Friday, April 23, 2021

Google Earth in 4D

I've posted before on Google Earth as a resource for biblical mapping and study. They just announced (2021.04) one of the first significant updates in 4 years. Google Earth has long had a 'history' option so that you could check out imagery taken at various times, but now it's been integrated into a smoother browser experience.
In the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017, you can now see our planet in an entirely new dimension — time. With Timelapse in Google Earth, 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years have been compiled into an interactive 4D experience. Now anyone can watch time unfold and witness nearly four decades of planetary change.

HERE for the full announcement.

The primary goal is to show the dramatic environmental changes that have occurred, but there are some interesting things to check from a biblical perspective. While the detail is not granular enough to focus on, e.g., the excavations at a site, it can make evident macro-level changes from ~1984-2020. Here are a couple I could notice.

  • Water level on the Sea/Lake of Galilee: This will bring you to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. What you can notice is the varying water levels. In particular, you can see how the excavations at el-Araj, one of the proposed sites of Bethsaida, is affected by the water level. The 2020 image shows why the site was partially submerged in 2020.

  • Water levels on the Dead Sea near Ein Gedi: It's pretty easy to see the contraction of water levels on the Dead Sea. I'm not sure what the latest situation is at Ein Gedi, but there used to be a nice beach there that I think is now closed. Even the road was closed for a time due to large sinks caused by the lower water level.

The viewer works best in Chrome. There are lots of options for the visualizations, including details, map styles, creating projects, etc. Check it out!

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