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See how much Chicago has developed over the last 30 years

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A new time lapse feature from Google Earth shows how cities around the globe have changed over the decades

We’ve all heard the stories about Chicago’s stagnant population growth, but yet at the same time, the city is experiencing a construction boom that hasn’t been seen in years. The stats say that the city is changing, and now with satellite images from Google Earth, we can get a pretty good view of how exactly the city has developed over the years. Google teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to create an interactive map tool which features 33 cloud-free comprehensive mosaics of the earth (Google says that over 5 million satellite images from over the past three decades were used to create these mosaics).

So, how has Chicago changed? Certainly the downtown area has developed significantly over the last few decades. Another area that is easy to see the change is at O’Hare International Airport. But one other thing that this project really showcases is how much satellite imaging technology has improved over the decades. When the three decades’ worth of images are combined to create a time lapse, it’s pretty easy to see what’s changing. However, when we look at the still images from the early-mid ‘80s, the picture is not so clear.

To play around with the interactive tool yourself, head over to the Google Earth Engine. However, we’ve put together a view before and after images of Chicago to get an idea of how the city has developed between 1984 and today.


Downtown Chicago:

North Side:

South Side: