Monday, April 22, 2019

World Press Freedom 2019

The United States has fallen three places in the World Press Freedom Index since last year. Every year Reporters Without Borders rank the countries of the world based on an assessment of each country's record of supporting the freedom of the press. This year the United States is ranked 48th out of 180 countries, and the RWF say that the media climate in the U.S. is now “problematic”.

When President Trump took office the United States was ranked 41st of all the countries in the world. They have dropped down the list every year since Trump became President. Other countries to have fallen down the list this year are Venezuela (down five at 148th), Russia (down one place at 149th) and China (177th down one place). For the third year running Norway tops the list. Finland have moved up two places to come second in this year's index and Sweden are in third place overall.

You can find out where every country in the world ranks on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index interactive map. Countries on the map are colored based on their rankings. Countries colored a pale yellow are deemed 'satisfactory'. Countries colored orange are seen as 'problematic'. Red countries are in a 'difficult situation' and black countries are in a 'very difficult situation'.

The very pale yellow colored countries (which the RWF say are colored white) are classified as 'good'. This year 24% of the 180 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders have qualified as 'good' in the index. Last year it was 26%. If you click on a country on the map you can read the score awarded by RWF and click on the 'read more' button to view the overall assessment of press freedom in the selected country.

Mega Monday Map Quiz

Can you name these three European cities?

The maps above show three different cities. To make the question harder each map only shows building footprints. All other features, such as roads, rivers and parks have been removed from the maps.

It isn't easy is it? 

How about if I told you the first city is in Switzerland, the second map shows a small section of a city in Germany, and the last map shows a section of a city in England.

Still stuck?

What if I tell you that one map is from Berlin, one is from London and the other Basel?

OK, so that isn't exactly a 'mega' map quiz. That's because each of those three circular maps comes from a different quiz. The first map comes from Tages Anzeiger's Do you recognize the Swiss city?. The second map comes from the Berliner Morgenpost's Do You Recognize the Area?. The third map comes from my own quiz London Squares, Markets & Circuses.

The first quiz, from the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, includes 12 maps of different cities in Switzerland. The second quiz, from the Berliner Morgenpost, includes 12 maps of different areas of Berlin. My quiz includes six maps of different areas of London. Now that's a bit more mega

All of these three quizzes were made with Hans Hack's Figuregrounder. Figuregrounder is a very easy to use tool which allows you to make map posters for any location in the world using OSM data. The posters are simple circular building footprint maps. So if you want to create your own map quiz you can just use Figuregrounder to make maps of different cities, towns or neighborhoods.

Alternatively you could use the Street Patterns tool for making map posters from city street patterns. Street Patterns is a very similar tool to Figuregrounder, except it uses data from OpenStreetMap to create maps from just streets and roads (instead of building footprints).

The image above shows street patterns found in Paris, London & New York. Can you guess which is which? The answer can be found here.

The Ukraine Presidential Election Map

A comedian has been voted the President of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the role of the president on a popular television comedy, is now the actual President of Ukraine, after cruising to victory in yesterday's presidential election in Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy received an astonishing 73.2% of the vote in the election. The incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, received just 24.5% of the national vote. Little is known of how Zelenskiy intends to preside over Ukraine. His election campaign contained almost no information about his policies or his plans for office. Apart from a vague promise to clean-up politics and end the power of the oligarchs his campaign consisted of viral videos and jokes. Some already doubt his promise to clean-up politics, with rumors of close ties between Zelenskiy, Zelenskiy's campaign team, and the oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

You can view how Ukraine voted on Dekoder's Presidential Elections in Ukraine 2019 interactive map. The map was initially released following the first round of the Ukraine Presidential Election. It has now been updated to include the results of yesterday's second round of voting between Zelenskiy and Poroshenko. As can be seen from the map Zelenskiy was the popular choice in nearly the whole country.

