Last May Google shared for the first time several animated GIF’s from a project in which they collaborated with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), TIME, and the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. These animated GIF’s provide a stunning historical perspective on the changes to the Earth’s surface over time. They are the digital equivalent of a flip book with images of Earth taken from space over a period of about 25 years.
It all started with a joint mission between the USGS and NASA called Landsat. The images they took with their satellites, called remote sensing, were collected and archived. Now these images are being compiled in TIME’s Timelapse project in which Google’s Earth Engine technology participate to make this earth imagery available online.
Google believes this is the most comprehensive picture of our changing planet ever made available to the public. It provides stunning views on changing landscapes and insight on possible effects of human actions. Furthermore, it can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future.
A few GIF’s created from the images taken from certain locations show phenomena such as the sprouting of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands and the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier from 1984 to 2012:
As the final step, Google worked with the CREATE Lab to convert these annual Earth images into a seamless, browsable HTML5 animation. An example is the Amazon deforestation in Brazil from 1984 to 2012: