Google Earth's new timelapse feature is showing us the alarming effects of climate change. The 3D mapping tool in Google Earth displays 24 million satellite photos that have been stitched together from the past 37 years.
To use the tool, go to Google Earth Timelapse and search for any location — whether it's your favorite vacation spot, your childhood home, or a famous landmark. A zoomable video lets you see how the Earth has changed since 1984. Spoiler alert: It's a lot.
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You can see things like the effects of deforestation in Madagascar and Bolivia, the Columbia Glacier retreat in Alaska, mining in Chile, bushfires in South Australia, irrigation in Saudi Arabia, and the drying of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
For the project, Google worked with NASA; the United States Geological Survey's Landsat program, the oldest Earth observation program; the European Union's Copernicus program and its Sentinel satellites; and Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab, which helped develop the technology behind the Timelapse.
The hope is for governments, journalists, researchers, teachers, and advocates to analyze the images and trends and to share their findings with the world.
"Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone," said Rebecca Moore, a director of Google Earth, in a blog post on Thursday. "We invite anyone to take Timelapse into their own hands and share it with others — whether you're marveling at changing coastlines, following the growth of megacities, or tracking deforestation. Timelapse in Google Earth is about zooming out to assess the health and well-being of our only home, and is a tool that can educate and inspire action."
The new feature is available on desktop and mobile app.