Monday, November 23, 2020

The Turkey Who Voted for Thanksgiving

Donald Trump might not have won the election but he has turned the country red. If you look at just about any map of Covid-19 in the United States you will see it covered in red, showing a country being over-run by a deadly virus. That is some legacy for the outgoing president.

For example the Covid Exit Strategy is an interactive map which visualizes how well each state is doing in reducing the number of Coronavirus symptoms and cases. As you can see from the map above only the state of Hawaii is not currently witnessing the 'uncontrolled spread' of Covid-19. 

The map uses a simple color scale to show how each state is currently progressing towards reducing the spread of  the virus. The Covid Exit Strategy website also shows how each state is doing in terms of a number of key measures. These include the rates of testing & tracing, the 14 day trend in the number of positive cases and the occupation rate of ICU beds in each state.

Another way that you can assess thel risk from Covid-19 is to consult the Harvard Global Health Institute's COVID Risk Level map which shows the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak at county level across the United States. The map reveals which counties have a green, yellow, orange or red risk level, based on the local number of new daily cases.

On the map counties that have fewer than one daily new case of Covid-19 per 100,000 people are colored green. Counties with one to nine daily new cases are colored yellow. Counties with between 10 and 24 new cases are colored orange and counties with 25 new cases per day are shown in red. The map also allows you to view the Covid-19 risk levels at state level. This view shows that only five states are currently below the red level.

Alongside the map the Harvard Global Health Institute has released recommendations and guidance about how counties should respond to the Covid-19 outbreak risk levels. If a county is shown as red on the map then stay-at-home orders are absolutely necessary. Counties shown as orange are advised to have stay-at-home orders and test and trace programs. If a county currently has a yellow risk level then a rigorous test and trace program is advised. Counties which are shown as green should continue to monitor with testing and contact tracing.

If you are planning on attending or organizing an event in the USA then you might want to refer to the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool. This interactive mapping tool can tell you the risk that someone with Covid-19 will be at an event, given the event's size and location.

Obviously the more people who attend an event then the larger the odds that there will be someone who has Covid-19. The Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool allows you to select the number of people expected to attend an event (from 10 to 5,000). Once you select the estimated number of people attending the event counties on the map will be colored to show the risk level across the whole of the United States.

The Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool doesn't only work for U.S. counties. You can also use the tool to discover the risk levels of someone attending an event being positive of Covid-19 in a number of different European countries.


In the UK we often use the simile "like a turkey voting for Christmas" to refer to someone who seems intent on contributing to their own downfall. The closest American translation for this idiom would probably be 'like a turkey voting for Thanksgiving". 

This week don't be the Turkey who voted for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Meaning of City Names

Town Names is a new interactive map which explains the meaning of city and town names in the USA.

If you mouse-over a town or city name on the Town Names map you can learn how the town originally got its name.The 225 most populated towns and cities in the United States are shown on the map. The map also reveals the year when each of the cities was founded. You can use the year buttons (running down the left-hand side of the map) to filter the towns and cities shown on the map by year of foundation.

During my research for this map I learned that there are far fewer towns in the United States named for European towns and cities than I had previously thought. Many American towns and cities appear to be named for nearby or local natural features or for an individual (often someone important in early U.S. history). 

Lots of U.S.cities have changed names since their foundation. One very common reason for a name change appears to have been because of the U.S. Post Office. It appears when towns wanted to open a Post Office they were often told the post-office couldn't be named after the town - because a post-office with that name already existed. Many towns therefore changed their name to something more original so that the post-office could have the town name.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Mapping the Graveyard of the Atlantic

In May 1718 the pirate Blackbeard ran aground at Topsail Inlet (now known as Beaufort Inlet) on the coast of North Carolina. For nearly 300 years the ship, the Queen Anne'e Revenge, remained undisturbed on the sea bed, until its remains were discovered in 1996.

The location of Blackbeard's ship is just one of many shipwrecks which can be found on the Outer Banks Shipwrecks interactive map. Over 3,000 ships have been estimated to have been wrecked off the coast of the Outer Banks, a 120 mile long collection of barrier islands and spits, situated off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.On the interactive map wrecks of identified ships are shown using the ship's name and the year when it was wrecked. Unidentified wrecks are shown on the map with a small blue dot.

Another well known ship shown on the map is the British tanker 'Mirlo'. On August 16 1918, during World War I, the Mirlo was hit by a German torpedo about 5 miles offshore of Rodanthe, North Carolina. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the crew of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station forty-two people were saved from the burning tanker. 

  

You can view the locations of shipwrecks on the other side of the Atlantic on the Wreck Viewer interactive map.The Wreck Viewer shows the locations of 4,000 shipwrecks around the shores of Ireland, dating back as far as the 16th century. The map was created by Ireland's National Monuments Service (NMS) to help provide access to and visualize the NMS’s Wreck Inventory.

