Thursday, February 21, 2019

Satellite Remote Sensing Analytics

The Earth Observing System's LandViewer application is an online GIS-assistant which provides a set of advanced tools to perform real-time remote sensing data analytics. The site allows you to access and use a constantly updated satellite imagery catalog.

One of the coolest features of LandViewer is the ability to create your own time-lapse animations using satellite imagery captured over time. With this function you can easily create videos or animated GIF's which show changes to locations over time. For example, in the image above you can see the construction of the Bhadla Solar Park in India between 2016 and 2019 using Sentinel-2 satellite imagery. The time-lapse tools in LandViewer allow you to customize the quantity of frames per second, resize the video, create a GIF, show dates and download the results.

The imagery in LandViewer provides access to imagery from the world’s top providers of high-resolution satellite imagery, including Airbus Defense & Space, SI Imaging Services, and SpaceWill. It also allows you to browse, preview and purchase products from Pléiades 1a/1b, SPOT 5, SPOT 6 and SPOT 7, as well as KOMPSAT-2, 3, 3A and SuperView, Gaofen 1, 2, and Ziyuan-3.

LandViewer includes tools which allow you to perform time series analysis of satellite imagery. For example you can perform analysis of vegetation growth, crop identification, and land use change. Landviewer is therefore an important tool in a number of different fields. In agriculture monitoring it can be used to identify high/low crop yield and identify different types of vegetation areas for fertilizing, sowing/resting, and watering. In coastal monitoring LandViewer can be used to analyze coastal zones and to analyze water temperature, salinity, phytoplankton, and potential threats to shores. In forestry LandViewer can be used to identify identification of specific zones by vegetation density, vegetation type and monitor deforestation.

The World Map of Shipping Traffic

This map of global shipping density reveals the world's major shipping lanes and also the areas of the world that the major shipping companies avoid. The reasons why some areas of the world's seas and oceans don't see as much traffic as others can vary from geo-political reasons to the dangers of piracy and local sailing conditions.

The live ship tracking map MarineTraffic includes an option to view a density map of the world's shipping traffic. If you select the 'Density Maps' overlay on MarineTraffic you can view an overlay which shows the accumulated recorded data of all vessels on MarineTraffic over recent years.

If you zoom in on the coastline of North Korea on MarineTraffic you can see that there don't seem to be many ships breaking the international trading sanctions. The coastline of Somalia is another area which seems to have less dense marine traffic than other countries' coastlines. The reason that ships avoid Somalia however is presumably more to do with the dangers of piracy.

The Gulf of Sirte off the coast of Libya is another area with a low density of ship traffic. According to Wikipedia the dangers to boats in the gulf have been known for centuries, "Ancient writers frequently mention the sandbanks (in the gulf) and their vicinity as dangerous for shipping".  Elsewhere marine traffic might avoid coastlines because of Emission Control Areas. The EU, the US and Canada all have controls which force ships to use cleaner and more expensive fuel near coastlines.

The different types of routes and journeys taken by different types of marine vessel around the UK can be seen in a series of maps by Alasdair Rae. In Watching the Ships Go By Alasdair has created a number of static maps showing the vessel tracks of different types of vessel in the coastal waters around the UK. These include maps showing the different routes taken by cargo ships, passenger ships, fishing boats, high speed craft, military vessels, tankers and recreational craft.

You can also explore the different shipping routes of different types of vessel using is an outstanding animated interactive map visualizing the movements of the global merchant shipping fleet over the course of one year. The map uses AIS shipping data from exactEarth to visualize the movements of different types of cargo ships over the course of 2012. allows you to filter the ships shown on the map by type of cargo vessel. The narrated tour provided with this map also explains some of the interesting patterns that emerge from mapping the worldwide merchant shipping trade.

The History of Settlements in Hungary

Partly inspired by the New York Times' popular Map of Every Building in America the Atlo data visualization team decided to undertake a detailed examination of the street patterns of urban settlements in Hungary. In Roads, Buildings, Networks Alto looks at the different types of settlement morphology and the history of urban growth and planning in the country.

Roads, Buildings, Networks includes an interactive map which shows only the outlines of building footprints and roads. The data for this map comes from OpenStreetMap. Unfortunately the building footprint data for Hungary on OSM can be a little patchy, however the Atlo map does provide an interesting view of the street patterns of Hungary's urban settlements.

