Monday, May 17, 2021

Running Rivers to the Sea


River Runner is a fascinating map which uses U.S. watershed data to calculate the route that a drop of rain would take from any location in the United States to the ocean. The map uses information about America's river watersheds to create an animated map which visualizes the journey downstream from any location in the contiguous United States.

Click anywhere on River Runner's map of the United States and you can discover the path that a drop of water would take from that location to the distant ocean (although sometimes the final destination may be the Great Lakes or another large inland water feature). A small inset map will reveal the path that leads downstream from your selected location to the sea. The main larger map actually animates the route of this journey on top of Mapbox's 3D terrain. 

River Runner uses USGS data to to find the closest river/stream to the location that you select on the map. It then uses the USGS's national hydrology data to work out the downstream path from that location to the natural endpoint.Mapbox's map and 3D elevation data is then used to create an animated journey of this downstream route to the sea.

If you are interested in America's watersheds then you might also enjoy the USGS's Streamer map. The Streamer map allows you to trace rivers or streams upstream to their source or downstream to their final destinations in the USA. This interactive map can create very dramatic visualizations of river watersheds, particularly when you trace a river upstream to show all of its tributaries.

FernLeaf Interactive has also created an interactive map which allows you to view over 100,000 watershed regions. The map shows the topological relationships between the USGS level 12 hydrologic units for the entire United States.

The Watersheds Map allows you to visualize watershed regions throughout the USA. As you mouse-over the map it automatically updates to show upstream areas in red and downstream areas in blue. You can click on the map at anytime to freeze the map view (click on the map again to unfreeze & re-enable the dynamic loading of the watershed data).

Saturday, May 15, 2021


The controversial global addressing system what3words continues to encourage criticism and parody sites in equal measure. Some of the most popular parodies of what3words include what3emojis and my own WTF (what2figures). In the past there has also been what3pictures and what3pokemon (both of which no longer exist).

Another popular parody of what3words was what3fucks - which could identify any location on Earth using just three swear words. Unfortunately what3fucks no longer works. But don't be alarmed at the demise of what3fucks - because now you can use Four King Maps instead. 

Four King Maps is a brand new global addressing system which can create a unique four swear word address for any location in the UK & Ireland (ok - it isn't really global). Click on a location on Four King Maps and you will receive a unique sweary address for that location. For example enter the address -


into Four.King.Maps and you will be taken to the Houses of Parliament in London.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sydney's Historic Estate Maps

Subplot is a new and experimental interactive map which allows you to find and view vintage estate maps owned by the State Library of New South Wales in Australia. Estate maps, also known as subdivision plans, were created by estate agents to promote and advertise new subdivisions and land for sale in Sydney and New South Wales. The library owns around 40,000 of these subdivision plans, dating from 1860 through to the 1930's. 

The library's estate maps provide a fascinating insight into the development of Sydney's suburbs & regional areas, how properties were valued, and how land was subdivided. The Subplot map presents the library's vintage subdivision plans overlaid on top of a modern map of New South Wales. The map includes a timeline feature which allows you to see when the estate maps were printed. This timeline also allows you to use Subplot to search the plans by both location and by date. 

If you click on one of the vintage subdivision plans you can apparently view the plan in its own maximum resolution zoomable interface. However for some reason clicking on individual subdivision maps didn't achieve anything for me when I was exploring the map. I suspect this is mainly because my aging laptop struggles with displaying WebGL content. 

You can learn more about how Subplot utilizes WebGL, turf.js and DeckGL on this Making Sub Plot article by DX Lab.

(keep an eye out for the 3D models of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House on the Subplot map)

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Make an Animated Journey Map is an incredibly easy to use tool for making animated journey maps. Using the tool you can create animated maps of a journey you have made (or plan to make) and then share the created map with your friends and family. 

You can create an animated journey map with in a matter of seconds. It is that easy to do. All you need to do is add a list of locations (in the order of your journey) and mult-dev will automatically create your animated journey map visiting each of your chosen locations in turn. If you want you can also share your mode of transport between locations and mult-dev will add an icon to each stage of your journey showing how you traveled (or plan to travel). 

When you have finished adding destinations to your map you can either download your journey as a video or share a link to your created map (although when I tried saving an animated journey map in FireFox I kept getting a video corrupted link).

mult-dev journey maps are displayed using a 3D globe. One consequence of this is that mult-dev is really only useful for animating long journeys between countries. Because of the maps' global scale it really isn't very effective in mapping short journeys. Therefore you would probably only use multi-dev to visualize and share a long journey, which encompasses trips to a number of different countries. For example a multi-dev map would be perfect for sharing the itinerary of a planned round-the-world trip.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lightning Heat Map

I was aware that there are a lot less lightning strikes in the UK than in many other places in the world. However, until I looked at Vaisala's Interactive Global Lightning Density Map, I wasn't aware that Britain experienced less lightening than just about every other country in the world.

The Interactive Global Lightning Density Map shows the average lightning density in countries around the world.According to the map Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the two countries with the highest density of lightning strikes every year. If you zoom in on the USA on the map you can view the density of lightning strikes in America down to the county level.

If you want to know where lightning storms are occurring right now then you should have a look at LightningMaps or Blitzortung. Both these interactive maps plot lighting in real-time as it strikes in locations across the world. The lightning data for both these maps comes from Blitzortung, and is gathered from a community of weather stations reporting lightning storms around the globe.

The Sandwich Index

Sales of coffee and sandwiches might provide a reasonable guide as to how fast people are returning to the office. Bloomberg certainly think so. They have invented the Pret Index to measure the rate that people are returning to the workplace in the UK. As the UK emerges from lock-down Bloomberg is interested in observing how many people stop working from home and return to the office. In order to measure this Bloomberg is analyzing sales data from the Pret a Manger chain of sandwich shops. 

