A few years back, Google made an interactive timelapse of the entire surface of the earth (because of course they did), and they just made a major update, adding four years to track humanity/nature’s course from 1984 to 2016. While the map isn’t detailed enough (yet) to see yourself checking the mail or inching along in traffic on the 10, you can witness–in seconds–the dramatic changes that have taken place all over the world in the last three decades—glaciers melting, rivers changing course, and cities like Los Angeles expanding and changing. (Unfortunately, for now, Google Earth Timelapse only works on desktop.)
Many of the most striking changes in the L.A. area occur up the city’s western edge. The port gains the pistol-shaped Pier 400. StubHub Center emerges as the CSU Dominguez Hills campus and the surrounding area transforms. The old Hollywood Park Racetrack is bulldozed in preparation for the Rams’ stadium. LAX gets some insane upgrades.
Downtown is too blurry to see in much detail, but it’s clear when the Staples Center and LA Live spring up in 1999. You may also notice when Dodger Stadium’s parking lot getting repaved, MacArthur Park Lake sits dry from 1991 to 1994, and Silver Lake Reservoir is drained. Further out, Calabasas seems to spring into existence.
To the northeast, near Antelope Valley, blocks of farmland in the desert give way to Solar Star—the largest solar plant in the world—which got up and running last year. What looks like an oozing sore in the desert turns out to be the Rio Tinto Boron Mine (per the Center for Land Use Interpretation, it’s both the largest open mine in California, and the biggest borate mine in the world).
On the fringes of the sprawl, suburbs like Rancho Cucamonga flow outward, running up against the San Gabriel Mountains. (In Orange County, development overtakes vast swaths of land in the blink of an eye). And then, way down south, you can see the Salton Sea as it shrinks, drying up ever so slowly.
You can hone in on specific areas of the city—or literally anywhere else in the world—using the tool yourself.
Thomas Harlander is a staff writer at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He recently wrote “These Are the Most Spectacular Vistas for Viewing the L.A. Skyline.”