts viewers may witness include the melting of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska between 1984 and 2020.
They can also see the disintegration of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. However, the changes are not limited to the impacts of global warming.
Moore said the developers had identified five themes, and Google Earth offers a walkthrough for each one. They are:
However, the feature also allows you to view changes on a smaller scale. You can enter any location in the search bar, including your neighborhood.
The feature does not offer the level of detail of Street View. It’s meant to show big changes over time, rather than small details like the construction of a road or a house.
The timelapse images were made possible through the collaboration of NASA, the Landsat satellites of the United States Geological Survey and the Copernicus program and the Sentinel satellites of the European Union. Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab helped develop the technology.
To use Timelapse, you can go directly to g.co/Timelapse or search Timelapse in Google Earth. Moore said the feature will be updated every year with new images of Earth disturbances.
We hope this planetary view will serve to inform discussions, encourage discovery, and change perspectives on some of our most pressing global issues.