Google Earth Timelapse Shows Climate Change in Action

Saikat Basu 08-12-2016

Maybe it will take this tool from Google to make us feel the pace of climate and human change. Google Earth Timelapse was released in 2013. A recent update presents a richer experience of historical interactive imagery 5 Cool Sites to Visualize the Progress of Mankind & the World Are we better off than before or worse? Five cool visualizations answer the big questions about human progress. You will be surprised by the answers. Read More that is eye opening.


Right now, we will try to understand why it’s so important for everyone to see it at least once.

What Is Google Timelapse?

This is one of the lesser-known tools in Google’s quiver. But if you are a fan of Google Maps and Google Earth, then it is worth a peek. Google Timelapse is a browser-based zoomable and pannable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years. You can search, pan, or zoom to see how our planet has changed from 1984 to 2016.

Three decades of information and five million satellite images from five different satellites bring changes from urbanization to climate change into better focus. And some of it is wondrous.

The latest imagery from Google covers a much larger span. Now, it stretches to 2016 and two more satellites (Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2) have added high-resolution imagery to the petabytes of data.

It’s difficult to appreciate our world with our senses on auto-pilot. But put it through a timelapse and we get to understand how things change around us by degrees.


Climate Change in Focus

The Google Blog cites a few examples you can observe for yourself. The timelapse condenses the speed of change. Catch them all on a special YouTube Playlist.

Watch the rapid development of coastal Dubai with the construction of artificial Palm Islands. Drop your jaws at the rapid urbanization of Chongqing in China. Or be alarmed at the gradual collapse of the glaciers in Antarctica due to global warming.

Google Timelapse has educational value. It also brings home an inconvenient truth.

But just how much does the imagery impact your understanding about the world? Does Google Timelapse succeed in telling the biggest story of our lifetimes i.e. climate change?

Related topics: Google, Google Earth.

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  1. Chris
    December 8, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    How updated is the imagery? are all countries in the world updated to the 2016 imagery. Because it's not been the case, for instance when u search New York the quality of imagery is way better than when when you search say some city in India Africa, making matters worse the some area have imagery that date back to 5 years.
    Otherwise timelapse is very welcome. We will understand climate change better, and how our activities contribute to it.

    • Saikat Basu
      December 10, 2016 at 3:49 am

      Chris, I am not sure about all countries. Google says that they have added "four additional years of imagery". Also, some locations have been especially chosen in collaboration with TIME Magazine. In brief, the update is a massive one and I am sure it will keep improving.