Google Earth meets Captain Planet with the new Dynamic World environment map


what you need to know

  • Google used AI and Google Earth satellite data to generate real-time current and past land cover results.
  • This tool will allow researchers to see the effects of urbanization, deforestation, climate change and natural disasters such as wildfires.
  • This tool will help governments and non-profit organizations track negative environmental changes over time down to the 10 meter level.

Google Earth has always reflected the current state of the world. Now Google and the World Resources Institute (WRI) are using this satellite data to actually track changes in the Earth over time to study environmental trends over time.

Dynamic World is a publicly available satellite tool that shows how much of the world’s land cover is occupied by 9 different land categories: water, trees, grass, crops, shrubs, flooded vegetation, built-up area (aka urban area), bare ground and snow/ Ice. You can get real-time information about current land cover, or view how the land in a specific area has changed over weeks, months, or years.

GIF showing the impact of a fire on land cover in El Dorado County, California

The impact of a fire on land cover in El Dorado County, California (Image credit: Google)

Dynamic World creates thousands of images of the world every day that can determine land cover down to a resolution of 10 meters, which means that each display pixel covers 10 m of area. Apparently it can take months or years to create this type of land cover data, while Dynamic World takes only a few days and dates back to June 2015.

Governments and scientists can use this data to track progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement, the site suggests, or to review the impact of natural disasters on the local environment. Dynamic World shows some time lapse examples like the aftermath of a wildfire and a volcanic eruption, as well as more benign changes like seasonal changes in an ecosystem.

We’ve previously seen some pretty amazing Google Earth time-lapses like the video above, showing shocking changes to the planet over the past four decades. But this is the first time Google Earth has been used in a more methodical and scientific way.

You can check out Dynamic World (opens in new tab) now for you Enter your zip code or city to get a closer look at where you live. Lower the opacity to find out exactly what you’re looking at, then change the dates and click Before/After for a sliding look at how the country around you has changed over the past few years.


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