Monday, May 20, 2019

The Problem with Australia's Election Maps


The 2019 Australian Election has been a bit of a disappointment for those interested in election maps. Generally the maps visualizing this year's election have been unimaginative and on the whole deceptively misleading.

There is a glaring problem with mapping Australia's election results, which comes from the huge variations in size between different electoral divisions. For example, Durack, in the north-west of the country is 1,629,858 square kilometers in size and bigger than many countries in the world. While, at the other end of the scale, the electoral district of Grayndler is just 32 square kilometers in size.

Here lies the major problem. Both Durack and Grayndler have one member in the House of Representatives. Yet Durack appears nearly 51,000 times larger on the map than Grayndler. Durack was won by the Liberal Party in the 2019 election. Grayndler voted for the Labor Party. On all the election maps I've seen of the Australian election the blue colored Durack has a huge visual impact, while the red of Grayndler is almost impossible to see - despite both electoral divisions having the same number of members in the House of Representatives. This is a visualization nightmare.

I challenge you to find Grayndler on The Age's How America Voted interactive map (the same map also appears in the Sydney Morning Herald). Grayndler is so small that it is almost impossible to find on the map. One purpose of using a map to present election results is that people can quickly find different electoral divisions to view the local results. If you need to use the search facility to find Granyndler then I would argue that the map is lacking as a search tool and that the data would be better presented in a table or chart.

There might have been some purpose to The Age's election map if it provided some kind of visual guide to the results. However reading the map based purely on the proportion of the different colors suggests that the Liberal Party won around 75% of the votes and the Labor Party won around 20%. In fact the Labor Party (so far) has won 65 seats and the Liberal Party has won 42.

This problem of visualizing election votes is not unique to Australia. Many countries around the world, including the USA and the UK, have similar patterns of voting - where right-wing parties often win the large (in geographical size) seats while the left-wing parties win the smaller urban and suburban seats. The problem is just exasperated in Australia because of the really huge differences between the largest and smallest electoral divisions.

Any election map of Australia, which sticks to any kind of geographical accuracy, is going to visually under-represent the Labor vote while over-representing the Liberal vote. The Guardian's Australian Election 2019 interactive map manages to cope with this problem better than The Age's map. The Guardian's map still gives far too much visual weight to the Liberal Party but it has more clearly defined the boundaries of the electoral divisions. While the color blue still clearly dominates the map you can more clearly see on The Guardian map that the Labor party has won a lot of seats in urban areas.

Note: Despite being the largest individual political party in terms of the number of seats won the Labor Party have lost the election to the minority Coalition (consisting of the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia) who between them will win enough seats to form a government.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sea Monsters & Fantastical Beasts of America


Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin was the first official cartographer in Canada. Franquelin first arrived in Canada as a trader in 1671. The Governor of New France soon employed him as a cartographer. Franquelin's 'Carte Genlle. de la France Septle' is just one of the many maps of North America produced by Franquelin for the Governor of New France. The map was made with the help of Father Jacques Marquette and explorer Louis Joliet after their 1673 voyage along the Mississippi River.

Cartographic Beasts is an interactive tour of the many wonderful beasts depicted on Franquelin's 1675 map. Most of the animals depicted on the map, such as deer, rabbits and bears, are real. However a few of the beats seems a little fantastical, particularly the manitous, which Franquelin described as having "horns like a deer, red eyes, (and) a beard like a tiger".

The joy of Cartographic Beasts is being able to explore the wonderful drawings of the North American animals in close detail. The descriptions which accompany each of the creatures featured on the map include a judgement on whether the illustrated beast is real or fantastical.


North America is not the only land where fantastical beasts are known to roam. Wonderful creatures can also be found in Scandinavia. At least many strange beasts are shown on Olaus Magnus’ Carta marina. The Carta marina is the earliest map of the Nordic countries that includes place names. The map depicts an area which includes the modern countries of Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. It also includes a number of fanciful sea beasts just waiting to be rediscovered.

Slate has created an interactive map of Magnus’ beautiful 1539 Carta marina. This means that you can use Slate's map in your search for mythical creatures. The Carta marina is brimming with wonderful sea monsters. Slate has made each of the monsters selectable on their interactive map. Users of the map are therefore able to click on each of the monsters and read how Olaus Magnus described the monster in his own commentary to the map.


Modern maps are also sometimes known to feature the odd sea monster or two. Telegeography's 2015 Submarine Cable map was inspired by medieval and renaissance cartography and therefore features not only a vintage map style with map border illustrations but also a number of scary sea monsters.

The sea monsters featured on the Submarine Cable map are actually taken from real vintage maps. These mythical sea monsters are each accompanied on Telegeography's map with a little text which references the historical map the creature first appeared on.

