8 things to do with Historical Imagery in Google Earth

Last week we again showed you how the “Historical Imagery” feature in Google Earth works. It’s quite an amazing feature, with a lot of possible uses. With that in mind, here are 8 things you can do using Google Earth’s Historical Imagery:

Find clearer images of a place you want to examine closely. Sometimes areas (even in the base imagery) are obscured by clouds, haze, or poor lighting. You can sometimes find a clearer photo for a specific spot using historical imagery. For example, boaters or scuba divers can use historical imagery to find photos which better reveal underwater landscape, or shipwrecks. The lighting and water clarity varies depending on when photos were taken.

Find a unique shot of an area on a specific date of historical significance. For example, American Samoa was hit by a Tsunami on September 29, 2009. There’s a satellite image of parts of the country (including Pago Pago) where you can see signs of the damage done. Other examples include the massive earthquake in Haiti and the Four Mile Canyon fire in Colorado. Google often acquires its data from satellite companies (like GeoEye or DigitalGlobe) who take images after disasters to help rescue efforts.

Archaeologists can use historical imagery to find better angles or lighting to reveal subterranean archaeological sites (as was done in France by the armchair archeologist.


Reveal the devastation of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as shown in various examples: disappearing forests | hidden logging | climate change tour

See places further offshore. Google cut the imagery further offshore when they released the new undersea 3D ocean data in GE 5. But, if you turn on historical imagery you can see images that went further out to sea and reveal things like aircraft in flight, boats, ships, whales, and undersea features.


Use historical imagery to sometimes find different seasonal imagery (winter, fall, etc.)

See the growing urban sprawl in your area. It can be neat to simply look at your house/neighborhood from years ago to see how it has changed.

Watch the expansion of a major building. Schools and churches are often good examples of this, as they tend to build new wings and various new buildings over time. For example, flip through the historical imagery of this church to see various buildings added on in the past 17 years.


What are some other fun or interesting uses of the Historical Imagery tool? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.

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