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Learn from the earth's own stories

EarthTime uses experts to track and connect patterns between a range of topics including city growth and renewables

EarthTime uses more than 300 geospatial datasets. Image courtesy:
EarthTime uses more than 300 geospatial datasets. Image courtesy:

A new website that combines dramatic images from space with expert analysis of how humans are changing the planet is launched today on World Earth Day (22 April).


EarthTime, developed by Carnegie Mellon University and the World Economic Forum (WEF), ties together diverse data layers to show the patterns and connections behind some of the major social and political trends of the past two decades and how they are inscribed into fast-changing landscapes.


The platform has already been used in public outreach in schools and museums, and to inform world leaders at World Economic Forum events of major environmental and geoeconomic shifts, from air pollution to inequality. It uses images captured by NASA satellites since 1984.


The vision, and long-term goal, is to better inform everyone – including individuals, business heads and policy-makers – about the lives we lead, the decisions we make and the impact we have on the planet.


“For most leaders, it is difficult to comprehend fully the scale and scope of the planetary and socioeconomic challenges we face,” said Lee Howell, managing director, head of global programming, World Economic Forum. “This pioneering digital platform allows the business, policy and scientific communities to make better decisions for our planet through visualisation and big data.”


Nine expert analyses on global challenges will be launched including city growth, urban fragility, deforestation, coral bleaching, fires at night, glaciers, renewables, sea-level rise, surface-water gain and loss. Other layers will be added in the months and years ahead.


EarthTime was developed by Create Lab, (the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab) at Carnegie Mellon University, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. It draws on the Forum’s network of experts to give analyses and to tell stories. Users will soon be able to create their own stories.


EarthTime uses more than 300 free, open-source, geospatial datasets, an unprecedented number for visualisations of this kind. Expert opinions make sense of the data and the connections between them allowing a layering of narratives. These stories are combined with images from space captured by NASA satellites between 1984 and 2016.


Current datasets come from the World Bank, the UNHCR, NASA, Berkeley Earth, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Climate Central, S&P Global, Kudelski, the International Renewable Energy Agency and WWF, to name a few. New data providers are being added constantly.


"EarthTime tries to build the common ground that we believe is essential to the discourse that we all must have as stewards of our planet and our joint future,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics, Carnegie Mellon University, and director, Create Lab.


“The Earth is changing dramatically. No single discipline can make sense of all that is now happening and no citizen is free from the consequences of what we all do next. We all must be involved in understanding earth’s changes and how we can work together to bring about our desired sustainable future into reality."


You can see EarthTime at


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