The new 3D time-lapse feature of Google Earth shows how people affect the planet

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Google Earth is already a powerful tool for our planet, but today it is being upgraded to a new 3D time lapse feature.

Described as the most important update on Google Earth since 2017 by Google Earth director Rebecca Moore, Timelapse combines over 24 million Satellite photos, two Petabytes of information and 2 million hours of CPU processing time in Google Earth to provide an interactive 4.4-pixel view of how the earth has changed from 1984 to 2020.

Although Google Earth previously had an easy time-lapse option, the new feature represents a major upgrade with full 3D coverage throughout the world. Users can select virtually anywhere on the Earth, change the angles of their camera, and choose a particular year.

Google Earth allows you to access Timelapse simply by using the g.co or Timelapse icon or hitting the Google Earth Ship’s Wheel icon and selecting Timelapse. Google also provides over 200 spotlines and guided tours for specific areas such as Las Vegas, Kuwait City and the Alaskan Columbia Glacier. And if that is not enough, more than 800 additional time lapse videos for public use by Google have been uploaded here, which can also be downloaded on YouTube free of charge.

Here’s a gif showing the creation of the World Islands in Dubai.
Gif: Google

Google’s objective is to create a powerful and interactive way for people to see our world change over time, so that they can better understand how humans and natural phenomena affect our planet. After all, it’s one thing to hear about a shrinking rainforest or glaciers’ melting, but to see it happening in front of your eyes is totally different.

The photos of the launch of Google Earth’s new time-lapse feature are by NASA and USGS Landsat, and the EU initiative Copernicus which provides a newly updated world picture to Google every 2.5 journey via their 3 satellites (Landsat-8, Sentinel 2a, and Sentinel 2b).

Photo: Sam Rutherford

While the U.S. and U.S. satellites are some of the world’s most sophisticated, Timelapse in Google Earth is restricted, particularly for more detailed purposes. Timelapse in Google Earth is designed to show landscape changes in the same way as Street View in Google Maps, which make it easier to track changes on a bigger scale over time rather than more gross things like a single new road or house.

Google worked with Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab to design the new time-lapse algorithms to build the models and composite images from Google Earth.

Here’s another clip showing the retreat of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska throughout the years.
Gif: Google