Google Earth received its first major update since 2017 on Thursday. The highlight is a new time-lapse feature that lets you see how much the planet has changed over the past 37 years, and it’s pretty awesome what you can find.
With Google Earth Timelapse you can search anywhere on the system’s extensive world map and, thanks to more than 24 million satellite photos, compare how this place looked in 1984 and what it looks like today. You can also see how the planet has changed in a period in between, or watch a time-lapse video and see how global warming, deforestation and urban expansion have affected a particular region. Google Earth also has a few highlight sections that show you some of the bigger changes.
You can check it out by visiting g.co/Timelapse and typing any location or browsing some of the featured locations.
Here are five of the changes I noticed.
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil
Google Earth offers a terrifying look at deforestation. This is what part of the Amazon rainforest looked like in 1984:
The Amazon rainforest in 1984
This is what it will look like from 2020:
Dubai’s rapid expansion
Here’s a look at Dubai in 1984:
And this is how it will look from 2020:
The Google Earth update also shows how global warming has shrunk glaciers. Here is the Columbia Glacier in Alaska in 1984, for example:
Columbia Glacier in Alaska 1984
Columbia Glacier in Alaska in 2020
The update also includes an “Energy Sources” category, which can show you the impact mining operations have had on the planet. Check out the 1984 North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in Wyoming here:
Wyoming’s North Antelope Rochelle Coal Mine in 1984
The North Antelope Rochelle Coal Mine in Wyoming in 2020
Another feature in the “Fragile Beauty” section of the Google Earth update shows changing coastlines due to rising water levels or erosion due to natural disasters. In this beautiful example, you can see how farmland from 1984 turned back into forests after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Kirov, Russia, 1984:
As of 2020, Russian farmland turned into forests.