Google Timelapse Shows You How Earth Looked In The Past

Posted May 9, 2013

Google has launched a new project called Timelapse where they will take you back in time to see a historical perspective on changes to the Earth’s surface.  Google worked with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, and TIME to released over a quarter-century of images of Earth that was taken from space.  These photos were compiled into an an interactive time-lapse map.  Google Timelapse was built from millions of satellite images and trillions of pixels.  The interactive map can be explored through a zoomable time-lapse map as part of the new Timelapse project by TIME.

Some of the most interesting maps added to Google Timelapse includes the artificial Palm Islands in Dubai, the retreating of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, and the urban growth in Las Vegas between 1984 and 2012.

The images were collected as part of a joint project between NASA and USGS called Landsat.  NASA and USGS’ satellites have been observing Earth from space ever since the 1970s.  The images were sent back to Earth and was archived on USGS tape drives.  Google first started working with the USGS in 2009 to make that imagery available online.

“Using Google Earth Engine technology, we sifted through 2,068,467 images?a total of 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. We then compiled these into enormous planetary images, 1.78 terapixels each, one for each year,” said Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreach Engineering Manager Rebecca Moore on the Google Blog.