Earth is a planet defined by change, swinging through periods of intense heat and deep freeze even as oceans and continents are reshaped by the actions of plate tectonics. This constant reconfiguration has been a huge driver in the development of life on Earth. But scientists agree that human activity has now begun to influence the planet, changing the climate and drastically altering surface conditions.
Understanding how humans are affecting Earth’s system requires a better grasp on the natural cycles and events that have shaped our planet through deep time. Slide through the timeline above to explore how the globe has changed over seven major “snapshots” in our climate history, and to see how it might look in the far future.
Alex Tait is Vice President of International Mapping in Ellicott City, Maryland.
Tim Montenyohl is a 3-D Artist and Animator at International Mapping.
Ron Blakey is professor emeritus of geology at Northern Arizona University and founder of Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc.