Most of us have had the experience of meeting up with an old friend we’ve not seen for many years and being
surprised by the changes in their appearance since last we saw them. Small lines have become deeper, wrinkles have
cropped up where previously there were none, and there’s now more salt than pepper in their hair, or maybe the hair
has gone altogether. Perhaps our friend is a bit more stout or svelte than we remember. Sometimes the changes are
subtle; others more dramatic.
Thanks to technology, we have the opportunity to gain unique perspective on just these sorts of changes in one of
our dearest old friends: the Earth. Google Timelapse is a collection of interactive videos that chronicle the changes that
have taken place across our planet - forests, coastlines, glaciers, human habitat and more - since 1984. Some Earth
changes are an outcome of the natural rhythms of the planet: others clearly reflect the impact of human activity on
The project utilized compiled imagery acquired over the last 30 years from five different satellites, stitching images
together to create timelapse progressions of discrete landscapes and locations. The majority of the images were
taken from Landsat, a joint project of the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) and NASA that has observed the Earth
since the 1970s. The European Commission and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observation program also
contributed significantly to the image base.
Formerly only available to scientists and others with a ‘need to know’, Timelapse expands the availability of imagery
and information to researchers, journalists - and the rest of us. It offers a tangible, easily digestible visual chronicle of
the changes that have taken place across the globe in under 40 years, barely the blink of an eye in geologic time.
If you’re of a mind and have the time, take a few minutes to page through this largest and most magical of family
albums to see how our old friend, Earth, has changed over the years. The images are awe-inspiring and thought-
provoking. You can search, pan, zoom around or just let Earth’s story unfold before your eyes.
You can get started here.