Friday, September 18, 2020

14 Billion Miles from Earth

Yesterday Voyager 1 passed a distance of 14 billion miles from Earth.

Voyager 1 was launched into space on September 5, 1977. Its mission is to study the outer Solar System. It has taken Voyager 1 forty years to travel 14 billion miles. 14 billion miles is the furthest distance that any man made object has traveled from Earth. However in over 40 years Voyager 1 has yet to travel one lightday from Earth.

In 2012 Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space. Voyager 1 is still transmitting data to Earth. Hopefully it will continue to do so at least until 2025 when its radioisotope thermoelectric generators will probably no longer supply enough electric power to operate its scientific instruments

NASA's Voyager Mission Status website provides real-time information about the status of both Voyager spacecraft. On this page you can view how many miles each Voyager has traveled and the operating status of the scientific equipment of each craft.

The Voyager Missions Status page also includes an interactive map which shows the position of Voyager 1 & 2 in relation to the Sun and the planets. This 3D space map allows you to get some sense of the huge distances traveled by the Voyager spacecraft. However despite the huge distance already traveled Voyager 1 will take another 300 years to reach the Oort Cloud. The outer limit of the Oort cloud defines the cosmographic boundary of our Solar System.

The Moscow Building Age Map

How Old is This House is an interactive map which shows the age of all Moscow's buildings. The map uses a sequential color scheme - ranging from red for the oldest buildings to blue for the most recent. This is very effective in providing an historical overview of the age of Moscow's buildings

One feature that I like building age maps to include is an interactive map legend or a date control. An interactive legend or date control allows users to filter the buildings shown on the map by age. So, for example, you should be able to view on the map only the buildings built before 1900. Unfortunately How Old is This House doesn't have an interactive map legend so it is impossible to filter the buildings shown on the map by the age of their construction.

However How Old is This House does include extensive information about many of Moscow's buildings. If you click on an individual building footprint on the map you can view its year of construction and, where available, pictures of the building & links to its Wikipedia page.

The Moscow building age map is the second city covered by How Old is This House. How Old is this House - St Petersburg is a similar interactive map which colors every building in St Petersburg by its age of construction. St Petersburg has a long and colorful history. The city was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. For much of its history it was the capital of the imperial Russian Empire (after the Russian Revolution Lenin moved the capital to Moscow).

Unlike the Moscow map the St Petersburg building age map does includes a filter control which allows you to select a range of dates. Using this filter you can select to view only the city's oldest buildings. These include the Peter and Paul Fortress (the original citadel of St. Petersburg, which was founded by Peter the Great in 1703) and the Menshikov Palace (St Petersburg's first stone building, which was founded in 1710).

You can explore the age of Moscow's buildings on The History of Moscow Housing interactive map. The History of Moscow Housing is an exploration of how housing has developed in the Russian capital over the last few centuries. On this map individual buildings are colored to show their year of construction.

The History of Moscow Housing does include a date control at the bottom of the map which allows you to view houses built during different time periods. It is also possible to select individual buildings on the map to view the year that they were built.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

This is the Earth Now

Now is a very worrying time to be looking down on the Earth from above. In the Western United States huge clouds of smoke can be seen billowing across Oregon, Idaho and California While in the Gulf of Mexico a huge hurricane can be observed approaching Georgia and South Carolina.

Thanks to NASA you don't actually need to be aboard the International Space Station to view the Earth from space. Instead you can use Earth Now to view recent climate data on top of of an interactive 3D map of the Earth. This 3D globe includes the latest satellite imagery of significant climate events happening right now. So (at the time of writing) Earth Now includes imagery of wildfires in the western United States and Hurricane Paulette and Hurricane Sally.

As well as showing recent satellite imagery of climatic events Earth Now also allows you to view global climate data which has been gathered by NASA satellites. This data includes the latest surface air temperatures, carbon dioxide levels and carbon monoxide levels. The Earth Now globe also includes the real-time position of the satellites which have been used to gather all this climate data.

This is the West End

Earlier this week I asked readers of Maps Mania to draw the outline of London's West End on a map. The West End of London is one of those interesting geographical areas which has no universally accepted boundaries. According to Wikipedia the term 'West End' "is used colloquially by Londoners and is not an official geographical or municipal definition (and) its exact constituent parts are up for debate."

Because the West End has no agreed borders or boundaries I thought it would be interesting to see where people thought the West End was and to see which areas were generally accepted as being in the West End by the majority of people.

