Timelapse in Google Earth shows you the slow and scary demise of our only home in 3D

Timelapse in Google Earth shows you the slow and scary demise of our only home in 3D
  • Google Earth just made the biggest update in the last four years with the timelapse feature.
  • The timelapse feature shows the changes earth has gone through since 1984.
  • The search giant has crunched 24 million satellite images from the past 37 years to achieve the interactive 3D video.
Google added a new 3D timelapse feature in its Google Earth platform. The feature is said to be the biggest update on the platform in the last four years, allowing users to navigate to different places on the globe and watch that area's geography change over the last four decades.

The search giant says that the new feature is intended to provide a context about the earth's deteriorating form. It also gives a context about how human behaviour and habits have affected the earth and its climate.

Timelapse in Google Earth is made possible with the collaboration between Google, NASA, the US Geological Survey, the European Space Agency and the European Commission. It has been made possible with NASA and the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat programme, the world’s first civilian Earth observation programme, and the European Union’s Copernicus programme with its Sentinel satellites.

Compiled a tremendous amount of data to achieve this

"As far as we know, Timelapse in Google Earth is the largest video on the planet, of our planet," Google says in its blog post. The project is a compilation of 24 million satellite images from the past 37 years (since 1984). Binding it to make a 4D experience showing time unfolding and showcasing almost four decades of planetary change required 20 petabytes of satellite imagery, combined to create a 4.4-terapixel video (4.4 million megapixels) covering each corner of the earth. That’s equivalent to 530,000 videos in 4K resolution.

An enormous amount of time and resources were invested in the project. It took more than two million processing hours and thousands of machines in Google Cloud were used to crunch this data. Google also says that the computing was done inside its "carbon-neutral, 100% renewable energy-matched data centers" to ensure it's sticking to its commitment to building a "carbon-free future."

The immense amount of data allows users to interact with the timelapse too. Meaning, you can zoom in/out, change angles to get a better view while the timelapse is playing. There are some feature presets of these timelapse videos -- changing forests, fragile beauty, warming planet, urban expansion -- that showcase the slow and scary depletion of our only home.

How is this timelapse useful to mankind?

Google looks at it as a tool to assess the Earth's health and well-being to "educate and inspire action". Having a satellite view of the changes happening on earth will help the common public to witness the impact of climate change right from their homes using Google Earth. The scope is limitless, from a common citizen to authorities anyone can use the tool to track things like changing coastlines, expansion of megacities, drying water bodies, deforestation and much more.

Google rightly believes that visual evidence reduces makes it easy to explain the core of the issue rather than complex textual and numerical data. It is also a great tool for teachers to explain the impact of climate change to young students.

The use of satellite imagery to track the earth's evolution and impact of climate change has been there for a while. Google's timelapse initiative is a great tool to push awareness around climate change, but the key is action. Awareness is only useful if converted into action. If you wish to explore the new Timelapse feature, you can go to this link.


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