28-Year Satellite Time-Lapse Shows Exactly What We’re Doing to Our Planet | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
October 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

28-Year Satellite Time-Lapse Shows Exactly What We’re Doing to Our Planet

28 years in just a few seconds, as seen from space

smithsonian.com

Over the past few decades Lake Urmia in Iran has steadily dried up. Photo: Google / Landsat 

Since 1972, the U.S. has flown a series of satellites known as the Landsat program, a fleet of Earth-observing satellites that were tasked with taking pictures from space. Landsat’s gorgeous photos have been a favorite of the Earth-as-art crowd, and the satellites’ observations have provided an absolutely critical long-term record of how our planet is changing.

The development of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Landsat / Google

Today, Google put out the Earth Engine, a fascinating tool that showcases a scrollable, zoomable time-lapse of the entire planet as seen by Landsat over the decades. The Landsat photos only go back to 1984, but they show the dramatic ways in which the planet has changed in such a brief period of time. To help you get started, Google pulled out some highlights to look at, such as the drying of the Aral Sea or the deforestation of the Amazon. But the tool does show the whole planet (just the land, not the oceans), and there are many more cool things to be seen.

NASA’s Earth Observatory has a more detailed look at this, the development of the oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. Photo: Landsat / Google

But don’t bother looking for Antarctica, because it’s not included. (Sad.)

More from Smithsonian.com:

NASA Has Been Recording Earth’s Surface for 40 Years, and Today Is Its Last Chance to Keep That Going
Share a Bit of Earth’s Majesty With Every Letter You Send

Tags
About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus