July 1, 2022

What you need to know

  • Google used AI and Google Earth satellite data to produce real-time results of current and past land cover.
  • This tool will allow researchers to see the impact of urbanization, deforestation, climate change, and natural disasters like wildfires.
  • This tool will help governments and nonprofits 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 Earth’s changes over time, in order 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 taken up by 9 different categories of land: water, trees, grass, crops, shrubs, flooded vegetation, built-up area (aka urban area), bare ground, and snow/ice. You can check real-time info on current land cover or show how the land has changed in a given area over the course of weeks, months, or years.

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

Dynamic World creates thousands of images of the world per day that can determine land cover down to 10-meter resolution, meaning every display pixel covers 10m of space. Apparently this kind of land cover data “can take months or years to produce,” whereas Dynamic World takes just a few days, dating back to June 2015.