The Pret Index uses a baseline of average sales in a Pret a Manger restaurant from March 8th - the week before schools reopened in England. It then looks at how much sales have grown (or fallen) since that date and how close they are returning to the sales recorded in January 2020, before the start of the pandemic in the UK. Each 0.1 point on the Pret Index equals a 1% progress towards the January 2020 total of sales.

In Pret Sandwich Sales Show Office Workers Staying Home Bloomberg has created a story map to show where Pret sales are increasing and where they have seen little movement. In general it appears that Pret sales are increasing in major retail areas where shops have re-opened. However as yet there appears to be only the smallest of rises in commercial districts, suggesting that workers are not returning to the office in great numbers. 

Across the UK sales seem to be strongest in Yorkshire, which Bloomberg says is based on strong growth in the shopping centers of Leeds and York. Scotland, which has stronger lock-down rules than England, has seen very little growth on the Pret Index. 

Going forward Bloomberg says that they will be updating the Pret Index every week. Unfortunately the Pret Index, will obviously suffer from unforeseen changes in people's behavior when returning to work. For example many people returning to the office may avoid entering confined Pret a Manger's for their coffee and sandwiches. In the same way other measures may also prove problematic. For example analysis of public transit figures may prove a poor indicator of the numbers returning to the workplace if many commuters avoid packed trains and buses and find alternative means of transport.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Unconnected America

Now that we are hopefully approaching the end of the pandemic a lot of discussion has started about the future of work. A lot of commentators appear to think that working from home could be here to stay for many workers. For that to happen people need good access to broadband speeds. 

Unfortunately not everyone in the USA has access to broadband internet speeds. In This is a Map of America's Broadband Gap Verge has mapped counties where less than 15 percent of households have broadband speed.All the counties colored blue on this map have less than 15 percent of households with an internet speed over 25Mbps or above.You can also hover over individual counties on the map to view the percentage of households that have broadband speed. 

To create the map Verge used data from Microsoft. This data reveals that there are many counties where a large majority of counties don't have broadband speeds. For example in Lincoln County, Washington only five percent of households can access the internet at 25Mbps or above.

You can find out which companies offer broadband services in your area and the speeds that they offer using the FCC Broadband Map. Enter your address into the Federal Communications Commission's interactive map and you can view the names of all your local broadband providers and the upload and download speeds that they offer.

The FCC Broadband Map is color-coded to show the number of fixed residential broadband providers in each census block in the USA. If you click on a census block on the map you can view a list of the available broadband providers, the technology they offer (cable, ADSL or satellite) and their upload and download speeds (which I assume are self-reported by the companies and not the actual speeds experienced by consumers).

The Night Trains of Europe

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic reduction in Europe's night-train services. Bloomberg says that this is a trend that is set to end. Because of the huge ecological cost of flying Europe is once again encouraging people to replace plane journeys with the train. To support these rail journeys new night-train routes are once again being opened in Europe.

A train journey from Paris to Vienna produces one tenth of the emissions of the same journey by plane. Countries such as France and Austria have introduced financial penalties for short-haul flights in order to make flying less attractive to customers. In order to encourage passengers to take the train instead of the plane new night-time train routes are also being opened across Europe.

Bloomberg's Europe Asks Travelers to Ditch Planes for Night Trains looks at some of the new night-train routes being developed. As you scroll through the article an interactive map updates to show some of the planned and existing night-train routes across Europe. 

While Bloomberg's article provides an interesting overview of some of the new night-train routes being planned in Europe it doesn't provide information on the existing night-train coverage across the continent. The formidable Night Train's website is a useful resource if you want to plan a night-train journey anywhere across the globe.

Night Train's Europe page includes an interactive map of Europe's Night-Train routes in 2020. You can use this map to plan a train journey from Lisbon to Moscow or from Edinburgh to Rome (although some of these journeys may take you more than one night of travel).

Monday, May 10, 2021

Population Transfers

In the last few weeks an old interactive map by Slate has become very popular again. Slate's Equal Population Mapper allows you to compare the populations of select cities and counties with other locations in the United States. 

The Equal Population Mapper lets you click anywhere on a map of the United States and view a circular region of equal population to New York around the selected area. It really is a very effective tool to visualize the population density of New York in comparison to other regions of the US. The map isn't restricted to only visualizing the population of New York. You can also use the map to view the populations of Los Angeles County, Wyoming, New Jersey, Texas and the coastal areas of the United States overlaid on other areas of the country. 

Inspired by Slate's map the State of NYC also allows you to visualize the population of New York by showing you how large an area an equal sized population would be elsewhere in the USA. Every time you refresh State of NYC it will show you the populations of New York City, Los Angeles County, Harris County (Texas), Cook County (Illinois) and Maricopa County (Arizona) by highlighting counties with similar populations elsewhere in the country. You just need to refresh the page to view these populations visualized on different locations.

The Building Heights of Beijing

Wendy Shijia has created an interesting building height map of Beijing. Wendy's The Height of Central Beijing colors individual buildings in the Chinese capital based on the number of levels they have.

Unlike many other cities around the world Central Beijing actually has shorter buildings in its center, with its taller buildings concentrated outside of the city center. This is mainly because the map is centered on Beijing's historic Forbidden City, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, and which was built long before the current craze for ultra tall buildings. 

Another interesting visualization which allows you to explore city building height data is the Rendering OSM Objects in Mapbox GL interactive map. This map includes a dynamic histogram which tells you how many buildings of each height there are within the current map view.

Drag this 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 shown 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 a neighborhood which is predominantly constructed of much shorter buildings.