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Ever-changing Earth: Google’s Timelapse update brings the world into clearer view

Google Timelapse: Columbia Glacier, Alaska
Google released a major update for its Timelapse project, which adds petabytes of more image data to the combined image, bringing us up to the modern day and adding more detail than ever before. Although older imagery still withholds some secrets of the past, the new images offer sharper contrast and truer colors. Our view of the world is now far crisper than it has ever been before.

Google originally launched its Timelapse project in 2013 in a joint effort between it, NASA, Time, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It combined millions of images taken of Earth from satellites over the past quarter century and combined all of the ones without clouds, into a single, zoomable map of the world. At the time it was the most detailed and comprehensive view of the world ever shown to the public.

But now the newly updated version has stolen that crown and the detail is spectacular. In its announcement post, Google highlighted some of the best timelapses to watch around the world. The growth of major cities like Las Vegas, the ice flow of the Shirase Glacier in Antarctica, the amazing expansion into the sea at Dalian, China, and more.

To make this project a reality, Google leveraged its new access to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program, as well as images from two additional imaging satellites launched over the past couple of years. With them and previous images, Google used 5 million pictures to create 33 new images of the world. Each is 3.95 terapixels in size but gives us the zoomable map we now have access to.

Carnegie Mellon’s Create Lab Time Machine library made it possible to skip through the years when looking at the individual images, in some cases showing an amazing growth in humanity’s exploits, but also the devastating impact we can have on the environment.

If you want to take a look around our ever-changing world, you can access it through the Earth Engine website, or through the historical imagery feature within the Google Earth desktop app. For those who would rather passively consume some of the most transient parts of our world, there’s also this YouTube playlist.

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