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Time-lapse images let you witness 28 years of Earth's changes

Google, NASA, and others show off dramatic time-lapse images that give a visual tour of how the Earth has evolved (and devolved) over the course of almost three decades.

A healthy Columbia Glacier in Alaska in 1984 -- scroll down for a later visual view. NASA/USGS/Google

A newly released series of dramatic time-lapse satellite images, available at Google's Timelapse Web site, shows just how quickly the world's landscapes have changed in the last 28 years.

The pictures, captured by the series of Landsat satellites and released in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and Time magazine, show several startling examples of how humans and natural processes have changed Earth from 1984 to 2012. You'll see the depressing decline of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, the blossoming of Dubai's epic cityscape, and Las Vegas' urban explosion. There's also an alarming look at the deforestation occurring in the Brazilian Amazon forest.

Rebecca Moore, an engineering manager for Google Earth, shared some stunning statistics behind the images, which have been in the works since 2009.

"Using Google Earth Engine technology, we sifted through 2,068,467 images -- a total of 909 terabytes of data -- to find the highest-quality pixels (e.g., those without clouds), for every year since 1984 and for every spot on Earth," Moore said. "We then compiled these into enormous planetary images, 1.78 terapixels each, one for each year."

Alaska's Columbia Glacier in 2012. NASA/USGS/Google