Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trump's Wall Maps


USA Today flew & drove along the entire 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. During these journeys they mapped every known piece of the existing border fence between the two countries. You can view the locations of this existing border fence and also view the aerial video USA Today shot during their flight along the border on a new interactive map.

Should we build a wall? A 2,000-mile search for answers not only maps the existing border fence but also explores some of the problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall between Mexico & the USA. The map shows where the existing fence consists of vehicle barriers, pedestrian fencing, other fencing and where no fencing currently exists.

The beginning of 'Should we build a wall' is in the story map format. This section explores some of the geographical, economical and legal problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall. You can view some of these geographical problems yourself in the USA Today's aerial videos. If you scroll to the bottom of the story map and click on the 'Explore the map' button you can click on the map to view videos of the aerial footage captured during the flight along the border.

'Should we build a wall' is just one part of USA Today's special report The Wall - an in-depth examination of Donald Trump's border wall. In the rest of this examination you can read interviews, listen to podcasts and explore the border in virtual reality.


Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has also been collecting data on the US-Mexico border for a number of years. They have spent a long time mapping the existing border fence using satellite imagery and government PDF maps of the border.

From this data Reveal has discovered that around 700 miles of the 1,954 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border is already fenced. Trump's new wall will therefore need to be at least 1,300 miles long. That's a lot of Chinese steel. You can explore Reveal's work on their The Wall interactive map. The map shows the current fence and shows where it is a 'vehicular' and where it is a 'pedestrian' fence. The map also shows where no fence currently exists.

You can get a good sense of the scale of construction needed to build Trump's new wall in a video from the Intercept. The Intercept downloaded and stitched together 200,000 satellite images to create a huge strip map of the U.S.-Mexican border. You can view this strip map in Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border, a short video which pans along the whole border.


From Donald Trump's 'detailed' construction plans we know that the Trump Wall will be up to 15 meters high, made of concrete and steel (but also possibly fencing) and will be 1,954 miles long. If you are having difficulty envisioning just how far 1,954 miles is then you can use the Berliner Morgenpost's interactive map. The Trump Wall Comparison Map allows you to overlay an outline of Trump's proposed border wall between the USA and Mexico on any location on Earth.

If you want to create your own Trump Wall map then you can get Reveal's data for the US-Mexico border fence on Github. You can read more about how this data was collected and mapped in the Reveal article The Wall: Building a continuous US-Mexico barrier would be a tall order.

Every Building in Great Britain


Last year Emu Analytics released a Building Heights in England interactive map. The map uses data from the Ordnance Survey to color building footprints in all of England by the height of each building.

If you want to create your own building footprint map using Ordnance Survey data for Great Britain then Alasdair Rae can help you. Alasdair has created shapefiles for all of Great Britain's building footprints and made them available on Dropbox. There are six shapefiles in total:
  • All buildings in Wales 
  • All buildings in Scotland 
  • All buildings in the North of England
  • All buildings in the Midlands 
  • All buildings in the South West of England 
  • All buildings in the South East of England
Alisdair created the files to help answer the question of how much of Great Britain is covered by buildings. You can find the answer to that question and the link to the building footprint shapefiles at Buildings of Great Britain.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mexico Earthquake Maps


Yesterday a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico. At the time of writing there have been 216 confirmed deaths from the quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey's interactive map locates the epicenter of the quake near the town of Raboso in Puebla, 76 miles southeast of Mexico City. The USGS's Latest Earthquakes Map includes options to view earthquake activity over the last 24 hours, the last week or the last month. The map also shows plate boundaries. Mapbox's Live Earthquake Tracker is also a nicely designed map of the same USGS data, allowing you to view the location and the size of the most recent seismic activity around the world on a global map.


The New York Times has created a seismic activity map which shows that although Mexico City is 76 miles from the epicenter of yesterday's quake it still experienced intense seismic activity. Mexico City is built on an ancient lake bed. The soft soil under Mexico City is known to be prone to seismic activity. When earthquake waves pass through the soil it vibrates and magnifies the waves.

