Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Nation Still Under Fire

ABC News has created an animated interactive map which shows the location of every shooting incident in the USA last week. Press play on the One Nation Under Fire map and you can watch as all corners of the United States are peppered by over 900 shooting incidents.

Reminder: this map shows just one week of shooting incidents in America (July 17-23 2021).

Last year there were 43,000 gun deaths in the United States. This year is shaping to be just as deadly. Last week there were over 1,000 shootings. 404 people died in those shootings and 928 were wounded.

According to Wikipedia's List of countries by firearm-related death rate the United States has a firearm-related death rate of 12.21 per 100,000 people per year. That is about 61 times as high as the United Kingdom's rate of 0.20, or over 600 times as high as Japan's rate of 0.02.

The ABC News map uses data from the Gun Violence Archive, who collect data on gun-related violence in the United States.The Gun Violence Archive has a map showing the location of all gun deaths in the USA this year. So far there have been over 25,000 deaths. 177 of those deaths were children under 12 years of age and 715 children aged 12-17.

The Newspaper Archive Map

Ancestry's Newspaper.com claims to be the largest online archive of newspapers. The archive includes searchable articles from over 21,000 newspapers dating back to the 1700's (although there seems to be a distinct bias towards English language newspapers). 

Using Newspaper.com's interactive map you can search for historical newspapers by location and by date. If you pay to subscribe to Ancestry you can then read the digitized articles. A similar service exists in the UK at the British Newspaper Archive, which allows you to search archived British newspapers for free but only allows registered users to read actual digitized content from the archived papers. 

The NewspaperArchive provides a similar subscription service to Newspaper.com, allowing you to search 'billions' of newspapers from around the world.Again you can search the archived newspapers for free but you need to register to actually view and read the archived articles. 

You can search and read through 129 years of New York Times back editions on the newspaper's TimesMachine website (again a subscription is needed). Using the TimesMachine's interactive interface you can read the Time's contemporary accounts of historical events, including the shooting of President Lincoln, the sinking of the Titanic and the landing of the first men on the moon.

By using the zooming and panning controls used by interactive mapping platforms, the New York Times provides users with familiar navigation controls with which to browse through its historical archives. The TimesMachine relies on panning, zooming and the click & drag method that web users are familiar with from using mapping platforms, such as Google Maps.

Wikipedia also maintains a list of online newspaper archives. This list includes links to both free and paid archives of newspapers around the world. The Wikipedia introduction to its list also includes the handy advice that some local library services may have subscriptions to newspaper archives which you may be able to access for free if you have a library card.

One other option is to explore the archives of still operating newspapers. The Newspaper Map provides direct links to thousands of newspapers currently operating all around the world.

Monday, July 26, 2021

The World is Burning

In the summer the Northern Hemisphere normally experiences a number of large wildfires. However this year, following record breaking temperatures across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere, the number and size of wildfires has been unprecedented.

Wildfires have burned over 1.5 million hectares in Siberia. In Northern California the Dixie Fire has burned an area the size of Chicago. In Canada British Columbia has declared a state of emergency with nearly 300 active wildfires. In Italy around 7,500 firefighters have been fighting wildfires in Sardinia. In Northeastern Spain a large area near Tarragona has been blazing since Saturday. In France over 900 hectares of forest has burned in the department of Aude.

NASA's FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System) interactive map provides near real-time active fire locations using data gathered from MODIS and VIIRS satellites. The FIRMS map is updated every five minutes. The satellites from which the data is gathered generally make two complete global overpasses a day. The data from these satellites is usually processed within three hours. You can actually overlay the satellite overpass tracks on top of the FIRMS map to see the acquisition times for a specific location.


The Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS) interactive map provides a 10 day danger forecast and near real-time information on active fires around the world.This map also uses FIRMS data. By identifying areas with higher temperatures than surrounding areas FIRMS is able to identify locations with active fires. The GWIS map also allows you to view burnt area perimeters for active fires using the same satellite data.

