Google Earth's timelapse feature puts a spotlight on climate change

The feature allows users to see a timelapse of any place on the planet.
The feature allows users to see a timelapse of any place on the planet.PHOTO: GOOGLE EARTH ENGINE

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Google Earth on Thursday (April 15) added a timelapse feature to the popular platform, providing a glimpse into how climate change, urbanisation and deforestation have altered the planet over the past four decades.

Created with 24 million satellite images, along with 800 curated videos and interactive guides, the feature allows users to see a timelapse of any place on the planet, using inputs from the NASA, US Geological Survey's Landsat program and the European Union's Copernicus program.

Climate change is causing more frequent and severe flooding, droughts, storms and heatwaves as average global temperatures rise to new records.

Google Earth's timelapse tool shows the change in coastlines, sprawling expansion of cityscapes and agricultural lands, as well as simultaneous recession of glaciers, forests and rivers.

One video shows rapid transition of forests near Bolivia into villages and farms, a major cause for deforestation in the Amazon rainforest; while another shows the recession of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska by 20km due to global warming.

Scientists have warned that a rise in global emissions of greenhouse gases may lead to extreme weather conditions and higher risks from natural disasters.