The proof is all around us ― and a new update to Google Earth’s Timelapse feature shows how much our planet has changed in just 30 years.
Google released the Timelapse update last week, adding an additional four years of data to the feature (so it now spans from 1984 to 2016), as well as high-resolution images from two new satellites. This has resulted in clearer-than-ever timelapses ― each a chronicle of humankind’s impact on the Earth over the decades.
If you haven’t yet played around with it, Timelapse is a nifty tool, allowing users to explore any location on the planet and see how it has transformed. Watch the rapid urban development of cities like Dubai, for example, or see how iconic infrastructure projects like the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge have evolved and observe how forests have disappeared to make way for urban sprawl.
But perhaps the most poignant use of Google’s Timelapse feature is its documentation of the impacts of climate change: receding glaciers, rising sea levels, coastal areas disappearing underwater and other effects.
Here, for instance, is the Exit Glacier in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, from 1984 up until today (use the scrollbar to move backwards and forwards in time):
This is Antarctica’s Shirase Glacier:
As Timelapse reveals, the impacts of rising sea levels are already evident.
The salt marshes of Dorchester County, Maryland, for instance, have become visibly more submerged since the 1980s:
Climate change has also exacerbated drought conditions in many parts of the world.
In Bolivia, drought was a major reason why Lake Poopó, nestled in the Altiplano Mountains, dried up ― and disappeared for good:
Closer to home, Lake McConaughy in Keith County, Nebraska, part of the Ogallala Aquifer, has also shown signs of strain. The aquifer, which supplies nearly one-third of the irrigation water in the United States, is being severely stressed by drought.
These Timelapse images are a reminder that climate change is not a future problem. Its impact on the environment is already being felt today.
Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity: Animals are being driven to extinction, record hot years are becoming the norm and the world, as these images illustrate, is rapidly morphing before our eyes.
Explore Google Timelapse for yourself and see how much the Earth has changed over the past 30 years.