Each red dot on this map represents a wreck for which there is a known location. 78% of the wrecks in the Wreck Inventory have no known precise location. If you select a wreck on the map you can read the wreck description. This includes details on the ship name, type of vessel and the date the vessel sank. The details also contain (where available) the wreck summary description which provides details on the vessel's history, voyage, cargo, passengers and the story of its loss. At present only 20% of ships in the database have a summary description.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Growing on Urban Heat Islands

Urban heat islands are areas of towns and cities which can become unbearably hot, especially on days with extreme heat. These areas can often become 10-20 degrees warmer than other areas in the very same city. These urban heat islands tend to occur in areas with the densest built environments and with the most roads. 

Urban heat islands are largely a result of un-shaded roads and buildings absorbing heat and then radiating it out to their surroundings. The dark surfaces of roads and built materials, such as bricks and concrete, absorb more heat than grass and vegetation. The coolest places are usually is parks and on streets with lots of tree cover. Which is why the densest built areas tend to be significantly warmer than areas which have lots of tree cover or parks.

One of the best ways to prevent urban heat islands is to provide more tree canopy cover - to create natural shade. Planting more trees in urban environments not only helps to reduce street-level temperatures, they can contribute to a better quality of life and can make neighborhoods more attractive places to live.

Google's new Tree Canopy Lab is an interactive map which visualizes tree canopy cover in the city of Los Angeles. The map is designed to show the current tree canopy coverage in the city and to help identify where new tree planting efforts are most needed. The map allows you to see the level of tree canopy coverage in different neighborhoods in the city alongside demographic data, such as population density. Using the map it is therefore possible to quickly identify where the most people are likely to be living in urban heat islands and where new tree canopy cover is most needed. 



The New York Times has mapped out how racist housing segregation in the United States, dating back to the Home Owners' Loan Corporation's Redlining maps, is a major contributory factor to the location of urban heat islands in towns and cities across the country. 

In How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering the New York Times has created a story map which shows how across the United States neighborhoods which were redlined are usually the hottest parts of towns. Conversely neighborhoods which weren't redlined tend to be the coolest areas. The reason for this is that redlined neighborhoods have largely remained areas of deprivation and tend to have fewer trees and a  more densely built urban environment. Non-redlined neighborhoods have remained mostly more affluent and are therefore more likely to have lots of parks and lots of tree cover.


In August 2018 NOAA ran a citizen science project in Washington D.C. and in Baltimore to discover which part of those cities were effected by urban heat islands. You can see the results of this study on NOAA's Detailed maps of urban heat island effects in Washington, DC, and Baltimore.

The detailed maps produced by NOAA show that the hottest areas in both cities are the areas with the densest built environment and the most roads. The coolest places in both cities are in parks or in other areas with lots of tree cover. 

Guess who lives in areas with parks and trees and guess who lives in densely built areas with lots of bricks and concrete. That's right the hottest areas in cities tend to be the areas where the poorest residents live, while the richest residents can afford to live in the coolest areas with lots of parks and trees. You can observe this pattern in cities across the USA using NPR's interactive heat island maps.

In As Rising Heat Bakes U.S. Cities, The Poor Often Feel It Most NPR has published an interactive tool which allows you to view heat island maps of US cities side-by-side with a map of income levels. Using this comparative tool you can directly see if there is any correlation between high surface temperatures in a city and the level of income. When you select a city the tool even tells you directly if there is a strong, moderate or weak link between surface temperatures in the city and where different income groups live.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Map Your Geotagged Photos

Mapipedia is a new interactive map which can help you map and share your geotagged photos. The platform allows you to upload a series of photos, show the location of each image on a map and show when each photo was taken. The application then creates a slideshow of your photographs, showing you when and where each picture was taken.

You can see Mapipedia in action on this demo map. On this demo map you can see how you the slideshow works and how you can navigate through the displayed photographs by date, location or by photo thumbnail. The demo map also includes links to other photo slideshows mapped using Mapipedia.

If you want to create your own mapped photo slideshow with Mapipedia then you might want to refer to the documentation. The documentation explains how to upload your photos from your computer or import photos from Apple iCloud, Google Photos, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and Flickr.

Mapipedia includes a number of different pricing packages. The free option allows you to upload 100 photos. With the free option your created map will only exist for 30 days. If you subscribe to one of the paid options then you can upload more photographs and your created maps won't be deleted after 30 days.

Creating a 3D Point Cloud of the World

Pixel8 is using crowd-sourced photography to create a 3D map of the world. Using 3D point cloud data captured from mobile phones, combined with imagery from satellites, planes and drones Pixel 8 is able to quickly map any geographical area.

Pixel8 has released a demo 3D map of Boulder which shows what is possible with its mapping approach. To create the map a small group of volunteers used a custom mobile app to capture photography of downtown Boulder. The demo map was created from photographs taken during just one afternoon. The 3D models, which were created from mobile phone captured photos, are then combined with other imagery captured by satellites, planes and drones, to create a detailed map. The Boulder map also uses locally sourced LIDAR data.

By combining crowd-sourced and volunteer photography with existing imagery from other sources Pixel8 is developing a mapping platform that can quickly build 3D models and maps to scale. The Pixel8 explore page includes a number of other mapping projects which you can explore, including point cloud models created in Austin, Texas and Washington D.C..