The Dekoder interactive map allows you to filter the results by candidate. If we show just the areas where Poroshenko received more of the votes it is noticeable that Poroshenko remained popular in only the area around the city of Lviv (the Lviv Oblast) in the west of Ukraine. The map includes an option to also filter the results shown by the gap between the two candidates. In fact, if you adjust the size of this filter, you can see that Zelenskiy's winning margin generally gets larger the further east you move.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Language of Story Maps

The Pudding's Why EU Regions are Redrawing Their Borders is a hugely impressive story map illustrating how European countries are redrawing regional borders in order to qualify for more European Union funding. As you progress through The Pudding's story the map is used to illustrate the economic health of EU regions and where regional borders are being redrawn.

The map sidebar includes a number of highlight links which are used to pick out extra details in the map. Hover over these highlight links in the text and related features are picked out on the map. So not only does the map update as you scroll through the text but the text itself includes highlighted text links to provide further explanation of the data. The colors of these highlight links are defined by the data. For example, in the sidebar text the highlight link for the 'least developed regions' is the same color as the least developed regions on the map.

These colored highlight links are such a useful feature in a story map that I've updated my example choropleth story map on Glitch to include colored highlight links. Scroll through Measles in Europe and hover over the highlighted text in the map sidebar to pick out different features on the map. If you want to create your own choropleth story map using Leaflet.js then feel free to clone and copy the Measles in Europe map on Glitch.

Dutch Election Map

Provincial elections were held in the Netherlands in March 2019. These elections have a bearing on the national government, since the members of the twelve provincial states will elect the Senate's 75 members in the Senate election on 27 May.

You can view the provincial election results at every polling booth on de Volkskrant's Hoe stemde jouw buurt? interactive map. The good news is that the repugnant Party for Freedom lost half of its seats. Unfortunately those lost votes seemed to mostly go to another extreme right party. The big winner in the election was the far-right Forum for Democracy, led by the elitist white nationalist and misogynist Thierry Baudet. The Party for Freedom won the same number of seats (12) as the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), who lost one seat since the last election in 2015. The GreenLeft party also did well, gaining four seats since 2015, and winning nine seats overall.

The interactive map from de Volkskrant allows you to view the results of the election down to the individual polling booth level. This allows you to view the voting patterns at a very local level, within individual towns and cities. At the national level it appears that the Party for Freedom and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy picked up a lot of votes in the west of the country. The GreenLeft, on the other hand, appear to have done very well in the the east of the Netherlands.

Friday, April 19, 2019

European Gerrymandering

How do you make regional funding in the European Union interesting? With an interactive map - that's how. As a map fan you might already be intrigued by The Pudding's headline Why EU Regions are Redrawing Their Borders. When I tell you that the article is illustrated with a sublime story map then I know you will be hooked.

Maarten Lambrechts' report into how some EU countries are gerrymandering their regional boundaries in order to qualify for European Union funding is explained with the use of an interactive map. The map is used to explain how the EU calculates regional aid based on economic development, which EU countries are currently more and less economically developed and how some countries are redrawing their regional boundaries in order to ensure that they qualify for EU funding.

As you scroll through the article the story map updates to illustrate these points. I particularly like how the map also updates when you hover over highlighted words in the text. Some words in the map sidebar are highlighted in color. These colors match the colors used on the choropleth map. If you mouse-over these words in the sidebar then the countries matching the selected data range are highlighted on the the map. Later in the story country names are highlighted in white in the text and when hovered over these named countries are also highlighted on the map.

The map itself is completely custom made using SVG. This allows the data on the map to be animated to further illustrate how some regions are being redrawn to ensure areas qualify for economic support from the EU. At one point the regions on the map animate into a chart showing the economic development of all the regions in each country (if you scroll back up the page you can watch these points on the chart animate back to form a map of Europe).

In Europe capital cities are often more economically developed than the surrounding region. Why EU Regions are Redrawing Their Borders shows how some countries have redrawn their regional borders so that the capital is placed in one region and the surrounding region then becomes another separate poorer region, which then qualifies for EU funding.

