A look back in time

Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:45 AM

I'm happy to announce that we've recently added a large update of historical imagery to Google Earth. While looking through these images I once again realized how powerful historical imagery is in illustrating the progress of events in our world. The massive amount of historical imagery available at your fingertips through Google Earth lets you explore changes in time in a way never seen before. Progress and destruction of our natural and built environment is readily apparent.

Take the construction of "The World" islands in Dubai. How grand is this achievement? You can go to Google Earth, load up the Historical Imagery feature and see the scope of this endeavor for yourself.

Left image taken on December 23, 2004, right image taken on October 28, 2006. The archipelago took only 5 years to build.

Historical Imagery also lets you visualize, for yourself, important environmental trends such as the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest -- no need to try to decipher scientific studies; just look at the images.

Population growth and expansion into the forest in Rondônia, Brazil. Left image taken on June 19, 1975, right image take on September 19, 2001.

Looking at snapshots of the past can also help you conceptualize the extent of a horrible natural disaster and empathize with its victims. Seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina one image at a time really brings the force and devastation of the events to you in a new and powerful way.
I-10 highway in New Orleans. Left image taken on April 9th, 2004, right image taken on September 2, 2005 just after Katrina hit. Notice the highway is mostly submerged underneath the flooding.

Another harrowing instance is an image of New York City taken on September 12, 2001, in which a plume of smoke is visible; though tragic, it serves as an important part of the historical record.

These are just some of the many gripping examples of development and change in Google Earth. As you explore the world over time, you can witness both the tragedies and the triumphs throughout recent history. We will continue to update our databases with more imagery so check back in the future to see what other moments in human history will be revealed.