"Today, we’re making it possible for you to go back in time and get a stunning historical perspective on the changes to the Earth’s surface over time," says Google’s blog.
Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA and Time Magazine, Google is releasing images of Earth taken from space, compiled for the first time into an interactive time-lapse experience. It is the most comprehensive picture to be made public of our changing planet, Google says.
They pieced together millions of satellite images and trillions of pixels that have been collected since the 1970s, resulting in a global, zoomable time-lapse map.
You can literally watch the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon and urban growth in Las Vegas.
Google has been working on this since 2009, sifting through over two million images – 909 terabytes of data – to find the highest-quality pixels (e.g., those without clouds), for every year since 1984 and for every spot on Earth. Then they compiled them into enormous planetary images, 1.78 terapixels each, one for each year. As a final step, Google worked with CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University to convert the annual images into a seamless, browsable animation.
"Much like the iconic image of Earth from the Apollo 17 mission -which had a profound effect on many of us – this time-lapse map is not only fascinating to explore, but we also hope it can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future," says Google.
Check out Time’s timelapse project and Google’s timelapse website: