Thirty years of Canberra history from space

05 October 2018

Geoscience Australia has used satellite imagery to produce a 31 year time lapse of the nation's capital.

From the emergence of Gungahlin to Jerrabomberra and Googong, the time lapse shows how the Australian Capital Territory and its surrounding regions have developed to accommodate a growing population. From 1987 to 2018, Canberra's population alone grew from almost 250,000 to more than 400,000.


A 31 year time lapse of the nation's capital, produced using satellite imagery.

Historical events from the last three decades that have shaped Canberra are captured by the time lapse, including the completion of construction on new Parliament House in 1988 and the recovery from the devastating 2003 bushfires.

The acting Branch Head for National Earth and Marine Observations at Geoscience Australia, Dr Trevor Dhu said the time lapse had been made possible by Digital Earth Australia, which received $36.9 million of funding in this year's Federal Budget.

"Although it only took a couple of hours for one of our Earth Observation Scientists to produce, the Canberra time lapse is a simple but compelling example of the possibilities unlocked by Digital Earth Australia," Dr Dhu said.

"Before Digital Earth Australia, a time lapse like this would have taken days, if not weeks to produce.

"Although satellites have been collecting images and other Earth observations of Australia for more than 30 years, until recently, even for our scientists, this data was quite difficult to access and use."

Dr Dhu said to make the data more accessible, it was transferred to the high performance computing capabilities of the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), home to Australia's fastest supercomputer.

"By transferring the data to the high performance computing capabilities of the NCI, we were able to organise and prepare satellite data into stacks of consistent, time-stamped observations that can be quickly manipulated and analysed," Dr Dhu said.

"We're committed to sharing this knowledge globally, and for that reason Digital Earth Australia is completely open source. Right now, anyone with a bit of knowhow can access datasets produced by Digital Earth Australia using National Map.

"The Canberra time lapse is just a tiny fraction of Digital Earth Australia's petabyte potential. We're just starting to comprehend how unprecedented access to more than 30 years of information about the Australian landscape can improve our understanding of environmental change, the sustainable growth of our cities and regions, and improve our way of life.

"Our next challenge is to make sure that Digital Earth Australia is helping businesses to access and use this incredible data to produce new apps and help drive more sustainable development across Australia.

"We want to get this data into the hands of our communities, our farmers and our miners to make sure everyone can take advantage of this rich resource."

The Canberra time lapse was produced as part of Geoscience Australia's 80 Days of Earth Discovery celebration, which is focusing on the Australian Capital Territory from Monday, 1 October to Sunday, 7 October.

Follow Geoscience Australia on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest on 80 Days of Earth Discovery.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please email or call the Geoscience Australia 24 hour Media Hotline on 1800 882 035.