Google Earth now has global Landsat and Sentinel 2 data from 1985 to 2016

Thank you for GEB reader Jonah for being the first to let us know. Google has added yearly global mosaics using Landsat and Sentinel 2 data going back to 1985. Google has long had these mosaics on Google Earth Engine which also provides a ‘Timelapse’ tool. As of this writing, the Google Earth Engine timelapse only goes up to 2012, but that will likely be updated too.

To see the mosaics, simply zoom out a bit and switch to ‘historical imagery’.

We plan to create tools to animate the new data, but that may take a few days.

Here are a few ‘before and afters’ showing changes between 1985 and 2016.

The Amazon, 1985 vs 2016

Dubai, 1985 vs 2016

The region around Shenzhen, China, 1985 vs 2016

Note that the new data is created by blending all Landsat/Sentinel 2 data for a whole year to remove clouds and snow cover. The result is that changes that happen on timescales less than a year, such as seasonal changes, will not be visible.

Google has not (as of this writing) updated the historical imagery layer with all the high resolution imagery that has been added since June 2016.

There is one disadvantage to the new data – it is much harder to find historical imagery, as you need to zoom in very close to the earth to see the high resolution historical imagery.

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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