Watch 13 years of development and change on any point on the globe.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Landsat satellite imaging system that's been taking pictures of earth from space since 1972, the good folks at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey recently released a big set of images showing how the planet has changed over those four decades. Included in this birthday package was this nice set of images showing how 11 different cities around the world have changed in recent years. To help celebrate, we converted some of those time-separated images of cities into these 11 animated GIFs. It was quite the party.

Well, the internet overlords at Google have dealt our measly two-frame animations a big one-up. They've managed to import a huge chunk of that Landsat imagery into their Google Earth Engine, allowing users to move back and forth to any year between 1999 and 2011 on literally any spot on the map. They've even set it up so that users can watch a time-lapse animation of these 13 years of imagery for any place, zoomed in to almost any vantage point a map nerd could desire. This "time-explorable" map can only be viewed in the Chrome and Safari web browsers, but that shouldn't be too much of a barrier. (To get at it, have to go to Google Earth Engine, click through to one of the featured galleries like the Las Vegas time-lapse video, and a link will appear below taking you to the map if you are using Safari or Chrome).

In the video below, Bruce Pengra of the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Resource Information Database explains how Landsat imagery can show the dramatic urban changes that have happened in recent years, focusing on Las Vegas.

It's an interesting look at one city, but also shows how this fancy time-lapse map can give users a very visual understanding of change over time. The map has only 13 years of Landsat's 40 years of imagery, but that's still pretty incredible. It's a phenomenal piece of work, and one that will be sure to entertain and intrigue anyone interested in maps and change over time.

Image: Google/YouTube

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. POV

    Why the Future Looks Like Pittsburgh

    The city’s rise as a global innovation city reflects decades of investment in emerging technology, a new Brookings report says.

  2. People are pictured dancing in a bar.
    Civic Life

    How to Be a Good 'Night Mayor'

    New York is the first major American city to create an official body to oversee nightlife. Here’s what it can learn from the European cities that have tried it so far.

  3. Transportation

    An App For Democratizing Street Design

    So far, tech companies have been determining how driverless cars will fit into the grid. ReStreet invites you to weigh in.

  4. Life

    Where New York City Is Going Next

    In part two of our interview with Dan Doctoroff, the former deputy mayor of economic development and current CEO of Sidewalk Labs shares his thoughts on zoning, transportation, technology, and President Trump.

  5. Life

    The History of Sears Predicts Nearly Everything Amazon Is Doing

    One hundred years ago, a retail giant that shipped millions of products by mail moved swiftly into the brick-and-mortar business, changing it forever. Is that happening again?