Hello, climate change naysayers, welcome to Google Earth’s Timelapses. Google Earth users can now see the devastating effects of climate change over the last four decades right in front of their eyes on the new Timelapse feature. This new feature is hands-down Google Earth’s biggest update since 2017 and provides visual evidence of how our planet has changed due to climate change and human behaviour.
Announced by Sundar Pichai via a tweet, Google Earth’s Timelapse takes the platform’s static images and turns them into dynamic 4D videos. Users can check out melting ice caps, massive urban growth, receding glaciers, and the impact of wildfires on agriculture, etc through these Timelapses. "Our planet has seen a rapid environmental change in the past half-century -- more than any other point in human history,” Pichai explained. The Timelapses have been created by compiling millions of satellite images taken from 1984 to 2020 and it took Google two million processing hours and thousands of machines on Google Cloud to accomplish this.
To explore Timelapse in Google Earth, users can type any location into the search bar followed by ‘g.co/Timelapse’ and "choose any place on the planet where you want to see time in motion". Google explained in the blog that it has removed clouds and shadows from the images and has computed a single pixel for every location on Earth for every year since 1984. All of them were then stitched together to make the Timelapse videos.
Google has worked with experts from Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab to create the technology behind Timelapse. "As we looked at what was happening, five themes emerged: forest change, urban growth, warming temperatures, sources of energy, and our world’s fragile beauty. Google Earth takes you on a guided tour of each topic to better understand them," Google said. The company hopes that governments, journalists, teachers, researchers, and climate change advocates will analyse the imagery, identify trends and share their findings with the rest of the world.
Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach, pointed out that Timelapse was possible because of the US government and European Union’s commitments to open and accessible data and mentioned that all the images were provided by NASA, US Geological Survey, European Commission, and the European Space Agency. She added that Google was open to exploring a similar collaboration with ISRO.
Google said that it is going to update Google Earth annually with new Timelapse videos throughout the next decade.
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