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article imageGoogle Earth Timelapse shows 35 years of our changing planet

By Karen Graham     Apr 25, 2019 in Technology
On April 25, Google announced several updates to its Google Earth Timelapse, a global, zoomable time-lapse video that lets viewers explore the last 35 years of our changing planet's surface - including its long-overdue arrival on mobile phones.
To create Google Earth Timelapse, Google Earth Engine and Google's cloud platform for petabyte-scale geospatial analysis were combined with more than 15 million satellite images (give-or-take about 10 quadrillion pixels) to create the 35 global cloud-free images that make up Timelapse.
The images came from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), NASA's Landsat and the European Space Agency's Sentinel programs. Google then made use of Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab, whose Time Machine video technology makes Timelapse interactively explorable.
One of the biggest positives to come out of this latest Timelapse updates is that it will now be available on smartphones and tablets. "Up until recently, mobile browsers disabled the ability to autoplay videos, which is critical for Timelapse (since it’s made up of tens of millions of multi-resolution, overlapping videos), noted Chris Herwig, geo data engineer at Google Earth Outreach, in a blog post. “Chrome and Firefox reinstated support for autoplay (with the sound muted), so we’ve added mobile support with this latest update.”
Who will benefit from using Timelapse?
Google is making its Earth Engine Timelapse internationally available while striving to make the world a better place through the use of technology. Earth Engine's technical infrastructure powers humanitarian, scientific, and environmental initiatives around the world.
The Earth Engine Timelapse platform is used by scientists, governments, documentarians, and journalists to better understand the complex dynamics at work on our planet. As an example, a team of scientists at the University of Ottawa recently published an article in the journal Nature based on the Timelapse dataset which revealed a 6,000 percent increase in landslides on a Canadian Arctic island since 1984.
With massive flooding, drought, wildfires, melting polar ice and disappearing coastlines brought about by global warming becoming more prevalent today, tools like Google Earth Timelapse will become increasingly important in visually demonstrating how the Earth has changed over the past 35 years. As the saying goes - Seeing is believing, right?
Another new upgrade that will help users to navigate the site better is a toggle feature that lets users easily switch to Google Maps to navigate the map. This writer tried it out to look at the growth of Richmond, Virginia over the past 35 years. Not only is the clarity of the images amazingly clear, but the site is very easy to use.
To get started with Timelapse, go to the Earth Engine website, sign up, it's free and then, begin your journey of discovery. Just so you know, the "sign up" button is at the top right on the screen.
More about Google Earth Timelapse, covering 35 years, Mobile phones, petabytescale, video technology
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