Thursday, April 15, 2021

Explore 37 Years of Changes with Google Earth Timelapse

Back in 2013 Google launched an awesome standalone tool called "Google Earth Timelapse" which could show you how any location on Earth has changed over the past few decades with an animation created from all of their collected satellite imagery.

Now Google has made this project even more powerful and useful by bringing it inside of Google Earth itself. Although the standalone Timelapse site still works, you can now open Google Earth and access the same content through a built-in timelapse feature. This brings the added benefit of being able to move in 3D while viewing the changing landscape from the past 37 years, making Google Earth a truly 4D experience now!

Beyond that Google has also created themed collections of timelapses in Earth, as well as over 800 prerendered timelapse videos for you to use.

Altogether these resources can help students understand better than ever the changes happening to our world including forests, water, agriculture, wildfires, mining, urban growth, and more.

See below for a short video demonstrating how to use all of this new timelapse content, as well as written directions.

Tutorial Video (5 minutes)

Here is my quick 5-minute video on how to access and use the Google Earth Timelapse features to explore changes in our world from the past several decades.

View Timelapse in Google Earth

To explore Timelapse in Google Earth do the following:
  • You can access the tool directly by going to  
  • Or you can open Google Earth as normal at
  • Next click on the "Voyager" button in the toolbar on the left (the button looks like a ship's steering wheel).
  • From the "Voyager" screen you can now click on the tile for "Timelapse in Google Earth".
  • This will now open the Timelapse feature in Google Earth, which includes the Timelapse panel on the right side.
  • Here you can type in any location on Earth that you would like to explore.

  • Google Earth will now fly you to that location and begin playing an animation of satellite imagery from 1984 to the present.
  • Because this is Google Earth though, you can zoom in and out, move in any direction, and even switch from 2D to 3D view.

Note: It may take a little bit of time to load in all the images, depending on your Internet speed. You may need to let the animation run through a couple times before it clears up.

Exploring the Timelapse Stories

In the same Timelapse panel where you can search for any location, there is also a "Stories" tab. Here you will find guided tours that will take you to locations around the world where you can explore the changes through Timelapse.

The stories include "Changing Forests", "Fragile Beauty", "Souces of Energy", "Warming Planet", and "Urban Expansion".

After selecting a story, you can navigate through the content using the arrows in the bottom right.

Exploring the Timelapse Featured Locations

Also in the Timelapse panel you will find a section titled "Featured Locations". Here you will find collections of hand-selected locations around the world in categories such as "Agriculture", "Deforestation", "Glaciers", "Infrastructure", and many more.

After you choose a collection, you can now browse through the locations and view the Timelapse for each.

Exploring Timelapse Videos

In addition to the Timelapse feature inside of Google Earth, Google has also created a site with over 800 prerendered videos of timelapses from all around the world. You can access these at

You can narrow the collection by clicking the "Themes" button and choosing the category you want. Or you can click the "Regions" button to select just a certain area of the world.

For each location you can click the "3D" button to view a 3D version of the video.

Or you can click the "2D" button to watch the 2D version.

You can also click the "Download" button to download your own copy of the video in MP4 or GIF format.


And that's it! Google Earth Timelapse is a fantastic tool to allow our students, and everyone, to explore the changes in our world, and have a better understanding of nature, science, and human impact. Google promises to update Google Earth annually with new Timelapse images, so this will just become a more powerful tool over time.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with me on Twitter at

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