Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Arctic is Melting

The rate of global warming in the Arctic is about twice as fast as the global average. You can see how this global heating is affecting sea ice extent on this impressive map visualization from Aftenposten. The article accompanying the map is in Norwegian but you don't need to speak Norwegian to appreciate the impressive interactive map.

As you scroll through The Arctic is Melting a map of the Arctic visualizes the level of sea ice extent over time for every year since 1985. The purple colored areas on the map show the thin ice that melts in summer. The white ice shows the thicker perennial ice, which has visibly shrunk in just the last decade. In recent years the ice in the Arctic has become younger and thinner. This means that the ice melts faster and earlier every year.

You can view many other mapped visualizations of the loss of sea ice in the Arctic on the Maps Mania Arctic tag.

Where in the World - Map Games

Map games can be a lot of fun to play. They can also be a lot of fun to make. The following three interactive map games are all fun to play. They are also all on GitHub. This means that each of these games is easy to clone and adapt if you want to create your own map based geography game.


Play the Game & Clone the GitHub

In this simple map game you are given six different cities to identify by clicking on their correct locations on an interactive map. You gain points based on how near you are to the correct location and by how quickly you answer.


Play the Game & Clone the GitHub

In this Mapbox based game you are shown different cities around the world. All you have to do is select the correct name for the city from a choice of four. If you guess correctly then you progress to the next round. Each city shown is more difficult than the last. The object of the game is to name as many cities as you can. The game finishes as soon as you guess a city wrongly.

Map Quiz

Play the Game & Clone the GitHub

Map Quiz is actually a compendium of a number of different map games in one package. On Map Quiz you can choose to play map games which test your knowledge of countries, cities or even national flags. If you guess correctly in this game you are rewarded with a little information box containing the selected country's flag, population and area size.

How Big is Big?

1,500 square miles

Data visualization expert Hans Hack has developed two interactive mapping tools which are great if you need to explain the size of something by showing it on a map. His How Big tool uses scaled circles or squares to visualize simple area sizes and his Reprojector tool can be used to show the size of areas with more complex shapes.

Massive swarms of locusts are currently destroying crops in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. The food supply of tens of millions of people is threatened by swarms as big as 1,500 square miles. Each swarm can include up to 150 million locusts per sq km. A single swarm can cover 120 miles in a day devouring all crops encountered on the way.

It can be hard to comprehend how large 1,500 square miles actually is. Which is why Hans Hack size comparison map tool can be very handy. How Big is an interactive map which allows you to show how large an area is by overlaying a circle or square of that size over any location. This allows you to make direct comparisons between the sized shape and places that you are familiar with.

Type in an area size into the How Big interactive map (in meters, hectares, kilometers or miles) and the map will display a circle or square of that size over the location of your choice. If you want to use the generated circle or square in your own maps you can even download a GeoJSON file of your sized shape.

If you want to show the size of more complex shapes then Hans Hack can help you there as well. His Reprojector interactive mapping tool allows you to compare different areas with each other by moving GeoJSON shapes around. The tool is great for comparing two (or more) different geographic areas with each other.

The Reprojector tool allows you to upload any GeoJSON polygon onto an interactive map. This GeoJSON can be anything you want, including country or state borders. Once you have uploaded a polygon onto the Reprojector map you can move the shape around to overlay the polygon on any location in the world. When you are happy with the location of your polygon you can then download a GeoJSON file with the data to display your polygon in its new position.

You can see in the screenshot above an example where I positioned a GeoJSON polygon of Italy on top of the state of Texas. If you want to experiment with moving different country polygons around on the Reprojector map then you might find GeoJSON Maps of the Globe useful. This simple tool allows you to click on a country on an interactive map and then download it as a GeoJSON file (which you can then upload onto the Reprojector map).

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mapping Urban Sprawl

Urban planning around the world seems to have become obsessed with the idea of creating gated communities and disconnected street networks. This is extremely bad news for people who like to walk and for the environment. Urban sprawl and disconnected streets create barriers to and discourage walking. Cul de sacs and gated communities make it very difficult to make journeys without a car. They therefore lead to an increased use of vehicles and CO2 emissions. On the other hand connected street networks encourage walking and the use of public transport.

Researchers from the McGill University in Canada and the University of California have devised a way of measuring urban sprawl around the world. The Street-Network Disconnectedness index (SNDi) measures street connectivity. The SNDi uses OpenStreetMap data to work out an urban sprawl score for street networks across the world. This score is calculated by looking at such as factors as the number of routes possible between locations on a street network, the number of dead ends, and the distance of possible travel between locations.

