Google is offering a chance to look at the entire world as it changed over the course of 32 years in the form of a time-lapse video.
The Google Timelapse feature has been made using 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016, which are made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.
Timelapse is an example that illustrates the power of Earth Engine’s cloud-computing model, which enables users such as scientists, researchers, and journalists to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface using Google’s computational infrastructure and the multi-petabyte Earth Engine data catalog.
Using Earth Engine, Google combined over five million satellite images acquired over the past three decades by five different satellites. The majority of the images come from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program that has observed the Earth since the 1970s. For 2015 and 2016, Google combined Landsat 8 imagery with imagery from Sentinel-2A, part of the European Commission and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observation program.
The feature is fun to play with, but also an important tool because it allows us to see environmental degradation in real time. Google added four additional years, so now the timelapse feature stretches all the way back to 1984.
Additionally, the company uploaded imagery from new and improved satellites and combed through three quadrillion pixels (that’s 3,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering) to make sure there weren’t clouds or haze in any of the images. They then made one gigantic (3.95 terapixel) interactive image of the Earth for each year. You just zoom in on a place you’re interested in and you can scroll through the timeline and see what it looked like in each of those years or click play and watch three decades fly by.