Where Germans Drive Fastest

The German autobahn system includes stretches where motorists are allowed to drive as fast as they want. These speed-unrestricted stretches do have an advisory speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) but going faster isn't illegal (however if a driver has an accident while driving at over 130 kph they may face increased liability).

Zeit has used data from TomTom to workout how fast Germans drive on average on each stretch of the autobahn. An interactive map on Where Germany is Racing shows the average speed of all drivers across the autobahn network and the average speed driven by the fastest 10% of drivers. Around 70% of the autobahn has no speed limit. The other 30% has different speed limits depending on certain factors (such as the level of urbanization, the road condition and road safety). Using TomTom's data Zeit discovered that the lower the speed limit the more drivers tend to ignore it.

On the sections which have an advisory speed limit (130 kph) then the average speed is 122 kph (75.8 mph). Only 30% of drivers drive faster than 130 kph on the speed unrestricted sections of the autobahn. Only 12% drive faster than 150 kph (93.2 mph).

Zeit's online map doesn't allow you to filter the sections of autobahn shown by the average speed of all drivers or the average speed of the fastest 10% of drivers. However towards the end of the article Zeit has published a static map which shows the sections of the autobahn network where the fastest 10% of drivers tend to drive on average at over 180 kmh (112 mph) or more.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mapping Urban Heat Islands

While the governments of the world refuse to take action against climate change you might want to start planning how you are going to cope with the extreme heat of your future summers. Particularly if you live in a large town, city or other large built environment.

It has long been known that certain areas of a town or city can be much warmer than other parts of the same town or city. This 'urban heat island' effect is often most pronounced in the summer and on days with extreme heat. If you know where those heat islands are in your town then you may be able to avoid them on the hottest days of the year.

Last August (2018) NOAA ran a citizen science project in Washington D.C. and in Baltimore in order to discover if these cities had urban heat islands, and if so, where those heat islands were. NOAA mounted thermal sensors on the cars of a number of volunteers. They then asked the volunteers to drive a set route while the monitors recorded temperatures, the time of the temperature recording and the location. NOAA then used this data to create detailed maps of the hottest and coldest places in each city.

In Baltimore on the same day and at the same time some areas of the city experienced temperatures 17 degrees F higher than other areas. In Washington D.C. it was discovered that some areas of the city were 16 degrees warmer than other areas. The detailed maps which NOAA were able to create from the project not only provided proof of the urban heat island effect, it showed where those heat islands were and allowed NOAA to look for common features found in the hottest and coolest locations. In other words it allowed NOAA to explore what causes certain areas in a city to experience more extreme heat than other parts of the same city.

You can view the location of Baltimore's and D.C.'s urban heat islands on NOAA's Detailed maps of urban heat island effects in Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Both these two city maps overlay heat maps of the recorded temperatures in each city on top of an aerial imagery map. A swipe control then allows you to closely examine the common features underneath the hottest and coldest areas in each city.

You don't need to be an environmental scientist to see that the hottest areas in both cities are the areas with the densest built environment and the most roads. This is a result of un-shaded roads and buildings absorbing heat and then radiating it out to their surroundings. The coolest places in both cities are parks or other areas with tree cover. The dark surfaces of roads and built materials, such as bricks and concrete, absorb more heat than grass and vegetation. Which is why the densest built areas tend to be significantly warmer than areas with tree cover or parks.

In order to avoid creating areas that experience a heat island effect city planners can introduce measures which mitigate against the albedo effect of roads and buildings. Roofs can be painted white to reflect heat. Trees can be planted along roadways and parking lots can be replaced with parks (or at least made more green).

You can explore the locations of the urban heat islands in your town and city on Yale University's Global Surface UHI Explorer. This interactive map uses our knowledge of what causes the urban heat island effect to predict where urban heat islands will appear in towns and cities around the world.

You can read more about the algorithm which predicts the urban heat islands on the interactive map in the paper A simplified urban-extent algorithm to characterize surface urban heat islands on a global scale and examine vegetation control on their spatiotemporal variability, published in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

All the Lands & Kingdoms in the Whole World

Google Arts & Culture is an often overlooked resource for viewing vintage maps online. One example of an historically important map which you can view in detail on the site is Leonardo da Vinci's Plan of Imola. An even earlier map which you can explore on Google Arts & Culture is Hanns Rüst's Mappa Mundi (c1480).

