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Google Earth Time-Lapse

30 Years of Global Change in Google-Powered GIFs

The Landsat satellite program has been snapping images from space since 1972, giving our earthbound eyes a macro perspective of what's happening all around the globe. The Google Earth Engine is now compiling 30 years of incredible satellite imagery into one interactive time-lapse that reveals dramatic urbanization, deforestation, and global change.

And, well, since this is the Internet, those time-lapses are also available as Google-powered GIFs.


Each view is built from millions of 1.7-Terapixel images (that's a trillion pixels and over 909 terabytes of data, guys) at 30-meter resolution. One frame reflects an entire year's worth of Landsat data from the archives, and choosing which images to use in the time-lapses was no easy task. The project — which was a collaboration between the US Geological Survey, NASA, and TIME — required sifting through more than two million images to find pictures without clouds.

Once the images were compiled, the CREATE lab at Carnegie Mellon University turned the views of the retreat of Alaska's Columbia Glacier, the urbanization of Las Vegas, the deforestation of the Amazon, and more into zoomable, browsable animations built for the web. You, of course, get to enjoy the fruits of their labor and watch the planet change right before your eyes. Compare and contrast these phenomenal pictures of Earth through time, then find out more about NASA's ongoing Landsat mission to send more Earth-observing satellites into space.

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