Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
In time for Earth Day, last week Google unveiled Google Earth Timelapse, allowing users to see zoomable videos documenting how the Earth has changed since 1984. Through the eyes of a satellite, users can view sobering and sometimes alarming trends of deforestation, sea-level rise, dried up seas, and urban sprawl. Developers hope that this program, a product of 37 years of documentation, can help people see and believe in climate change and fight back.
Why This Matters: The world is fast approaching its deadline to stop global temperature rise and prevent total climate catastrophe, but in the U.S., the world’s second-largest emissions producer, some politicians are still fighting the climate efforts to control emissions. A recent Gallup poll found that Republicans and Democrats are more divided than ever on climate change. In the wake of COVID-19, many have put their environmental priorities on the backburner. Experts say this tool could help re-invigorate support for environmental causes, using visual storytelling to show people that the natural world is facing a pandemic all its own. More “proof” we need to adhere to the Paris Accord and conserve 30% of the planet by 2030.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
The Google Earth Engine combined over 24 million satellite images to create the cloud-free time lapse. Google worked with U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and the EU’s Copernicus Program to gather data and Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to process and display the images. “More than two million processing hours across thousands of machines in Google Cloud to compile 20 petabytes of satellite imagery into a single 4.4 terapixel-sized video mosaic,” said Google in a statement. The computing was also powered by data centers using 100% renewable energy, in keeping with Google’s emissions goals. The tool is available on desktop and mobile, increasing access to these visual stories.
The tool showcases notable lapses worldwide, including the melting of Alaskan glaciers, the drying of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and massive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Americans may note drought quickly moving in on the Midwest, and Louisianans can see the state’s coastline rapidly recede. But in addition to showing the public a new perspective, the tool may provide experts with valuable data on large climate systems.
Scientists used a previous version of the time-lapse tool to show that melting permafrost in the Arctic was responsible for increasing summertime landslides on a Canadian Arctic island. Measuring receding permafrost is crucial to fighting climate change because, as permafrost melts, it releases the potent GHG methane into the atmosphere. The tool is also handy for measuring sea level rise, especially in coastal communities prone to hurricanes and flooding. But more optimistically, it could also become a good tool for visualizing the progress the world makes if it stays on track to meet Paris Agreement targets.
To Go Deeper: Watch all the time-lapse sequences here. It’s worth your time. You will be shocked but not surprised.
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer While going to space has been one big step for mankind, it could also be one big step backward for the environment. Tesla’s SpaceX Starship launched earlier this year, which triggered a fireball to explode on the launchpad. This explosion shot debris across the Boca Chica tract of the […]
“Arguably, the light bulb is the most transformative invention humans have introduced to this planet. But if light bulbs have a dark side, it’s that they have stolen the night.” Nadia Drake, a contributing writer for national geographic, says that losing our connection to the night sky is one of the world’s great tragedies. But now, […]
In the span of two weeks, two of the world’s richest men blasted off to suborbital space with the intended goal of promoting commercial spaceflight. This past week, Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos took his trip on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. This prompted questions about the environmental impact of private space travel. The […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.