Google Earth has updated the Timelapse with new images that allow anyone to visualize, through an interactive map in four dimensions, the evolution of Almeria's greenhouse plastic ocean.
Almeria is one of 300 locations that have been incorporated into the video library that has more than 800 accelerated timelapse sequences made using millions of satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2022 provided by institutions with open and accessible data such as NASA, the Landsat program of the United States Geological Survey, and the EU Copernicus program.
Six decades after the beginning of intensive agriculture in the West, the sequences of the Google Earth 1984-2022 Timelapse show the rapid expansion of greenhouses in Almeria. They already existed before the eighties, concentrated in the northern strip of El Ejido, but at that time, they occupied less than a tenth of the more than 40,000 hectares they occupy now.
According to recent research by the scientist Adam Voiland, based on the images captured on the Landsat 9 satellite, Almeria's plastic ocean is having a cooling effect on the region's weather because the greenhouse's white roofs reflect a substantial amount of sunlight. Using observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites, researchers from the University of Almeria calculated that Almería's surface albedo increased by nearly 10% between 1983 and 2006 because of the high reflectivity of the greenhouse roofs.
The first Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque affirmed on a visit to the province in 2017 that "the Almerian agro is the man-made structure that attracts the most attention from space." When viewed from a satellite, the holdings emerge as a huge white shell over a vast expanse. The sea of plastic is one of the country's most singular features when viewed from the sky. It started in the second half of the last century when producers built the first grape greenhouses in the region.
The greenhouses have expanded into the West of Almeria and to other points of the east, such as the Fields of Nijar, but always to a lesser extent and with a lower impact on the landscape. Google Earth allows us to witness in real-time the new transformations of the territory. For a few days, the videos have been available to anyone interested in viewing the updated timelapse sequences on Google Earth (g.co/timelapse) and on YouTube (g.co/timelapsevideos).