Monday, July 23, 2012

Forty years of our planet, from space


Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Landsat satellite program -- now the longest-running continuous acquisition of satellite images of the Earth's surface. Over the years, Landsat has collected petabytes of images offering an historic perspective on planetary change that can help scientists, independent researchers, and nations make informed economic and environmental policy decisions.

We’re working with the USGS and Carnegie Mellon University, to make parts of this enormous collection of imagery available to the public in timelapse videos of the Earth's surface. With them you can travel through time, from 1999-2011, to see the transformation of our planet. Whether it’s deforestation in the Amazon, urban growth in Las Vegas or the difference in snow coverage between the seasons. Here are a few highlights.

Landsat timelapse tour of the Amazon rainforest shows the spread of deforestation between 1999 (left) and 2011 (right).

The rapid growth of Las Vegas, Nevada between 1999 (left) and 2011 (right) is visible in the Landsat timelapse tour.

A seasonal timelapse created using MODIS imagery, where every video frame represents about one week. This shows snow-cover differences over the U.S. between February and August, 2002.

We believe these may be the largest video frames ever created. If you could see the entire video at full resolution, a single frame would be 1.78 terapixels which is 18 football fields' worth of computer screens laid side-by-side.

In 2008, the USGS opened access to the entire Landsat archive for free. Google Earth Engine makes it possible for this data to be accessed and used by scientists and others no matter where they are in the world. Watch the video below to learn more about the history of the Landsat program and how Google Earth Engine was used to process and analyze this enormous archive of planetary imagery.



Happy 40th, Landsat! We're proud to be making this vast archive available to the public, and to be enabling deep analysis of this data by scientists and policymakers all over the world. Head over to the Google Earth Engine site to experience all the fully interactive tours of these timelapse videos.