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

Lake Urmia
Over the past few decades Lake Urmia in Iran has steadily dried up. 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.

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.

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

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