Here's the West End is an interactive map on which you can view all the shapes people drew in response to the question 'where is London's West End'. If you ask Google 'Where is the West End in London' it shows you a map of what Google thinks is the West End. As a point of reference I have included Google's defined West End area on my map. You can turn off Google's area on the map by pressing the 'Google's West End Border' button.

One very noticeable result of this survey is that most people define the West End as an area much larger than Google's definition of the West End. Most people seem to agree that the West End is north of the River Thames and most people seem to have used at least part of the river as the southern boundary of their West End. The eastern border of the West End is not so universally accepted. In my mind the West End stops at the border with the City of London. I think that most people seem to have a similar concept of where the eastern border of the West End is situated - although at least one person has a concept of the West End which stretches as far east as Bethnal Green and Hackney.

While the southern and eastern borders of the West End appear to be very close in a lot of people's minds there appears to be less agreement on the West End's northern and western boundaries. At least one person thinks that the West End stretches as far west as Heathrow. For some the West End includes Shepherd's Bush. However for many people the West End seems to end at Hyde Park (or at the end of Oxford Street).

Google's definition of the West End also has Oxford Street as its northern boundary. From the responses to my survey many people think that the West End stretches further north and the Marylebone Road seems to be a more popular boundary for the northern edge of the West End.

Here is my completely unscientific crowd-sourced definition of the West End - based purely on my own interpretation of the map survey results. This new crowd-sourced definition of the West End borders the City of London at its eastern extent, has a southern border along the Thames, has Marylebone Road as its northern border and stops at Hyde Park in the west.

This West End encompasses a far larger area than Google's West End. I am prepared to accept the southern, eastern and western borders of this definition of the West End. I am less happy with the northern border. I think I would agree with Google on this - and I would be far happier to use Oxford Street (rather than Marylebone Road) as the northern border.

Because there is no definite answer I am of course free to continue to think of the northern border of the West End as Oxford Street. And you are of course free to think of the West End in any way that you want. Perhaps we can all at least agree with Wikipedia that the West End is "the main commercial and entertainment centre of the city".

You can reuse my Where is the West End map survey if you wish.  If you want to create your own map survey tool just click on the fish icon on my Where is the West End map and select the 'Remix on Glitch' option. You can then clone my map and easily change it to survey any geographical area of your own choice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The United States of Climate Change

One effect of climate change will be that the habitable zone, the areas where humans can comfortably live, will also change. In the United States the habitable zone, the region where temperature and precipitation is most favorable for human life, will shift significantly northwards.

ProPublica has mapped out new data from the Rhodium Group to show how climate change will drive agriculture and the habitable zone northward in the United States. In New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States a scrollytelling story map is used to visualize how global warming will dramatically alter the way that people live in the US.

In the South and Southwest extreme heat will become commonplace. Growing food will also become very difficult in many parts of the country. The ProPublica article includes a number of maps which show the areas of the US which will have 'wet bulb' conditions (where extreme heat and excessive humidity combine to create lethal weather conditions), where extreme wildfires will become more common, where sea level rise will flood coastal areas and where agriculture will become near impossible.

Using maps to show how climate change will impact our lives can be very revealing. Earlier this year the National Geographic released a new interactive feature which also explains what you can expect from global heating. It does this by showing you a city which currently experiences average temperatures that your home town can expect to see in the year 2070.

If carbon emissions continue to rise at the current rate then by 2070 the world will experience devastating climate change. For example Boston, Massachusetts will experiences temperatures 5 degrees centigrade hotter than today and 49 mm more rain will fall. This is similar to the climate that Bardwell, Kentucky has today.

In Your Climate, Changed the National Geographic uses an interactive map to show the future climate analogs of 2,500 cities around the world. These analogs are based on worst-case climate change scenario assumptions. The map automatically detects your location to show you your nearest future global heating twin. The map also explains what kind of climate zone your city currently experiences and compares that to the likely climate it will have in 2070.

The World's Shifting Borders

The History of International Borders is a fascinating map showing how country borders around the world have changed since the end of the Second World War. The map allows you to select dates between 1946 and 2016 to view the international borders during that time. Change the date and the map will automatically update to show the country borders as they existed during that period of time.

If you select the 'Show lifetime of polygons' option this will highlight those countries on the map whose borders have changed since World War II. The countries shown in green had stable borders during that period, while the countries colored pink have borders which have changed.