The Sprawl Map allows you to explore the SNDi given to towns and cities around the globe. Zoom-in on any town in the world and you can see the SNDi scores given to individual roads. On the map streets are colored to show how well connected they are. Poorly connected streets, such as cul-de-sacs or loops, where people are forced to drive, are colored red. Well-connected streets, where walking is easy, are colored blue. Zoom out and the Sprawl Map provides a choropleth view, which shows how connected different countries, regions and cities are overall.

Where are New York's Hoods?

Back in 2015 DNAInfo asked New Yorkers to draw their neighborhood boundaries on an interactive map. More than 12,000 people drew outlines where they thought their neighborhood's borders existed. Unfortunately the map which DNAInfo created from the results no longer seems to exist.

Luckily Adam Pearce appears to have access to the data and has created his own map of New York Neighborhoods Drawn by  New Yorkers. The interactive map provides a great visualization of where New Yorker's think their neighborhoods begin and end. The map includes a link to an interesting article called Uncertainty Over Space, which briefly explores how AI might be used to explore and visualize the borders between different neighborhoods based on these crowdsourced outlines. The map also has its own GitHub page.

While it can be interesting to explore where people think they live it can be just as interesting to find out what they think about where they live. Hoodmaps can help you discover what people think about different neighborhoods with its crowdsourced city maps - annotated and labeled by locals.

Hoodmaps has two main ways to show you what the locals think about different parts of a city. One way is by coloring the map by its dominant characteristic. Different colors are used to paint neighborhoods  as being either Students, Hipsters, Tourists, Rich, Suits or Normies. The color that you see is the dominant color from all the user inputs. Users can also provide more individual assessments of specific locations by adding a custom label to the map. For example, in New York users have tagged neighborhoods as 'hipsters with rich parents', 'Hasidic' and 'Polish' (among other things).

Noise Pollution Maps

One in every four people in Europe live near a road which is responsible for noise levels in excess of 55 decibels. The NOISE Observation & Information Service for Europe map allows you to explore the levels of noise pollution across Europe. The interactive map provides an overview of the levels of noise pollution across the continent created by road traffic, railways, airports and industry.

The NOISE map allows you to explore noise pollution levels from four separate sources. Using the map sidebar you can navigate to explore noise levels across Europe from roads, rail, airports or industry. Each of these four separate noise pollution maps provide you with an overview of average noise levels for locations across Europe during the day or at night.

If you click on a location on the NOISE map you can discover the number of people exposed to average noise levels of 55 dB or higher for the selected source of noise pollution. The map will also tell you how many people in the selected country are exposed to noise levels of 55db or above.

The OSM Global Noise Pollution Map uses OpenStreetMap data to estimate the levels of noise pollution across the world. At the heart of the OSM Global Noise Pollution Map is the very clever but simple idea of assigning noise pollution levels based on OpenStreetMap tags.

Map features in OpenStreetMap are assigned a tag which describe what has been mapped. These tags can also be assigned a value. For example all roads are tagged 'highway' but are also assigned a value such as 'motorway', 'secondary' or 'residential'.

The OSM Global Noise Pollution Map use these tags and values to assign a noise pollution level based on general assumptions. For example highway, trunk, primary and secondary roads are deemed to be noisier than normal street or service roads. The OSM Global Noise Pollution Map also assumes that other mapped features, such as railways and retail & industrial zones, will also generate different levels of noise pollution.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Driving While Distracted

Bloomberg has created an animated map to visualize the number of cars driving on our roads controlled by drivers using mobile phones. In the USA around 3,000 people a year are killed as a result of drivers being distracted while using their phones. In How Bad is Distracted Driving? Bloomberg has managed to visualize the scale of the distracted driving problem in New York and Los Angeles using two animated maps.

The two separate maps display a large number of cars driving around New York and Los Angeles. Some of the cars on each map are colored red and some are colored black. The percentage of red cars on each map represents the average percentage of drivers who drive around that city while distracted by their mobile phones. The resulting map is a very original and effective visualization of the data and really helps to convey the scale of the distracted driving problem.

The Bloomberg article also includes two other maps of New York and Los Angeles. The second set of maps presents a heat map view of each city's roads. On these maps roads are colored to show the percentage of drivers recorded on those roads driving while using their phones. The maps therefore show which roads have the highest percentage of distracted drivers.

The data for all four maps comes from the smartphone driving platform TrueMotion. TrueMotion tracks the usage of phones while their owners are driving. The TrueMotion application is used by the customers of a number of insurance companies. These customers are given incentives by the insurance companies when they agree to have their phone usage tracked while they are driving.

