Computer scientist Rebecca Moore and her team at Google created Google Earth Engine to enable global-scale data-mining.
Earth Engine brings together trillions of scientific measurements dating back over 40 years and Google gives researchers, scientists, and nations the tools to analyse this data to detect changes and trends.
Using Landsat satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012, the team was able to create half a dozen incredible time-lapse maps that show areas of particularly dynamic change.
The result is jarring.
“You can see the human impact on the landscape,” Moore told Business Insider. “You can see urban development, deforestation, agricultural creation. You can see impacts of climate change.”
You can explore the entire planet on Google Earth Engine here.
You can watch the Columbia Glacier in Alaska melt away. It began its rapid retreat in the 1980s, likely triggered by climate fluctuations.
The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan was once the world's fourth-largest lake, but it has all-but dried up after two of the rivers that fed it were diverted for agriculture:
Only 5% of the water that used to fill Lake Urmia in Iran remains, due to a combination of global warming, irrigation practices, and the depletion of groundwater supplies. The country now faces an extreme water shortage:
As the dark green on this map disappears, you get a startling view of the rate of deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest:
'This map shows coal mining in Wyoming,' Moore says. 'It's ripping up the landscape. Isn't it insane? It's like Pac-Man.'
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