If you are interested in geo-politics then you might want to pay attention to the borders in Eastern Europe after 1990 - during and after the final years of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. You might also be interested in the many changing borders in Africa post-1960, as many African countries began to achieve independence from European colonial powers.

One major problem with the map is that the country labels don't change with the changing borders. So for example what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo should be labelled Zaire on the map between 1971 & 1997, and Czechia and Slovakia should more accurately have the one label, Czechoslovakia, before 1993.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Building Height Histogram Map

I've seen lots of interactive maps which visualize building height data by color. These interactive maps color individual building footprints to represent the height of every displayed building. The result is usually a very colorful map which helps to show where the tallest (or shortest) buildings are concentrated within a city.

What these maps don't do is provide you with any data on the number of buildings of different heights within an area. Which is where the Rendering OSM Objects in Mapbox GL interactive map comes in. This map includes a dynamic histogram which tells you how many buildings of each height there are within the current map view.

Drag the map around and the histogram will automatically update to show you the number of buildings of different heights in the map view. A small inset map also provides a 3D view of all the buildings which provides a neat overview of where the buildings of different heights are actually situated.

There are many reasons why you might want to show the number of buildings by height in a defined area. For example, many residents in my neighborhood are currently fighting a planning application for the development of a tall block of apartments. This map could be used to show the current number of local buildings of different building heights. It could help to highlight how a taller building would look very out of place in this neighborhood. 

How Big Are the U.S. Wildfires?

This year the wildfires burning across the western United States have consumed more than 7,000 square miles. This is an area equivalent to the size of New Jersey. In order to help people understand the huge scale of some of the current active wildfires burning in California and Oregon NBC news has created an interactive map comparison tool.

See how the wildfires across the Western U.S. compare to where you live allows you to overlay the perimeters of a number of active wildfires on your own town or city. The map therefore allows you to compare the size of the selected fire with a geographical area that you are more familiar with. Not only does the map show the perimeter of the selected fire on top of your selected town it also informs you how many times bigger the fire is than the size of your town.

As a European a tweet by Blaine Cook helped provide me with some context for the huge size of the near surface smoke caused by these wildfires. Blaine has used the outlines of a number of European countries to roughly show the area of the wildfire smoke covering the western United States yesterday.

I'm not certain which map comparison tool Blaine used to create his image. It looks to me like it might be The True Size Of ... - which allows you to drag polygon shapes of different countries and overlay them on top of a map to make direct comparisons of size between different countries.

Where is the West End?

Most Londoners have a very clear concept of where North and South London are. The River Thames neatly divides the city in two and most people seem to accept that everything north of the river is North London and everywhere south of the river is South London.

However I don't believe that Londoners have such a clear understanding of where the West End and the East End begin & end. I want to find out which areas of London are most commonly thought of as the West End. I have therefore created an interactive map, called Where is the West End, in order to record people's ideas of the West End.

Please use Where is the West End to draw the area that you think of as London's West End on the map of London. Your area will then be saved to a database. Later this week I will create another map which will visualize all the different West End areas submitted to the map. The result will hopefully provide us with some understanding of which areas of London are most commonly considered the West End.

My map survey tool can be used to query people's concepts of any geographical area. If you want to create your own map survey tool just click on the fish icon on my map and select the 'Remix on Glitch' option. You can then clone my map and change it to survey any geographical area of your choice.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Paris in the Nineteenth Century

Vergue is a fantastic interactive map which features hundreds of amazing early vintage photographs taken around Paris. The map showcases in particular the work of the famous Nineteenth Century photographers Charles Marville and Gustave Le Gray.

You can explore the vintage photography of Nineteenth Century Paris on top of the 1840 Plan de Paris vintage map. On this map the location of all the historic photographs in the Vergue collection are shown as red map markers. Click on these map markers and you can view the selected vintage photograph in the map sidebar.

Each photograph on the map comes with detailed information, which includes the date of the photograph and the name of the photographer. Each photo is also accompanied by a detailed account (in French) of the location depicted in the selected picture. This means that the Vergue map not only allows you a glimpse into the Paris of the Nineteenth Century it also provides you with a neat history of how locations around the city have changed in the last 150 odd years.

If you are a fan of vintage photographs and the unrivaled view that they provide of our cities' histories then you might also like Picturing the Past - a round-up of 18 other vintage photo maps.