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Coronavirus - Spinning Out of Control

It isn't often that you get to see a new method of visualizing data. Which is probably why I like Benjamin Schmidt's Spinning Out of Control so much. 

Benjamin's new interactive map uses data from the New York Times to show the rate of Coronavirus in U.S. counties over time. The map is not by any stretch of the imagination the first map to show the growth of Coronavirus in the United States during the course of this year. However it is the first map I have seen which rotates geographical areas to visualize rates of infection over time. 

Individual counties on the Spinnig Out of Control interactive map are rotated over time to show the rate of change in the number of Coronavirus cases over the previous two weeks. The size of the counties shows whether the number of cases has increased or decreased. The effect of this rotation helps to identify areas in the country where there has been a sudden change in the rate of infection. The size of the counties identifies whether these changes have been increases or decreases in the number of cases.

Rotating the counties and adjusting their size is an interesting way to visualize the rate of Coronavirus infections over time. The animated effect also helps to emphasize the fact that the virus is a living entity which is spreading across the country. The movement on the map really creates an organic effect. Hopefully it will encourage more people to practice social distancing and to wear masks.

Nightlights & Access to Electricity

The World Bank has released the Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2020. The atlas includes a plethora of data visualizations exploring and explaining the global status of 17 different SDG's, including levels of global poverty, educational levels, gender equality and access to clean water. 

As part of the Affordable and Clean Energy sustainable development goal the World Bank is using nightlight satellite imagery to visualize access to electricity. Using an interactive globe you can choose two locations around the world to view a direct comparison of the level of nightlight activity at both locations. 

For example the screenshot above shows (on the left) nightlights in a 150 km radius around Washington, D.C. and (on the right) nightlight activity in a a 150 km radius around Katakwi, Uganda.Both locations have roughly the same population but, as you can see, there is far less access to electricity in Katakwi than in Washington D.C.. 

The use of nightlight imagery is a neat way to visualize access to electricity in different locations across the world. However this is just one of many data visualizations in the Atlas. There are many other data visualizations in every one of the 17 sustainable development goals in the World Bank's Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2020.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Karl the Fog Tracker

San Francisco is well known for its frequent fog. In fact San Franciscans are so familiar with this weather phenomenon that they are on first name terms with their local atmospheric weather anomaly.

The reason that San Francisco sees so much fog, especially in the summer, is that big expanse of water called the Pacific. The cold ocean waters of the Pacific cools the warm air above. When this warm air cools the moisture condenses - creating fog. In the mornings the sun begins to heat the land. This hot air rises and the cooled foggy air over the Pacific is sucked inland. As the day progresses the sun heats the air and San Francisco's fog is (usually) burned off during the course of the morning and afternoon.

You can view the latest fog conditions using the Bay Area Fog Tracker. The San Francisco Chronicle's Bay Area Fog Tracker is an interactive map which visualizes the current fog and cloud conditions in San Francisco. The interactive map allows you to view a 12 hour loop of cloud and fog conditions in the Bay Area. It also includes details on the current amount of cloud cover, the height of the cloud ceiling and the current visibility (in miles).


You can see the daily pattern of San Francisco's fog very clearly on Fogust, an interactive map visualizing San Francisco's fog by time of day (and by month). The map uses historical data from NOAA's GOES-15 to provide a visual guide to the historical levels of fog experienced during different months and over the course of a typical day.

The map has three buttons for each month of the year. According to the map July and August are the foggiest months. If you switch between the 10 am, 12 pm and 4 pm buttons in July then you can observe the process described above, as the the fog forms over the Pacific, rolls inland and then gets burned off in the afternoon.

The Island of Fiction

The Island of Fiction is an interactive map of a fictional island. On this Island of Fiction there are five states, 'Crime', 'Horror', 'Science-Fiction', 'Romance' and 'Fantasy'. In each of these five states are a number of cities, each of which is named for a best-selling author, who has written within that genre.

The idea for the Island of Fiction came from an Alan Levine article on using fantasy maps, generated by Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator, as the base map layer in a Leaflet.js interactive map. Essentially Alan's article explains how you can use the Fantasy Map Generator to create a fictional blank map which you can then use as the basis of an interactive concept map.

Using the Leaflet mapping library you can add markers and place-name labels to your fantasy map to create a map of any concept that you desire. Using the options in the Fantasy Map Generator I created a map with five states. In Leaflet I used the tool-tip tool to add place-name labels to these five states, naming each one for a fictional genre. I then used smaller place-name labels to name cities within each of these states, for famous authors who have published works of fiction within each genre.

My Island of Fiction was created in a couple of hours for the #30DayMapChallenge. With a little more work I think this could be a very interesting map. For example, I could add more authors to the map - so that as you zoom-in on a genre the names of more writers appear on the map. I could also make each author's name interactive - so that if you clicked on an author's name you could view a photo, biography and a list of their major works.

This concept can of course be used in many different contexts. I am sure there are thousands of different concept maps which could be created using Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator in conjunction with an interactive mapping library.