The Eurovision Song Contest Map


The final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Tel Aviv this Saturday night (the second semi-final takes place tonight). Ten acts from the two semi-finals will be joined by the hosts (Israel) and the 'big five', the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. This year's final is taking place in Israel because they won last year's competition.

You can listen to every country's official song in this year's Eurovision competition on Esri Ireland's Eurovision Song Contest 2019 interactive map. Just click on a country on the map (each country is represented by its national flag) and you can watch a video of the chosen country's song.


I haven't heard any of the songs (I did click on Russia on the map but 'forgot' to turn on my computer's speakers) so I cannot tell you which country is most likely to win this year's competition. Reddit user Mackelowsky has created a static map showing every country in Europe which has never won the Eurovision Song Contest (I assume they are the countries colored red).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Global Runway Orientation


More runways around the world are built on a north-south orientation than on a north-west axis. You can see this beautifully visualized on the Trails of Wind map. This interactive map colors airport runways around the world based on their orientation.

Aircraft are easier to land without a crosswind and planes can more easily take-off and land upwind. Aircraft also need a lower ground speed at both landing and take-off when pointing into the wind. As a consequence runways are usually built to point in the prevailing wind direction. In fact compiling a wind rose showing local wind directions is often one of the first steps taken when building a new airport runway.


On the Trails of Wind interactive map airports around the world are displayed with colored lines. The color of the lines reflect the orientation of the airport runways. Blue lines indicate runways on a north-south axis and yellow lines show runways on an east-west axis. If you zoom in on the central states in the USA you can clearly see a majority of runways have a north-south orientation. In Europe, the UK, France and Germany seem dominated by east-west orientated runways, while around the Mediterranean runways appear to be constructed along a north-south axis.

The Uber Driving Times Map


Uber Movement Speeds visualizes the normal driving speeds of Uber drivers on an interactive map. Using the map you can discover the historical aggregated speed achieved by Uber drivers during different times of the day and on different days of the week. The map comes with a whole range of filtering tools which really allow you to dig deep into the data of the average speeds that are really driven on our streets.

The map's default view colors road segments by the average speed driven. If you click on an individual segment of road you can view further details, including the street name, the average speed, and the percentage from free-flow speed. These details also include charts which show the average speed trends over time and when the speed on that stretch deviates from the norm.

Using the filter tools you can visualize speed averages for specific date-time ranges, day of the week, and time of day. You can also use the color bar to filter the map to only show roads with specific average speeds.


Obviously the average speeds which are achieved on roads can greatly affect the driving time of a car journey. If you are interested in how long a journey might take then you can check the Uber Travel Time map.

This interactive map allows you to view the average travel times between two different neighborhoods. If you click to place your point of origin and destination on the map the Uber Travel Time map will display the average time for your journey. All the other neighborhoods are color coded to show the average journey times to those neighborhoods from the starting point of your journey.

When you query a journey time the Uber Travel Time map also shows you charts which visualize the average journey time for different days of the week and for different times of the day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Most Populated Places in America


The most densely populated square kilometer in the USA is in Manhattan, New York. According to a new interactive map 42,673 people are tightly packed into one small area of New York. You can discover for yourself the 200 most densely populated square kilometers in 14 of America's largest cities on Garrett Dash Nelson's Square Density interactive map.

Select a city from the drop-down menu and you can sit back and watch as the map animates through the most densely populated places in your chosen city. A polygon overlaid on top of aerial imagery shows you the location of each of the most densely populated square kilometers. A smaller map shows you where that square is in the selected city. The text beneath the map shows you how many people live in each displayed square.

If you want to explore the map on your own then you can pause the animation and select any of the 200 most densely populated square kilometers by clicking on the chart, running along the bottom of the map.


This square kilometer in Barcelona is probably Europe's most populated location

According to Alistair Rae's examination of European population density, Think your country is crowded? These maps reveal the truth about population density across Europe the most densely populated square kilometer in Europe is in Barcelona. The Catalan city actually has one square kilometer housing 52,000 people. Of course there are locations outside of the USA & Europe where people live in far more densely populated locations.

If you want to explore population density elsewhere in the world then you should view the SEDAC Population Estimator (GPWv4). This interactive map uses NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) to show where the world's population lives. The map includes a tool to draw an area on the map to see an estimate of the population that is living there. You can therefore draw a square kilometer on the map to make your own comparisons with Europe's and America's most populated square kilometers. For example, I drew a square kilometer at random in Dhaka, Bangladesh and the map gave me a population estimate of 107,804. This is over twice as many people as the 52,000 people living in Europe's most densely populated 1km² in Barcelona.

Finding Retreats Away from Streets


During the 2012 London Olympics cars were banned from all the roads around my home. For one glorious month I could walk around my neighborhood without the fear of death from moronic driving, without having to breath in toxic levels of air pollution and without having to listen to the incessant noise pollution of hundreds of combustion engines. Since that time I've strongly believed that banning cars in London (or just in a one mile area around my house) would improve the quality of my life beyond measure.