Kontur's Global Fires interactive map allows you to visualize all of the past year's global fire data. It also can be used to visualize smoke pollution during wildfire seasons around the world. The Global Fires map consists of two main views. Using the 'Fire (last year)' option you can view a year's worth of global wildfire activity play-out on the map. The other main view of Global Fires is the 'Air Quality (now)' option. This allows you to view the current data from air quality monitors across the world.

The British Conversation Map

If you have ever traveled around the UK then you've probably discovered that the natives aren't always friendly.Talking to strangers is one of those 'foreign' activities which is largely frowned upon by your average Brit. Which is why whenever I travel around Britain I take along Cecil W. Bacon's What Do They Talk About? map

What Do They Talk About? is a humorous pictorial map of the UK which was published by the Geographical Magazine in 1951 during the Festival of Britain. The map depicts local buildings, landmarks and industries and text labels which highlight popular local topics of conversation. 

Some of the conversation topics suggested by the map are ones you would probably guess yourself. For example it is fairly obvious that in Cambridge people usually chat about Isaac Newton and the Universe, while in Oxford the conversation often involves philosophical discussions about Aristotle's ideas on deductive logic. 

Unfortunately some of the conversation topics are now a bit out-of-date. Conversation about 'the pit' in South Wales and 'the mill' in the North East died out with the collapse of UK industry. However it is good to see that many other British traditional topics of conversation still persist. For example to this day it is impossible to visit Bath without a conversation about the 'Regency Days' or discussing the 'Test Team' in Yorkshire.

The map cartouche proclaims that "Most people talk about the place where they work-the pit, the office, the mill ..." This preoccupation with occupations and local industry features heavily on the map. Therefore in Northampton they talk about 'Boots and Shoes', in Sheffield they chat about 'Steel', in Coventry they discuss the 'Internal Combustion Engine' and in the Potteries all the talk centers around (you guessed it) 'Pots'. 

It is interesting that despite the dramatic contraction of industry in Britain since the 1950's that many UK cities are still strongly associated with certain particular industries and occupations, even if most of the locals no longer work in these industries. However despite the strong bonds of history and tradition the 'What Do They Talk About? map does now feels like a product of its time. Which makes me feel that the world might be ready for a new 'What Do They Talk About? map ... (to be continued) ...

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Cuckoo Flying the Nest

Because the European common cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite and lays its eggs in the nests of other birds it is free to migrate south much earlier than other species of birds. In early summer, when most other bird species are busy raising their young (and sometimes the young of cuckoos), the adult cuckoo is able to begin its migration to Africa. Adult cuckoos in Europe are among the first bird species to begin their migrations. For example in the UK most cuckoos begin flying south in June.Which is great news for anyone who is interested in tracking the progress of migrating Cuckoos.

The British Trust for Ornithology's Cuckoo Tracking Project is currently mapping the migration of twelve European common cuckoos on their journey from the UK to their wintering grounds in the Congo basin of central Africa.The map shows the latest recorded location of each bird and the route they have taken from the UK. The map also includes a playback feature which allows you to watch each bird's entire journey from the 2nd May animated on the map. 

Over the last couple of weeks eyebrows have been raised over the movements of one of the tracked cuckoos. Around the middle of July the cuckoo name Attenborough (in honor of the famous natural historian and broadcaster) decided to suddenly take a massive detour in an easterly direction. He left Spain and flew via Sicily to Greece. This is quite a detour on his journey to his hopeful destination in the Congo basin. 

A cuckoo flying from the UK to central Africa will typically fly travel around 5,000 miles. This is an epic journey but not as far as the migrations taken by the cuckoos who migrate from Mongolia to eastern Africa every year. Mongolian cuckoos make migratory journeys of around 7,500 miles to and from Africa. 

In 2019 the Mongolia Cuckoo Project tracked five cuckoos migrating from Mongolia to Africa. These five birds included a cuckoo called Onon, who made a 16,155 mile migratory round trip to Africa and back to Mongolia. This was one of the longest recorded journeys made by any land bird. 