Accompanying the interactive map is a very detailed explanation of how terrain, hydrography, history and other factors have helped shape Hungary's different urban environments. Through this exploration of settlement morphology Atlo identifies distinct forms. These include the spherical street patterns of the historic mining towns and the regular chessboard-like street patterns which resulted from the urban planning which began in the 17th century,

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Navigating the Green Book

In the 1930's Victor H. Green started publishing an African-American travel guide (first published as 'The Negro Motorist Green Book' and later as 'The Negro Travelers' Green Book'). In the guides Green reviewed hotels and restaurants which welcomed Black customers during the time of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.

Back in 2013 the University of South Carolina created an interactive Green Book Map which visualized over 1,500 listings from the Spring 1956 Green Book. Unfortunately the University of South Carolina's interactive Green Book Map has suffered the Google Maps API kiss of death and now all the map tiles are stamped with unsightly 'For development purposes only' warnings. However there is no need to worry as you can peruse the new NYPL Navigating the Green Book route planner instead.

Navigating the Green Book allows you to plan a route anywhere in the USA and find hotels, restaurants and bars which were welcoming to African Americans during the times of segregation. The map attempts to show a restaurant every 250 miles and a lodging every 750 miles. You can read more about the map, the Green Book and the New York Public Libraries attempts to map the entries in the Green Book at the NYPL Digital Collections.

Mapping the Carbon Costs of Flying

Flying is one of the worst things that you can you do for the environment. Aircraft are just about the worst forms of transport in terms of the CO2 cost per passenger kilometer. The UK's Department for Transport claim that flying is responsible for at least 6.3% of the UK's CO2 emissions. Many environmentalists say that this is an underestimation.

The Flight Emissions Map allows you to calculate the carbon cost of every single air flight that you have taken. Using the map you can enter flights that you have taken or plan to take simply by clicking on cities on the map. Once you have entered each flight the map shows you the amount of CO2 emission of that flight in kilograms. You can enter more than one flight on the map and receive a carbon cost for each flight and an overall total.

The map calculates the total emissions of a flight based on an estimation of the CO2 emitted for each kilometer of travel. The Flight Emissions Map uses an equidistant azimuthal projection. The red lines on the map follow a great circle and each red line shows the equal distances from your selected point of departure.

Mapping the Approaching Apocalypse

Magyarország Húszezer év Múlva (Hungary in 20,000 Years) is a collection of four interactive maps which imagine what a post-apocalyptic Hungary might look like. I have no idea why living under the rule of Viktor Orbán would make Hungarians think about the end of the world, but the pessimistic developers of these maps have imagined four different scenarios that could lead to the end of human existence and then mapped out how these scenarios might change the way the world will look.

The Mad Max scenario (pictured above) imagines a Hungary which has succumbed to desertification after global warming or a nuclear war. The Water World scenario maps Hungary after some really dramatic rising sea levels. The Holnaputan scenario pictures Hungary in a future ice age. Finally the Jurassic Park scenario imagines a world which has returned to nature after the disappearance of man.

Each of these four Hungarian maps were created using Mapbox Studio which makes it very easy to change the colors of different base-map layers. Another example of changing different map features is Hans Hack's Green Berlin. This map changes the roads of Berlin into canals and footpaths. Every single piece of concrete in the city seems to have been replaced with grass on the Green Berlin map.

Another glimpse into the post-apocalyptic future can be found on Frequency 2156. Frequency 2156 is a radio station and Google Map that has been transmitted back through time from the year 2156. In the year 2156 the world is suffering from a twenty year long nuclear war.

Frequency 2156 appears to be gathering data about survivors of this global nuclear war. The map allows you to listen to the messages sent into the station from survivors around the world. You can really mess with the heads of those survivors by recording your own message on the map. Your message will then be transmitted forward through time to this future dystopian world.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Exploring the Moon

The LROC Lunar QuickMap is an interactive map of our nearest neighbor. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) is a system of three cameras mounted on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a robotic spacescraft currently orbiting the Moon. The Lunar Quickmap interactive is created from the high resolution images of the lunar surface captured by the LROC.