If I lived in Berlin I could use the Retreats Away From Berlin's Streets interactive map to find the areas which are the furthest away from road traffic. Using Hans Hack's interactive map you can view the point in every city block which is furthest away from a road used by cars. On the map circular markers are used to show the distance from a car free retreat to the nearest street. Therefore the largest circles on the map indicate the locations in Berlin which are furthest away from road traffic.

The map includes three views. If you select 'All' you can view all the car free retreats for every city block. Alternatively you can choose to just view the 'Top 30' retreats, the thirty locations in Berlin which are the furthest from car traffic. The 'Top Neighborhoods' view shows you the location in every Berlin district which is furthest away from traffic. The map also shows you the location of all Berlin's bars, cafes and restaurants which are at least 50 metres from a street used by cars.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Native Villages of Los Angeles


The Tongva were the original people of Los Angeles. They lived in Tovaangar, a land which reached from Palos Verdes to San Bernardino and from Saddleback Mountain to the San Fernando Valley. You can learn more about the Tongva people on a new L.A. Times story map which explores the locations of Tongva's native villages.

Mapping the Tongva Villages of L.A. begins with a map of modern Los Angeles. As you scroll through the L.A. Times story map the first thing that happens is that all the modern place-names and thousands of L.A. roads are removed from the map, leaving a simple relief map of the Los Angeles Basin. Scaled markers are then added to this map to show the locations and relative sizes of the original Tongva villages. As you continue scrolling the story map takes you on a small tour of some of the Tongva villages which existed long before the Spanish arrived. During this brief tour modern place-names are added back to the map to help you understand where modern L.A. sits on top of native Tongva settlements.

The interactive Tongva story map is part of the L.A. Times' series Saving Tonga, which explores Los Angeles' native language. As well as the interactive story map this series includes an audio tour of the Tongva language, as spoken by its students and teachers, and a study guide for teachers who are interested in teaching their students about the native people of Los Angeles.

You might also like Native Land, an interactive map documenting the territories and languages of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia.

The Impact of Trump's China Sanctions


On Friday the United States more than doubled the trade tariffs it applies to Chinese goods. American companies buying goods from China will now have to pay a 25% tariff instead of the previous 10%. A cost they will presumably pass on to consumers. Donald Trump's own economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that 'both sides will suffer' from this new trade dispute.

Axios has released an interactive map which visualizes the concentration of tariff-affected industries in each county compared to the national average. The darker the color on the Trump's Trade War map then the higher the concentration of affected industries in the county. The green and pink colors show whether the county was won by Trump or Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. If you hover over a county on the map you can see how many industries are affected in the area and which sector those industries are in.

'Concentration' relates to the number of people employed in an industry as compared to the national average. If the map says that an industry is 2x more concentrated in a selected county then that means the industry has two times the share of employment in the local area than the national average. For example Las Vegas would have a larger concentration of workers in the leisure industry than the national average.


China says that it will retaliate against America's new tariffs but as yet has not confirmed how. Last year the Brookings Institute did map out the counties with the highest share of workers in industries affected by China's 2018 retaliatory tariffs on 128 American products. The Brookings' map in How China’s proposed tariffs could affect U.S. workers and industries shows that many of the counties affected by American tariffs on China appear to be the very same counties most affected by China's tariffs against American goods.


After the imposition of tariffs on American goods in 2018 many commentators, including Donald Trump himself, wondered if China had deliberately targeted Trump voters. The New York Times in Firing Back at Trump in the Trade War placed a map of where the tariffs most affect American voters side-by-side with a map of where voters backed Trump. There does appear to be a large similarity between the two maps.

Axios's new map, visualizing the counties affected by Trump's tariffs against China, also seems to closely resemble a map of Trump voters. If Donald Trump was right to wonder if Chinese tariffs were deliberately designed to hurt Trump voters perhaps we should also ask if Trump's tariffs on China are also deliberately designed to punish his base. 

Mapping the City Skyline


Zurich, like many cities around the world, has an ever changing skyline. A skyline which is increasingly interrupted by new imposing skyscrapers. The city's Department of Building (Hochbaudepartment) has released a 3D map which allows you to view and explore all of Zurich's growing number of tall buildings.

Zurich's High Rise Viewer is an interactive map of the city in which buildings are shown in 3D. On this 3D map all the city's skyscrapers are shown in blue. For this map skyscrapers are defined as buildings with a height over 25 meters. Under the map is a synchronized timeline graph which shows when each of Zurich's buildings were built and how tall each building is. This timeline therefore provides a great overview of which decades saw the biggest skyscraper construction booms and exactly when the city's tallest buildings were constructed.

If you select a building on the map or in the interactive timeline graph then the building is highlighted on the map and an information window opens providing information on the building's height and construction date.