Nature and Biodiversity

10 Google Earth videos that show how much the world has changed

An aerial view shows a tract of Amazon rainforest which has been cleared by loggers and farmers for agriculture, near the city of Santarem, Para State April 20, 2013. The Amazon rainforest is being eaten away at by deforestation, much of which takes place as areas are burnt by large fires to clear land for agriculture. Initial data from Brazil's space agency suggests that destruction of the vast rainforest - the largest in the world - spiked by more than a third over the past year, wiping out an area more than twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. If the figures are borne out by follow-up data, they would confirm fears of scientists and environmental activists who warn that farming, mining and Amazon infrastructure projects, coupled with changes to Brazil's long-standing environmental policies, are reversing progress made against deforestation. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight as a United Nations Climate Change Conference opens in Warsaw, Poland, on November 11. Picture taken on April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce (BRAZIL - Tags: AGRICULTURE POLITICS ENVIRONMENT) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 02 OF 55 FOR PACKAGE 'AMAZON - FROM PARADISE TO INFERNO' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'AMAZON INFERNO' - RTX158ZG

In the past 30 years, places like the Amazon have been completely transformed Image: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

William Ibbott
Writer, Forum Agenda
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A lot has happened to Earth’s topography in the past three decades – the rapid spread of cities, melting glaciers, natural disasters and feats of engineering, to name a few.

Over the years, satellite imagery has captured these remarkable transformations, and now Google has updated its Earth Engine Timelapse feature with additional data and high-resolution images that show clearly how landscapes have changed in just 32 years.

Comprising 5 million satellite images from 1984 to 2016, Timelapse enables you to zoom in on any corner of the world and see what has happened to that area over the period, from the explosive growth of China’s cities to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Here are 10 of the most striking examples from Timelapse.

1. Dubai has been developed on- and off-shore. Watch the construction of the city’s famous Palm Islands.


2. Tourism has sparked rapid development in Las Vegas.


3. The Chinese city of Chongqing experienced a population growth of 10 million people between 1985 and 2015.


4. Until 2000, Denmark’s capital Copenhagen was cut off by sea from its Swedish neighbour Malmö. Today, a 12-kilometre bridge-tunnel links the two cities by road and rail.


5. Watch the destruction wreaked upon the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.


6. Glaciers have been retreating because of global warming. This video shows how the Columbia Glacier in Alaska has shrunk.


7. Rising global temperatures have also caused the polar ice caps to fragment over time.


8. The Aral Sea used to be one of the world’s largest lakes, but irrigation projects undertaken by the former Soviet Union reduced it to a fraction of its size.


9. Egypt’s Toshka Lakes were formed by overspill from the nearby Sadat Canal in the late 1990s, but drought and demand for water caused them to disappear.


10. Volcanic activity has stripped northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park of vegetation.

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