These two maps were created possibly as little as 20 years apart but they belong to two entirely different worlds. Da Vinci's Plan of Imola, created with his own scientific instruments, belongs entirely to the Renaissance. The map is not only amazingly accurate it would not look entirely out of place in a modern atlas of Italy. On the other hand Hanns Rüst's Mappa Mundi is a product still rooted in the Middle Ages. It is a picture of the world which owes little to the new thinking of the Renaissance and nearly everything to a religious understanding of the world.

The Mappa Mundi, usually attributed to the German printer Hanns Rüst, is a much smaller map of the world than the better known Hereford Mappa Mundi. The Hereford Mappa Mundi stands over 5 feet tall and is over 4 feet wide. The Hanns Rüst map in comparison measures less than 11 x 16 inches. Despite this large difference in size both maps share a number of similarities.

Both the Hanns Rüst and Hereford Mappa Mundi are religious maps of the world as much as they are geographical maps of the world. The title of the Hanns Rüst map boasts (in German) "This is the mappa mundi of all the lands and kingdoms which there are in the whole world". However the knowledge which underpins this understanding of the world comes firstly from the Bible and the church. Ezekiel 5:5 says "Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her." Something that the creator of the map has taken quite literally by placing Jerusalem at the very center of this map and therefore at the center of the known world.

Jerusalem appears above European countries on the map. The Mappa Mundi is orientated so that east is at the top of the map. Paradise is also at the top of the map. In Genesis the Garden of Eden is said to be the source of four rivers. This religious knowledge is used to frame the cartographer's understanding of the world. On the map four rivers are shown flowing from the Garden. Most sources claim that these rivers are labelled as the Ganges, Phison, Indus and Nile (however to me it appears that one river is labelled the Euphrates (Eufrates) and another the Tigris).

To the left of these four rivers is a mountain range with a single head appearing from behind one peak. The mountain is labelled, "Caspian Mountains gog and magog". The tribes of Gog and Magog are the descendants of Noah's son Japheth. For Christians Gog and Magog often seem to represent the uncivilized tribes of the world. The Book of Revelation says that in the Last Days Satan will rally "the nations in the four corners of the Earth, Gog and Magog, to a final battle with Christ and his saints".

Back in the center of the map, around Jerusalem are a number of locations which are probably included on the map as much for their religious significance as for their geographical importance. So, for example, we have Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives and Galilee.

Moving out from Jerusalem the map is divided into three continents. These are labelled in red on the map. Asia is shown above Jerusalem (remember the map is orientated with East at the top). Below Jerusalem Europe is shown in the bottom-left corner of the map and Africa is shown in the bottom-right corner. The three continents are also named for Noah's three sons Ham, Shem, and Japeth (see the red outlined labels on the map). At the time it was traditional to identify the three known continents as populated by the descendants of Ham, Shem, and Japeth, as can be seen on early T and O maps.

The Mappa Mundi itself contains a form of T and O map. In an inset at the bottom-right we have a T and O map which depicts the division of the world into town, country and sea. To the left of this is another inset which shows the world as consisting of the four elements, wind, fire, earth and water.

Back on the main map you can see that the world is encircled by an ocean which contains a number of islands (including in the bottom-left 'engenland'). To the right of engenland are the Columns of Hercules. The Columns of Hercules were believed in ancient times to be located at the Strait of Gibraltar and they marked the western extreme of the known inhabited world. As you move around the outer ocean the islands contain a number of weird and wonderful people and monsters. Outside of the encircling ocean four classical windheads are located at the four cardinal directions of the map.

