Google’s amazing new Timelapse may be the closest thing to a time machine that we’ve seen yet. Forget waiting for Doc to fix the time-traveling Delorean, Timelapse has the capability of showing some of the big changes seen on Earth since 1986. Although it can only go back 28 years, the feature lets us see the incredible growth of urban sprawl, or deterioration of the world’s forests, and the drift and melt of glaciers from year to year.
Fed by imagery meticulously collected by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, Google has documented some of the more interesting — and often unsettling — changes that have taken place across the globe. Sifting through high-res imagery collected over the past 40 years, Google picked intriguing sites, many of which show evidence of global climate change. Each frame of Timelapse represents a year, and when assembled together, the images show the rapid growth or decline of select areas.
We hear about these monumental Earth changes, but living in real-time they don’t seem as drastic as they really are. Through the magic of Timelapse, viewers can watch just how severe the Columbia glacier retreat in Alaska is, or the incredibly massive drying up of Lake Urmia in Iran by fast forwarding over nearly three decades. Las Vegas’ massive spread and the Amazon’s deforestation are also shown year by year.
Through Timelapse, researchers can keep tabs on important scientific data and information on the changing planet. But more importantly, it gives average joe — not to mention students — the ability to witness firsthand the evidence of our changing planet.