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Google Earth’s new time travel feature is a gigantic bummer


Google has announced a huge update to its Google Earth Timelapse feature, which enables users to see the rapid disintegration of the natural world within a few seconds. 

The new feature, which is available to view in a web browser, uses satellite imagery captured over the course of 37 years, to show receding glaciers, destruction of forests and rapid urban expansion.

So, for example, you can head to the Amazon rainforest and see a timelapse clip of the decimation of millions of acres of trees. Or, closer to western civilisation in Eugene, Oregon, where countless pockets of bareness have cropped up over the last three decades or so.

There’s also a YouTube playlist featuring all of the highlights, including this:

 

Timelapse in Google Earth offers a hots of featured locations, focusing on glaciers, deforestation, agriculture, waterways, infrastructure and more. You can also see the effects of natural disasters, mining and so on.

The feature displays a frame for each year captured since 1984. It’s also possible to zoom in and change the angle to get a slightly different view point. Today’s update also brings support for mobile devices and tablets.

In a blog post, the company said: “Using Google Earth Engine, Google’s cloud platform for petabyte-scale geospatial analysis, we combined more than 15 million satellite images (roughly 10 quadrillion pixels) to create the 35 global cloud-free images that make up Timelapse. These images come from the U.S. Geological Survey/NASA Landsat and European Sentinel programs. Once again, we joined forces with our friends at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab, whose Time Machine video technology makes Timelapse interactively explorable.”

Of course, not everything is a massive bummer. It’s interesting to see things like the growth of Beijing, China, over the last 30+ years, for example. However, the company also hopes that seeing the rapid effects of climate change taking hold will be enough to see more action.



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