On Onon's epic journey he visited China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately he was the only one of the five tracked birds in the Mongolia Cuckoo Project who successfully made the full round trip. Onon himself is suspected to have died the following year. His tag stopped transmitting in southern Yemen in September 2020.

Friday, July 23, 2021

The World's Biggest Cities

Urban Agglomerations Worldwide is an interactive map which shows the population size of the world's largest cities. The map uses data from the United Nations to show the size of all the urban agglomerations around the world with a population over 300,000. 

On the map the size and color of the markers show the population size of the city. You can also hover over the circles on the map to discover the actual city population. According to the United Nations data (from 2018) the largest 'urban agglomeration' in the world is Tokyo, with a population of over 37 million.The next largest city is Delhi, with a population over 30 million, closely followed by Shanghai with a population of over 27 million.

For the purposes of the United Nations data set an 'urban agglomeration' is defined as a 'contiguous urban area or built-up area that delimits the city’s boundaries'. Obviously the size of a city's population is partly defined by where you draw its boundaries. For example the top 5 megacities with the largest populations according to Wikipedia are:

  1. Tokyo (38,140,000)
  2. Shanghai (34,000,000)
  3. Jakarta (31,500,000)
  4. Delhi (27,200,000)
  5. Seoul (25,600,000)

Jakarta (3rd on Wikipedia) is ranked on this map as only the 31st largest city by population. Seoul (5th on Wikipedia) is 35th.

Maps (or lists) which rank cites by population therefore often turn into discussions about how you define the boundaries of the ranked cities.Which is why I think it usually makes more sense to map the density of the world's population by area.

You can view a very granular visualization of global population density on The Pudding's Human Terrain map. This interactive visualization shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. 

The taller a pyramid block on The Pudding map then the more people live there.The Pudding has also used its own map to explore in more detail the pattern of population density around the world. In Population Mountains The Pudding examines how unevenly the world is populated and how and why population density can take different forms in different parts of the world.


  • The Urban Agglomerations Map uses United Nations data - (File 12  under the Urban Agglomerations tab)
  • The European Commission's Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) also provides spatial information on the physical size of human settlements and on the population sizes of those settlements.

Driving Times from Paris

Time Distance to Paris by Road 2021 in an interactive isochrone map which shows how long it takes to travel by car from Paris to any other location in France. 

An isochrone map uses lines on a map to connect points which can be reached in the same travel time. On Nicholas Lambert's Time Distance to Paris by Road 2021 different colors are also used to visualize areas which can be reached in the same time steps.Because this is an interactive isochrone map you can also select a time period on the map key to view all the areas in France which can be driven to in that time highlighted on the map. For example if you select 60 minutes on the map key then you can see all the areas that you could to travel to in an hour highlighted in blue.

Because Time Distance to Paris by Road 2021 is an Observable notebook it can be forked to work with other locations. For example, Laurent Jégou has forked the map to create his own isochrone map visualizing the Time Distance to Toulouse 2021. Tristram Gräbener has also forked Nicholas Lambert's original map to create a Time Distance to Paris by Train isochrone map.

You can view other examples of interactive travel time maps using the Maps Mania iscohrone tag.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Canada's Interactive Energy Map

About 67% of Canada’s electricity comes from renewable sources. The vast majority of that (61%) comes form hydroelectricity. Canada is the third largest hydroelectricity provider in the world.The next largest source of electricity in the country is nuclear, which contributes around 15% of Canada's electricity production. 

You can learn more about the different types of electricity source in Canada, including where they are generated and how they are transmitted around the country on Canadian Geographic Education's Interactive Energy Map. The map plots the locations of Canada's significant energy production sites, the major fuel pipe & electricity transmission lines, and Canada's energy processing facilities. The interactive map includes filter controls which allow you to explore each energy sector individually, which allows you to see where the different energy sources in Canada are located in the country.

