The Google Earth app is adding a new video feature that draws upon nearly four decades of satellite imagery to vividly illustrate how climate change has affected glaciers, beaches, forests, and other places around the world.
The tool unveiled on Thursday is rolling out in what is being billed as the biggest update to Google Earth in five years. Google says it undertook the complex project in partnership with several government agencies, including Nasa in the US and its European counterpart, in hopes that it will help a mass audience grasp the sometimes abstract concept of climate change in more tangible terms through its free Earth app.
Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald believes that mission may be accomplished.
“This is amazing,” she said after watching a preview of the new feature. Trying to get people to understand the scope of climate change and the land-use problem is so difficult because of the long time and spatial scales. I would not be surprised if this one bit of software changes many people’s minds about the scale of the impact of humans on the environment.”