The result of seismic activity can therefore be catastrophic for Mexico City's buildings. The NYT article includes a map of buildings that have collapsed in the city and lots of photos of the devastation caused. Yesterday's quake occurred on the anniversary of the horrific 1985 earthquake which damaged around 3,000 buildings in the city. It appears yesterday's earthquake has not caused that scale of damage to the city's buildings. After the 1985 quake Mexico City introduced more stringent building codes. Those codes probably saved a lot of lives yesterday.

A Google Map, Edificios Colapsados Sismo 2017 19 Sep, is also documenting the location of collapsed buildings in Mexico City. Buildings on this map are being categorized by the degree of damage caused by the quake.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Non-Clustering Custom Place Labels


Planet of Sound was created by Dorothy to crowd-source the music playlist for an event they held in May of this year. That event is now over but the map still works and is well worth visiting. Not least for its magical non-clustering custom map labels.

The Planet of Sound map allows you to tag any location in the world with a song and a memory. If you don't want to add a song you can just browse the map to explore what songs other people associate with different places across the globe.

The map doesn't include any real place-name labels. In fact the only labels on this map are the song titles people have added to the map. What is particularly impressive is how the map avoids clustering and overlapping these custom labels. This is not a simple thing to achieve.

If you want to add your own non-clustering & non-overlapping labels to a map then you can should have a look at James Milner's Labelgun for reducing label clutter. The GitHub for Labelgun includes examples of the library being used with Leaflet, Esri and OpenLayers. If you check out these examples you can see how Labelgun works to avoid custom labels clustering and overlapping as you zoom in and out on the map.

Vintage Maps of Japan


The Japanese Historical Maps Collection of the East Asian Library has worked with the David Rumsey Map collection to digitize around 2,300 early Japanese maps. The Japanese Historical Maps collection allows you to explore all of these digitized historical maps from Japan as zoomable images.

If you want you can explore some of these vintage maps in more detail on Google Maps. The Japan Historical GIS page has eight maps from the collection, dating back to 1694, which you view on top of Google Maps.

The University of British Columbia has a huge collection of maps and guidebooks from the Japanese Tokugawa period (1600-1867). Their Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era includes digitized versions of the maps which can be explored online.

The National Archives of Japan also own a large number of rare vintage maps of Japan. In particular they have digitized the Genroku Kuni Ezu (national land maps). Around the turn of the Eighteenth Century the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered maps to be made of the whole of the Japan. You can explore these maps on the National Archives Classic Maps website.


Gunma GIS Geek has used the Leaflet mapping platform to create interactive maps from a couple of famous Japanese pilgrimage mandalas. Pilgrimage mandalas are paintings which provide a panoramic view of temple and shrine sites.

The first map on Temple Pilgrimage Mandala is of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This 16th–17th century hanging scroll depicts the Nachi Shrine on the Kii Peninsula in Japan. The painting presents the journey of two pilgrims (the couple clothed in white) as they enter the scene (bottom right) and take a circuitous route through the temple complex to the Nachi shrine.


You can learn more about some of the over 50 buildings depicted in the painting at the Embodying Compassion website. Embodying Compassion includes an interactive version of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This interactive version of the mandala features a number of markers which allow you to learn more about the buildings, temples and statues depicted in the mandala.


If you want to explore vintage maps of Tokyo then a good place to start is with the Past and Present Map, which uses some beautiful vintage maps to illustrate how Tokyo has developed since the Nineteenth Century.

The application lets you explore ten historical maps ranging in date from 1896 to 2005. The dual map control places the historical map side-by-side with a Google Map. Pan and zoom the historical map and the Google Map will also move to ensure that both maps are always showing the same view.

Monday, September 18, 2017

School Safety Snapshot


Zendrive has rated the road safety around 75,000 schools nationwide. Using mobile phone data from car drivers Zendrive has measured the levels of dangerous driving around schools across the United States. You can find out the Zendrive ratings for dangerous driving around your local schools on the Zendrive School Safety Snapshot interactive map.

The map uses three different administrative levels to show ratings for states, counties and individual schools. When zoomed out on the map you can view the ratings for each state (California and Florida have the worst ratings). If you click on a state on the map you can drill down to view the ratings in each county. If you the click on a county you can view the ratings for all the individual schools.

