Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Citizen Mapping for the Environment


A new crowd-sourced tool plans to monitor deforestation and other environmental damage caused to the planet around the world. Map for Environment uses OpenStreetMap mapping tools with satellite imagery of known logging, industrial agriculture, dam, and fracking locations to help map how these industries are effecting the environment.

Most importantly - You Can Help! If you log-in to Map for Environment with an OpenStreetMap account you can begin to help map logging roads, the spread of industrial agriculture, dams and fracking sites.

Each of these four industrial activities have their own separate citizen mapping project. For example, if you log-in to the Logging Roads project, you can begin mapping to help monitor the spread of logging roads in the Congo Basin. You will be shown a series of historical satellite imagery of the same location. Logging roads are identified on the satellite imagery. All you need to do is identify the date when the logging road first appears on the satellite imagery.

You can observe the huge spread of logging roads in the Congo Basin on an animated Logging Roads map. This map uses historical satellite imagery to show the spread of logging roads in the Congo Basin over recent years. By contributing to the Logging Roads project you will help to make this map more accurate.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Annual Weather Patterns


Climatemaps visualizes the weather over the course of a year around the whole world. The map animates average global monthly climate data from 1961-1990 to show you when every location in the world has its hottest, driest or wettest weather.

You can select from a range of weather layers from the drop-down menu (including precipitation, cloud cover and average temperatures). You can then view the weather data animated on the map through a whole year (you might need to let the animation play through a couple of times before the layers load completely).

The map was made with the OpenLayers 3 map library with a little help from Tippecanoe to create the map tiles. Tippecanoe is a tool for building vector map tilesets containing large amounts of location data. It is a very efficient way to visualize very large data-sets on an interactive map with minimal impact on performance.

You can view a few over maps built with the help of Tippecanoe here.

Facebook Remembers Everything


One of the central themes of the Jason Bourne films is the idea that the CIA are pretty good at tracking everybody's movements (unless you are Jason Bourne). Of course most of us make it very easy for the CIA by sharing our every waking moment with the world anyway - on social media.

To prove this point the internet campaign for the new Jason Bourne film uses data from your Facebook and Instagram accounts to prove how much of your life you reveal on social media. Log-in to Remember Everything with your Facebook and Instagram accounts and you can view your life replayed on Google Street View.

Or - at least I think that's what it does. When I log-in to 'Remember Everything' I just get a message saying 'We don't have enough data on you'. Ha! I win Zuckerberg .

According to the press release you will be shown moments from your life - in the form of "a multiple choice question (example: "Which of these four people were you with on April 15th, 2015?"). All memories are further contextualized with Google Street View panoramas of the location from that specific memory."

Have fun playing with Remember Everything. Then, when you are done playing, have a look at your Facebook privacy settings and think about disabling your location history.

Where's Lolly?


Monday mornings were made for map games. There's no better way to start the working week than by escaping for a few minutes to the other side of the world. So let's play Where's Lolly?

This guess the location game from UK holiday website icelolly.com requires you to identify ten different place around the world. To help you in your quest you get to view a fly-over of each location through an airplane window. You are also given a few written clues to each location.

When you think you've guessed the correct location you give your answer by placing an ice lolly (or popsicle) on a Google Map. You are then awarded points based on how close you get to the real location.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Maps of the Week - Maps in Motion


The Nature Conservancy has created a mesmerizing animated map showing where birds, mammals and amphibians will need to migrate to in order to maintain hospitable climates as global warming takes effect.

Migrations in Motion uses data from climate change projections to model potential habitats for 2,954 different species. The animated map visualizes the migratory flow of these species, showing how they would need to move from their current habitats to the projected locations.

This amazing animated flow map layer is based on the equally amazing Earth Wind Map and Chris Helm's adaptation of the Earth Wind Map code. You can learn more about the science behind the Migrations in Motion map on this Nature Conservancy blog post.


The London Underground is the beating heart of London. It is also its venous system, carrying its people, its lifeblood, around the city.

Tube Heartbeat is a map of traffic on the London Underground. It is an animated flow map which shows how traffic at individual stations rises and falls over the course of a single day. As the animation plays the map of the London Underground beats like a living heart as the people of London travel to & from work, and across the city.

Running totals above the map show the total number of arrivals, departures, interchanges and the total number of journeys throughout the day. You can also select individual stations on the map to view a chart of these same totals for an individual Underground station over the course of an average weekday.


GPlates is a 3d animation which shows how the Earth has evolved over millions of years. The map shows the Earth's shifting plate tectonics from 240 million years ago up until the present day.

As the animation plays you can watch how the post-Pangaea Earth formed, as that super-continent drifted apart. The current land mass is shown beneath the shifting tectonic plates. You can therefore observe how the positions of the continents and countries we know today have moved around over the centuries due to the rifts in plate tectonics.

GPlates includes an option to view the same animation on top of a 2d map. It also includes controls which allow you to adjust the speed of the animation playback.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mapping Land and Sea Reclamation


Over the last 30 years the Earth has gained 173,000 km2 of land. Most of it from land reclamation projects. However this isn't just a one way process. Over the same time period the Earth gained 115,000 km2 of water. Much of this presumably due to coastal erosion.