The Interactive Energy Map paints a rather rosy picture about Canada's contribution to fossil fuel consumption. Although 67% of Canada's own electricity use comes from renewable sources the map doesn't reflect that Canada is also a huge exporter of oil and gas. The Government of Canada for example says that hydroelectricity actually only contributes around 4.5% of Canada's primary energy production. Oil and gas on the other hand make up 57% of the country's primary energy production.


You can explore how America generates power on the U.S. Power Plants map. U.S. Power Plants is an interactive map showing the locations, size and type of America's electric power plants. The map is a great way to see where different types of power plant are located, how much each type of energy source contributes to the country's power supply and how much each source contributes to CO2 emissions.

The number of map filters on U.S. Power Plants means that the map can provide lots of different insights into American power supply. For example the individual fuel filters allow you to see where different power sources are concentrated in America. Select hydro-power and you can see that hydro-power plants are concentrated in the north-west and north-east of the country. While solar power plants are mainly located in California.


Esri's Atlas of Electricity is another great way to explore where the USA gets its electricity from and how it distributes this power across the country. At the heart of an Atlas of Electricity is an interactive map plotting the location and size of the grid's power plants and transmission cables. This map allows you to explore the location and capacity of the country's electricity producing power plants and how they connect to the national grid.

As well as mapping the physical infrastructure of the electricity grid this story map examines the primary energy sources used to generate electricity in the USA. It maps the size and capacity of coal-fired power plants, natural gas power plants and petroleum power plants. Alongside these fossil-fuel sources of power An Atlas of Electricity plots the size and capacity of the U.S.'s nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants and solar & wind power plants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Smoke Forecast Map

The devastating wildfires burning in Canada and the USA are contributing to poor air quality conditions, sparking air quality advisories in large areas of both countries.  The Smoke Forecast map allows you to view a forecast of where in Canada smoke pollution is likely to occur over the next two days.

On the interactive Smoke Forecast map the areas colored brown are forecast to experience high levels of smoke. The darker the color on the map then the higher the ground level concentration of particulate matter is expected to be. The map includes an animation control which allows you to view the smoke forecast for the next 48 hours animated on the map or to select a specific hour to view its smoke forecast.

You can also view the extent of the smoke across north America on NOAA's Smoke Forecast map. NOAA's High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Smoke Interactive map identifies locations with intense fires and forecasts how smoke is likely to disperse based on the latest weather forecasts. The smoke forecast map is experimental. It is prone to errors from cloud cover preventing satellite detection of wildfires and to errors in weather forecasts.

360 Degree Panoramic Maps

The Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library has created some interesting interactive maps from panoramic images in their collection. In Maps that will make your head spin you can view three different historical panoramic sketches as 360 degree panoramic images. 

The panoramic images in this little virtual reality collection include an 1860 360 degree drawing of the Battle of Gettysburg, an 1850's engraving of Boston as seen from Bunker Hill, and the view from Mount Washington as drawn in the early 20th Century.

This isn't the first time I've seen an interesting presentation of the panoramic view from Mount Washington. John Nelson and Jinnan Zhang created an interesting Rotating Bird's Eye View From Mount Washington. In John and Jinnan's interactive version of the Boston and Maine Railroad's map you can rotate the map using your mouse's scroll-wheel. As you scroll on the page the map rotates around its center.

The Birds-eye view from summit of Mt. Washington; White Mountains, New Hampshire was created in 1902 by the Boston and Maine Railroad company. The map shows the view from Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The map numbers all the mountains surrounding Mount Washington and identifies each of them in corresponding lists in each of the map's four corners. What is most interesting about the map is its 360-degree panoramic perspective. The mountain summit and the railroad station are positioned at the center of the map. The surrounding topography is then distorted and wrapped around this central view. 

If you held the map in your hands at the top of Mount Washington and rotated the map to reflect your direction of view you could easily identify each of the mountains in your current vista.