Coincidental to the news today that the Earth has hit a record level of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, Google and collaborations from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA and TIME, have released a project called Timelapse in which satellite images from the USGS/NASA Landsat program, spanning in some cases up to 41 years, were culled and crunched into time lapse animations to show the effects of human development on the planet as seen from space. At the end of 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation published a report that included ideas for dealing with the seemingly inevitable water shortage looming for the Southwest. The report drew some headlines because the ideas included a plan for wrapping icebergs and towing them into the port of Los Angeles. Looking at the Las Vegas time lapse above is a striking illustration of the crisis they likely face. You can almost hear the slurping sound as the lake recedes and the city expands. (I realize drought is part of the problem there, not just development.) The actual animations are larger than the example above and you can zoom the map to anywhere, so it’s worth clicking through and playing with it for a little while. If you don’t have any ideas for where to look, don’t worry, they’ll show you exploding cities, deforestation, the ravages of resource mining and the all-too-familiar glacial melt.
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Earth in time lapse shows human wear and tear