The interactive map is well designed and it is very easy to navigate down to view the ratings for individual schools. I'm not entirely convinced about Zendrive's data and methodology. They claim that their model "predicts future collisions six times more accurately than leaders of the industry". If you are worried about dangerous driving around your local school then it might be worth checking the traffic accident records of the local roads for yourself.


For example you could look at Mapping Ten Years of Fatal Traffic Accidents, an interactive map showing every single fatal traffic accident in the United States from 2004 to 2013.

When zoomed out this map shows a heatmap of fatal traffic accidents across the whole country. When you zoom in on the map markers appear showing the location of each individual fatal accident. This means that you can zoom in on any city or town in the USA to view a detailed map of where accidents occurred locally.

When you zoom in on the map option controls also appear which allow you to filter the accidents shown by contributing factors (alcohol, speeding and driver distraction). The markers are also colored on the map to show who was killed in each accident (driver, passenger, pedestrian etc).

Mapping Marine Protected Areas


Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are areas of oceans where human activity is restricted for conservation purposes. 6.35% of the world's seas are now covered by MPAs. That is a ten-fold increase in the area of our oceans designated as MPAs in the first seventeen years of this century.

You can view which areas of the world's oceans have MPA status on Protected Planet's Marine Protected Areas interactive map. The map shows the location of MPAs around the globe and provides information about the status of each MPA. If you select an MPA on the map you can click-through to read more about its designation and the name of its management authority.

The Protected Planet also maintains a database of all the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas. The World Database on Protected Areas includes an interactive map showing both marine & terrestrial protected areas around the globe.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Free Style OSM


If you like the Emoji Map Generator then you will probably love Map Stylizer. Where the Emoji Map Generator allows you to create maps from your favorite emojis the Map Stylizer gives you more scope to create a custom styled map from an OpenStreetMap tile.

The Map Stylizer includes a number of pre-set map styles. For example the screenshot above shows the White House styled using the Map Stylizer's treasure map style. The other pre-set styles include  'circuit board', 'paper' and 'scribbles'. However you don't have to use these pre-set styles. If you choose the custom option you can select to choose which map features you want to change and how you want to change them.

Both the Emoji Map Generator and the Map Stylizer create pretty awful maps but they are fun to play with. They are both also interesting examples of how individual OSM map tiles can be manipulated on the fly.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cleaner Air = Longer Lives


You can use this interactive map to find out how many extra years you could expect to live if your country met the World Health Organization's recommended safe levels of air quality. The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's Air Quality-Life Index map shows how many life years could be saved in countries around the world if they met WHO standards for safe levels of airborne particulate matter pollution.

The darker the color on the map then the more years could be saved. In other words the darkest areas have the worst records of air pollution. You can actually view particulate pollution concentrations on the map by switching to the 'Pollution' layer.


Air pollution causes 1 in 8 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization's own interactive map, Global Ambient Air Pollution, also shows the levels of pollution across the globe. The map displays the average annual atmospheric particulate matter levels throughout most of the world. The data used is from the WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, which covers 3000 cities in 103 different countries.

The Global Ambient Air Pollution map helps highlight the fact that air pollution most effects those living in low and middle income countries. However 56% of cities in high-income countries also don't meet the WHO air quality guidelines. Even in high-income countries urban air pollution levels tend to be higher in low and middle-income cities and in the poorest neighborhoods of high-income cities.

Rocking All Over the World


Taylor Swift really likes playing in Nashville. If you check out her gigging history on the Music Globe you can see that the number of concerts she has played in Nashville dwarfs all other locations. Mind you she did move to Nashville at the age of fourteen, so perhaps her gigging history isn't that surprising.

You can find out where other musical artists like to gig on this new 3d Music Globe. Just type in an artist's name and you can see a visualization of how often they have gigged at locations around the world. The height of the colored towers on the map represents the number of concerts played at that location.

The data for the number of gigs an artist has played comes from the Bandsintown API. Unfortunately Bandsintown was founded in 2007, so I assume the data for historical concerts only goes back that far. The globe itself was created using Google's WebGL Globe library. The source code for the interactive Music Globe is available on Github.