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Shocking: Google Earth Timelapse Shows How Climate Change Has Transformed the Planet

Dec 01, 2016 04:33 AM EST
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Google Earth has released an update of its Timelapse feature, showing animated satellite imagery that goes back to 1984, and giving viewers a glimpse of how climate change has transformed the planet.
(Photo : NOAA via Getty Images)

In 2013, Google Earth Timelapse released its most comprehensive picture of the Earth's changing surface, working closely with TIME, NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to compile satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012.

On Nov. 29, Google Earth updated the feature with four additional years of imagery and new data, showing a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016, Google said in a press release.

Using the same techniques in the improved versions of Google Maps and Google Earth, the new Timelapse shows a sharper, more detailed view of the planet, with more accurate colors and fewer distracting artifacts.

Google also sifted through 5 million satellite images and took three quadrillion pixels to create 33 images of the Earth, one for each year between 1984 and 2016. The update includes petabytes of high-resolution imagery from two new satellites: Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2.

The resulting data allows viewers to watch the effects of climate change as they happen. Vivid imagery of activities on Earth could be seen, such as effects of carbon emissions and other factors including the rise in sea levels, glacial movements, urban growth, forest gain and loss, and development of infrastructures. Images also show the glaciers retreating in Antarctica, the expansion of tar sand mining in Canada, and rerouting rivers in Tibet, Engadget reports.

According to Popular Science, the updated version also shows the rapid recession of the Exit Glacier in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, which has been receding over the past 30 years. Even coastal areas of Louisiana show the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters. The update also illustrates the water crisis in Nebraska, where Lake McConaughy in the northern part of the Ogallala Aquifer - which supplies nearly one-third of U.S.'s irrigation water - is gradually depleting.

The new Timelapse feature can be viewed on the Earth Engine Website.

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