Satellite imagery is the key to powering Google Earth Timelapse
One of the most comprehensive images of our changing planet is now available to the public. Thanks to the close collaboration between Google Earth, ESA, the European Commission, NASA and the US Geological Survey, 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years have been incorporated into a new layer of Google Earth – creating a searchable new view of time on our planet.
In the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017, users can now experience our planet in a whole new dimension: time. With a new feature called Timelapse in Google Earth, users can witness nearly four decades of change all over the planet. The update will show visual evidence of the drastic changes taking place in our world, including the effects of climate change and human behavior.
Users can now take a trip around the world, explore the ever-changing shapes of coastlines, track the growth of mega-cities, track deforestation and much more. For each topic, Google Earth will take you on a guided tour to better understand the changes on the planet and how people experience them.
Rebecca Moore, Director of Google Earth, said: “This update was made possible thanks to open data provided by the European Union’s Copernicus program and its Sentinel satellites, as well as by NASA and the Landsat program of the European Union. ‘US Geological Survey. The Copernicus Sentinel-2 high-resolution imaging mission has been integral to the development of Google Earth’s new Timelapse feature and the unique global vision we now bring to people around the world. “
Maurice Borgeaud, Head of Science, Applications and Climate for ESA’s Earth Observation Programs, said: “Using Copernicus Sentinel data enables millions of people to explore changes on Earth. But what the operational fleet of European satellites allows us to do goes much further! We analyze all aspects of changes on our planet – whether natural or man-made – and their impact on the climate. “
The Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites designed to provide the wealth of data and imagery that is at the heart of the European Union’s Copernicus environmental program. The Copernicus Sentinel-2 high-resolution imaging mission, used primarily for land monitoring, has been key to improving Timelapse and its functionality.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a polar orbiting mission based on a constellation of two identical satellites in the same orbit, 180 ° apart for optimal coverage and data transmission. The combination of high resolution, new spectral capabilities, a bandwidth of 290 km and frequent visit times provides unprecedented views of the Earth, every five days at a spatial resolution of 10 m.
This new timelapse feature was time consuming and involved “pixel crunching” in Earth Engine, Google’s geospatial analysis platform. In order to add the animated Timelapse images to Google Earth, more than 20 million satellite images from 1984 to 2020 have been collected. In total, it took more than 2 million processing hours on thousands of machines in Google Cloud to integrate 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single 4.4 terapixel video mosaic.
In order to explore Timelapse, users can use the search bar to choose any location on the planet where they want to see the moving time. Google Earth will be updated with timelapse imagery every year for the next decade or so as new satellite imagery becomes available.
To explore this new layer in Google Earth, go to Time lapse.