If you were lost in Imola you could without a doubt use Leonardo da Vinci's map to find your way home. If you tried to navigate your way around the world using Hanns Rüst's Mappa Mundi you would soon be lost - unless you are a Christian and you need to find yourself philosophically within the myths and traditions of the Old Testament. In fact the only thing that the two maps have in common is the importance given to the different winds.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Plastic Polluted River & Oceans

Around 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the world's oceans every single year. Plastic which is dangerous to marine life and, once it enters the food chain, dangerous to the health of people as well. This plastic comes from homes across the world. Mismanaged plastic waste and waste which is intentionally dumped enters the world's rivers and then flows into our seas. Studies are now beginning to map where this plastic ends up and where it originates from.

Litterbase is one organization attempting to collate the results of scientific studies researching the levels of plastic pollution found in the world's oceans. Currently Litterbase provides a summarized overview of the results from over 1,900 studies into the amount and composition of litter and its effect on marine environments. An example of one of these summaries is Distribution of Litter Types in Different Realms, which is an interactive map created from the results of 916 scientific publications on the amount, distribution and composition of litter in the world's oceans.

The map shows the results of hundreds of scientific studies carried out in specific locations around the world. It is not a heatmap of marine pollution around the world. It only shows the levels of pollution in the areas where studies were carried out. The markers on the map do show the levels of plastic and other types of pollution detected at different locations across the globe. However there are gaps in seas and oceans where little scientific research has taken place, for example around Africa and the Polar regions.

One way that we can fill in these gaps in our knowledge is by modeling the density of pollution in the oceans based on the results of scientific studies. Sailing Seas of Plastic is a dot density map which shows the estimated concentration of floating plastic in the oceans based on the results of 24 survey expeditions (2007-2013) and on wind and ocean drift models.

Each dot on the Sailing Seas of Plastic map represents 20 kg of floating plastic. According to the map there are 5,250 billion pieces of plastic adrift on the seas of the world. If you want you can also overlay the sailing tracks of the 24 survey expeditions on top of the dot map.

The Seas of Plastic is another visualization of the floating plastic debris that is polluting the world's oceans which is based on ocean drift models. The visualization includes an interactive globe showing the five large circulating gyres of plastic in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, Indian, South Atlantic and North Atlantic oceans.

The data for the Seas of Plastic visualization comes from a Lagrangian particle tracking model which simulated 30 years of input, transport and accumulation of floating plastic debris around the world. The model tracks the paths of plastic particles from land to sea and estimates the relative size of each of the five circulatory gyres.

The visualization also includes a Sankey Diagram that shows the amount of plastic debris which different countries contribute to each of these five circulating gyres. This diagram reveals that China is by far the biggest polluter of the world's oceans, followed closely by Europe. The notion that China is the source for a large proportion of ocean pollution is supported by the Ocean Cleanup campaign.

The Ocean Cleanup organisation believes that between 1.15 and 2.41 million metric tons of the plastic in the oceans originates from the world's river systems. Two thirds of it from the rivers of Asia. To help explain how and where plastic ends up in the world's oceans the Ocean Cleanup has released an interactive map, River Plastic Emissions to the World’s Oceans.

This map shows river systems around the globe. The predicted input from each river system is shown at the coast using scaled circular markers. These predicted inputs are based on a model which looks at population density, waste management, topography, hydrography, the locations of dams and the reported concentration of plastic in rivers around the world.

You can learn more about how the plastic you place in your trash ends up in the world's oceans in a National Geographic story map. In What Happens to the Plastic we Throw Out National Geographic explains how domestic plastic trash ends up polluting a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific. As you progress through National Geographic's story a background map of the South Pacific shows the levels of mismanaged municipal plastic waste produced by countries on the Pacific Ocean. Much of this plastic waste eventually ends up in the Pacific. Carry on scrolling and the map updates to show the levels of plastic waste entering the ocean from rivers in Asia and North, Central & South America.

National Geographic identifies the Yangtze River as the most polluted river in the world. Most of the pollution from the Yangtze eventually ends up in the Pacific by way of the East China Sea. The background map animates the modeled pathways of marine debris to show how the plastic from the world's rivers ends up creating the huge plastic gyres which are polluting our oceans.