The Deltares Aqua Monitor is a fascinating new global map which allows you to visualize land and water surface changes since the year 2000. The map was created by analyzing changes in Landsat satellite imagery. Custom algorithms were created to scan the satellite imagery to detect changes in surface water and discover where water has become land and land has become water.

On the interactive map green overlays show where surface water has been turned into land and blue overlays show where land has been changed into surface water. If you turn on the advanced options on the map you can toggle the changes on and off. You can also view the changes yourself directly on the map by switching between the 2000 and 2015 satellite imagery.

Some of the most dramatic surface water changes can be seen in:

  • the extending lakes in the Tibetan plateau
  • coastal land reclamation along the Chinese coast 
  • the drying up of the Aral Sea
  • the meandering rivers in the biggest deltas

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Boston's Changing Map


Mapbox has created an interesting visualization of how Boston's geographical footprint has changed through history. Coastlines of Boston provides two different historical views of Boston, as it looked in 1788 and 1898, and allows you to compare these views to the map of Boston today.

The map is actually a neat demonstration of what can be created using Mapbox Studio's new dataset editor. The dataset editor allows you to add and edit geospatial data within Mapbox's existing browser based style editor.

The dataset editor allows you to add data to your maps by uploading CSV or GeoJSON files. It also allows you to add or edit data directly on your maps using point, line, and polygon editing tools. Once you have uploaded and edited your data you can then save the data to your map tilesets.

The Coastlines of Boston map was created by importing historical maps of Boston into Mapbox Studio and then drawing around the historical coastlines. Once the coastlines were traced they were then saved as a map tileset. You can read more about how Coastlines of Boston map was created on the Mapbox blog.

Segregating America's Schools


A great movement to re-segregate schools is underway. Across the United States wealthy communities are gerrymandering school districts to ensure that their children will not have to mix with the children of poorer families.

The Supreme Court case of Milliken v. Bradley in 1974 ruled that desegregation could not be ordered across school district lines. At the same time as rich neighborhoods are being allowed to create their own school districts, state funding of education is being slashed across the United States.

This ensures that schools are, like never before, reliant on local tax funding. In this way the richest neighborhoods ensure that they have the most well-funded and the best schools and at the same time the students of poorer neighborhoods will not be admitted to these schools.

Edbuild has created an interactive map which explores examples of the re-segregation of schools across the United States. The map visualizes the 50 most segregated borders between school districts in the country. It also allows you to view the most segregated borders in each state.

The Edbuild Fault Lines map also examines more closely education in five individual cities. These examples look at how rich neighborhoods are able to segregate their schools, ensure that they don't have to accept students from poorer neighborhoods and that they receive the best funding.


NPR has also looked closely at how school funding in the USA ensures that the rich get the best schools. They created an interactive map which visualizes how much each school district in the USA spends on school funding. Why America's Schools Have A Money Problem colors each school district based on the level of school spending in the district per student.

The map shows that local funding is usually dependent on the levels of local property taxes. If a district has a number of successful businesses contributing a lot of money through property taxes then the school district is more likely to have higher levels of school spending per student. In essence schools in affluent areas are likely to be much better funded that schools in less-affluent areas.


A nice complement to this map is the Memphis Teacher Residency's EdGap map. The EdGap map visualizes school SAT and ACT scores on top of the median household income in the school neighborhood.

The main take home point from this map seems to be that just about anywhere you look in the USA the school's with the worst SAT and ACT scores are mostly in the poorest neighborhoods and the school's with the best results are usually in the richest neighborhoods.

London's Heartbeat


The London Underground is the beating heart of London. It is also its venous system, carrying its people, its lifeblood, around the city.

Tube Heartbeat is a map of traffic on the London Underground. It is an animated flow map which shows how traffic at individual stations rises and falls over the course of a single day. As the animation plays the map of the London Underground beats like a living heart as the people of London travel to and from work and across the city.

Running totals above the map show the total number of arrivals, departures, interchanges and total number of journeys throughout the day. You can also select individual stations on the map to view a chart of these same totals for the individual Underground station over the course of an average weekday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OpenStreetView


OpenStreetView is a new application and map for collecting and presenting geo-referenced Street View imagery. OpenStreetView is a Telenav project but the software is open-sourced and the imagery is free to use under a Creative Commons license.

Using the iOS or Android app you can collect Street View imagery and automatically upload it to the OpenStreetView map. You can view all the uploaded Street View imagery on the OpenStreetView desktop map.

One of the main purposes behind OpenStreetView is to improve OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetView includes computer vision technology which can recognize speed signs in uploaded imagery. OpenStreetView is also working on computer vision technology to automatically detect street lanes and lane restrictions. This data can then be fed back into OpenStreetMap.

OpenStreetView is obviously very similar to Mapillary, the current leaders in crowd-sourced Street View imagery. OpenStreetView claim that the major distinctions between the two projects is that OpenStreetView is truly open-sourced, 100% focused on improving OpenStreetMap and optimized for car drivers. They also say that OpenStreetView users own their own data. This means users can download their own uploaded imagery and have the option to delete their account and remove their imagery from OpenStreetView at any time.