The LROC QuickMap includes a number of different map projections which allow you to view both the nearside and the farside of the moon. It also includes north and south pole polar projections of the moon and even a full 3D globe view. Using the map layers menu you can add or remove place-names and the locations of geologic features, such as craters and mare boundaries. The layers menu also allows you to add or remove lots of different types of lunar imagery captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

Moon Trek is another interactive map of the moon, which was created by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Caltech. The map allows you to explore the named features of the moon, learn about lunar exploration and access current research about our nearest neighbor. The map also includes a 3D globe of the moon and the ability to create your own fly-overs of the lunar surface.

Moon Trek has a number of different layers which can be added to the lunar map. These layers include imagery and observations from NASA's missions to the moon. Moon Trek also includes a number of different tools which allow you to measure distances on the map and create elevation plots. You can also use Moon Trek with VR headsets to take a virtual tour of the moon and even download data to 3D print selected areas of the moon's surface.

The Cheapest Flight to Every City in the World

Three researchers at MIT Senseable's Lab in Singapore have created an interactive map which shows the cheapest flight to every city in the world on any given date from your nearest airport. Using the Great Escape map you can search for any destination across the globe and find the cheapest flights for when you want to travel.

Enter a point of departure into the Great Escape and the interactive map will show you the live prices of the cheapest return flight to each and every city in the world from your nearest airport. To discover the cost of a return flight to any destination you just need to hover over its marker on the map. If you click on a city marker you can view the entire list of flights to that city. The map also includes options which allow you to filter the flights shown by weather, price, region, direct or indirect flights and whether you need a visa or not.

The flight price data shown on the map comes from the Skyscanner API and Kiwi API. The map itself was built using and Mapbox GL. At the moment the map can't show you one way tickets prices but I understand that option is in the pipeline and should be added to the map soon.

If you want to try an alternative to Great Escape you could try Google Flights, or skiplagged.

The 2019 Submarine Cable Map

Drum roll please ... the 2019 Telegeography Submarine Cable Map has arrived. Every year Telegeography releases a new updated version of its map of the global network of undersea telecommunication cables. This year's map highlights the huge recent building boom in submarine cables. This boom will see in the next few years around 107 new submarine cables being laid around the world, adding over 400,000 kilometers of new telecommunication cable to the global network.

A number of information insets along the bottom of the 2019 map help explain this new building boom. These include insets showing new countries which will soon be connected for the first time and the amount of new cables being laid in the different global regions. Content providers, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, are investing and driving much of this new building boom in submarine cables. An inset for each of these companies shows where each company is driving the construction in new submarine cable infrastructure.

You can still view previous versions of Telegeography's Submarine Cable maps. Here is Telegrogaphy's 2018 Submarine Cable Map. If you want to view the maps from previous years you can just change the year in the URL. For example, one of my favorite Telegeography maps can be found at This 2015 map was inspired by medieval and renaissance cartography and features not only a vintage map style but sea monsters, cartouches and map border illustrations.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Should Your Maps Talk?

Back in 2014 I used the fairly new (at the time) Web Speech API to create a simple Speaking Map. That map used reverse geocoding to speak the address of a location every time someone clicked on the map.

What I neglected to add to my Speaking Map was jokes. Which is where Alex wins out. Alex is a talking map which can understand a number of different spoken commands. You can ask Alex to zoom in and out on the map or to switch between aerial and topographical map layers. You can even tell Alex a location and it will center the map on that area. Alex's best feature, however, is its ability to tell Dad jokes. Ask Alex to tell you a joke and you can hear a really bad cartographically themed joke.

In the Maps Mania post accompanying my 2014 Speaking Map I mentioned how the Web Speech API could be used with driving directions to provide a simple navigation application. You could also use the Web Speech API in data visualizations to narrate some of the important facts that you want to impart with your visualization.

The Flourish visualization tool recently added a new feature they call 'Talkies' which allows you to add sound recordings to data visualizations. You can read more about Talkies in the blog post Why data visualisation needs a play button. Of course instead of using sound recordings you could use the Web Speech API instead. At the moment the artificial voices of the Web Speech API might be too annoying to use for narrating stories with maps. As the voices become more natural sounding this will probably change and Web Speech narration could become another valuable tool to add to your story maps and map data visualizations.