Become a Virtual Pilot

The UK's air traffic control service, NATS, has released a fantastic visualization which allows you to experience a virtual plane journey from London to Manchester. During the take-off, flight and landing you can listen in on the conversations which take place between the pilot and ground & air control. The whole journey is designed to show you how NATS Air Traffic Controllers safely guide a real plane on a journey from London Heathrow to Manchester.

As you scroll through Plane Talking you can watch as your plane taxis on to the runway, takes-off and flies towards Manchester. Next to a mapped visualization of your plane's journey a map sidebar displays the text of the conversations which take place between air traffic control and your pilot. You can also listen to these conversations as they occur during the journey.

The map sidebar is also used to provide other interesting and important information regarding air travel. For example information is provided on how wind direction affects take-off and landing and also the direction of an airport's runways. You can also learn the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, the codewords which are used for letters by pilots and air traffic controllers when they are communicating with each other.

After you have successfully landed Plane Talking presents you with some data on your completed journey. During your 150 mile flight there were 73 messages passed back and forth between the pilot and ground & air traffic controllers. Nine separate air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot during the flight and the plane passed through five different airspace sectors.

Mapping Family Names

I am a big fan of the Inspector Montalbano television series. One reason why I like the show so much is because it is set and filmed in some beautiful locations in southwest Sicily. The television program is based on the series of detective novels written by Andrea Camilleri, who originated from the province of Agrigento, Sicily.

While growing up in southwest Sicily Camilleri may well have known some real Montalbanos. Of the 1101 families with the surname Montalbano in Italy 739 of them are in Sicily, and of those 739 families called Montalbano in Sicily more than half of them live in the province of Agrigento. It seems likely that while growing up in Agrigento the writer Camilleri was very familiar with the name Montalbano.

Another Italian family name which can be found in Sicily is Corleone. There are only 56 Corleone families in the whole of Italy, but of those 56 families 21 of them live in Sicily. The name, which Mario Puzo adopted for his mafia family in the novel The Godfather, presumably originates from the Sicilian town of Corleone.

You can explore the distribution of other Italian surnames on the Italian Last Names Map. Enter a family name into the Italian Last Names Map and you can view an interactive map which shows you where that name can be found in Italy.

If you are from Italy or have an Italian surname then you can also search for the geographical spread of your last name using the Heatmap of Italian Surnames. Just enter your name and you can view a heatmap showing the distribution of that name in Italy based on data from Pagine Bianche.

If your family originate from the UK then you can discover where they might be from using named. Named maps locations in the UK where surnames have an historically unusually high local population.

The map is very easy to use. All you do is enter a surname and named will create a heatmap showing you where there is an unusually high number of people with that name. My family now live all around Europe. However, two to three generations ago, most of my family lived in and around Northampton in England. The spatial distribution of the surname 'Clarke', as shown by named, reveals that this area of the UK is home to many families called Clarke.

In Germany you can use GeoGen to view a map showing the geographical distribution of German surnames.

If you have Irish forebears then you can use the Geo Genealogy Map of Irish Surnames. The Geo Genealogy Map of Irish Surnames uses data from the 1890 census to show which families were living where in Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century.

You can see the global distribution of your family name using Forebears. You can use Forebears to undertake a global search for your family surname. If you enter a surname into Forebears it will tell you the meaning of your name and show you a map of the global distribution of your name. Beneath this generated map you can view a list showing the number of incidences of your surname recorded in each country around the world. It also shows the ratio of people with your surname in each country and the rank of your name in comparison to the incidence of all over surnames in each country.

Friday, February 14, 2020

California's Slum Landlord King

Mike Nijjar's property empire is huge. Much of it is also dirty and dangerous to live in.

LAist has mapped out the extent of Mike Nijjar's property empire in Southern California and how it is built on the suffering of California's poorest citizens. An interactive map in Deceit, Disrepair and Death Inside a Southern California Rental Empire shows just how many properties Nijjar's PAMA company owns in California. The map shows the huge number of parcels of land which are owned by PAMA. It also colors each of these parcels of land by median household income to show how many of these properties are located in California's poorest neighborhoods.

The LAist article explore some of the dirty and lethal conditions which can be found in PAMA properties. It also reveals how regulators and cities across California are aware of the conditions in PAMA properties but how they rarely hold the company accountable. The LAist explores some of the reasons why regulators are so poor at holding slum landlords like Mike Nijjar accountable. These reasons include having different departments responsible for regulating different building codes, poor tenants being scared to report rich and powerful landlords, and regulators who receive little funding from cash-strapped cities.

Mike Nijjar, his family, and associates also own 170 different companies and corporations. This obviously makes it much more difficult for tenants and the authorities to know who ultimately owns and is responsible for a neglected property.