Google shows off Earth Timelapse project

Posted on December 7, 2016


Search giant Google is offering users the chance to see a set of unique videos that show how the face of the Earth has changed over last 32 years.

The new Google Timelapse feature has been created through the collection and combination of 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one representing each year from 1984 to 2016.

Furthermore, the videos have been made to become interactively explorable thanks to work conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library. This is a specialist set of equipment that allows for the creation and viewing of zoomable timelapse videos over a certain space and time.

Using Earth Engine, Google was able to combine more than five million satellite images that have been acquired over the last 32 years by five different satellites. The majority of the clips come from the satellite Landsat, which is part of a joint NASA and USGS (United States Geological Survey) scheme that has been observing the planet since the 1970s.

The results are great to look at and fun to play around with, but it also provides experts with some important data, as it can give them vital information regarding environmental degradation through time, in real time.

Timelapse is a perfect example in that it can illustrate the power of Earth Engine’s model and technology. It allows the likes of scientists, journalists and researchers to study and detect changes, patterns, trends and differences in the Earth’s surface using Google’s large computational infrastructure in the form of Earth Engine’s multi-petabyte (the next unit up from terabyte, equal to one thousand million million bytes) data catalogue.

This set of videos allows people to see changes to the face of the earth since 1984, and they are treated to watching cities such as Dubai founded from the desert and become a modern-day metropolis in a matter of seconds. It also gives the flip side where you can see lakes evaporate and ice caps shrink, which can be quite an eye opener.

There are 25 videos of different places, which includes the growth of some of the world’s biggest cities, such as Las Vegas, Brisbane and Miami, and other geographical points of interest such as the Shirase Glacier, the Dead Sea, the Tibetan Plateau and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

These videos can be zoomed in on in order to take a closer look at that particular area, but you can also zoom out to see the whole world change in one clip. You can even zoom into other areas, such as your hometown, to see how that’s changed since 1984.

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