Friday, July 10, 2020

How Well Do You Know the World?

Guess Where! is a fun interactive geography guessing game which requires you to name capital cities around the world from an unlabeled map.

In the game Guess Where! you are shown a series of capital cities on a Google Map. All you have to do is choose the name of the city from a choice of four. To make your task a little harder all the place-name labels on the map have been turned off.

You score points in the game for every capital city which you guess correctly. If you are struggling with naming the correct cities then Guess Where! includes an option to only show capital cities from your chosen continent.

GeoScents is a multiplayer geographical guessing game based on the popular, but now defunct, GeoSense game. The object of the game is very simple. You are given a named location and you just have to point to that location on the map.

You earn points in GeoScents based on how near you click to the correct location. Where GeoScents wins out compared to the many other similar geography guessing games is in that you can play against other players (if there are any online) and you can compare your score against the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly records. Score high enough and you can even add your name to the records scoreboard!

Geography Trivia is a version of the popular hangman game in which you have to answer trivia questions about countries around the world. In the game you are asked a series of questions and you have to type in the correct country. If you enter a correct letter it will be added to your answer and shown in green. Type in an incorrect letter and it will be shown in red.

As you progress through the game the scoreboard tells you how many questions you have answered in total and how many of those questions you answered correctly.

The fun doesn't need to stop there. If you want more map based geography games then check out the Maps Mania games tag.

The Costs of Plastic Pollution

The Price Tag of Plastic Pollution is an interactive map which shows the economic costs of all the plastic pollution which we are currently spilling into the world's oceans. There are many interactive maps which visualize the extent of plastic pollution in the world's oceans and where that pollution comes from. This map however is attempting to persuade governments and individuals around the world by highlighting the economic costs of that pollution on industries such as fishing and tourism.

The Ocean Cleanup worked with the auditing company Deloitte to assess the costs of plastic pollution to countries around the world. According to this study the total global yearly economic costs from marine plastic are between $6-19bn. These costs accrue from the impact of pollution on tourism & on the fishing industry and from efforts to clean and clear plastic pollution. If you click on a country on the Plastic Pollution world map you can view the costs to the government and to the fishing and tourism industries in your selected country.

The main purpose of the Price Tag of Plastic Pollution map is to demonstrate that it is far cheaper not to pollute our oceans with plastic in the first place than it is to clean them after they have been polluted. This is undoubtedly true but I do doubt whether many governments would be persuaded by this argument.

I assume the map is showing what the study predicts that countries and industries would need to pay to clean-up plastic pollution and not what they are already paying. I also assume that many governments would just ignore these clean-up costs. According to the map the United States has a cost of $76 million from plastic pollution. Unfortunately I suspect that the current U.S. administration would just argue that the government won't pay those costs - so they therefore aren't a real cost to the USA.

The costs to the fishing and tourism industries however could be a powerful lobbying argument if those industries had a real determination to try to make governments act to stop plastic pollution.

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 have been carried out. 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.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Build Your Own 3D Terrain Models

three-geo is a neat JavaScript library which can be used to build small 3D terrain models. The library uses three.js and Mapbox's RGB-encoded Digital Elevation Model to create interactive 3D models of any location on Earth.

The demonstration geo-viewer application provides a great example of what can be achieved with three-geo and allows you to explore some of the capabilities of the library. Using this little demo viewer you can see three-geo in action and create your own 3D terrain models for any location around the globe. A drop-down menu provides quick links to a number of locations, such as Table Mountain and Mount Fuji. However you can use the provided map to view anywhere in the world in 3D.

To use the three-geo library in your own applications you will obviously need a Mapbox account to access the RGB-encoded DEM. The three-geo library requires you to enter a Mapbox account token in order to create the terrain model (and presumably to create a terrain model which includes satellite imagery).

Vladimir Agafonkin, the creator of the Leaflet mapping platform, has also created a JavaScript library for creating 3D terrain models from elevation data. MARTINI allows you to create a 3D terrain model of any location.

MARTINI builds a 3D terrain model using Right-Triangulated Irregular Networks (RTIN). Check out this MARTINI: Real-Time RTIN Terrain Mesh Observable notebook which both explains what this means and includes a demo map which shows you how RTIN works. You can zoom in an out and rotate the demo map. You can also adjust the level of precision using the slide control.

The 2D map below the 3D scene also updates in real-time when you adjust the precision of the map. This provides a great visualization of how Martini works as it shows the number of triangles being used at different levels of precision.

The DEM Net Elevation API can also help you create your very own 3D terrain models for any location on Earth. Dem Net has a fantastic tool which allows you to create your own 3D models simply by selecting an area on a map. It really is that easy.

To create a 3D model all you have to do is draw a square on an interactive map around the area that you wish to model. Within seconds DEM Net will create a 3D model of the area that you selected. You can then rotate and zoom in & out on your model directly in the browser. You can also download the model in two different formats.

DEM Net includes a number of options. These include a choice of different satellite imagery sources or map tile sources for your model. You can also adjust the height or your model - to exaggerate the elevation level - and you can also choose to generate a terrain model from a range of different elevation models.

Global Comparisons of Covid-19

Australia's Healthmap visualizes local health and demographic data in Australia. During the current pandemic Healthmap has also been mapping Covid-19 data. Importantly for international users the map includes global data on the rates of Covid-19. This global map includes data from the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) and Johns Hopkins University.

Using Healthmap you can therefore compare both the number of cases of Covid-19 in countries around the world and their relative death rates. Per population statistics for both the number of cases and the numbers of deaths are provided on the map to support easy comparison between regions. For example you can use the map to visualize the cumulative numbers of deaths from Covid-19 per population.

Interestingly this reveals that Sweden (53.24 reported deaths per 100,000) has a significantly higher number of deaths than the U.S. (39.96 reported deaths per 100,000). In fact currently the U.S. has a cumulative death rate lower than most European countries. Although the contrasting trends in the numbers of cases in the U.S. and Europe means that this may soon change.

Healthmap has also released separate maps of the ECDC data and the Johns Hopkins data. The ECDC map visualizes global rates of Covid-19 and the Johns Hopkins US map visualizes U.S. rates of Covid-19 at the state and at the county level.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Mapping Paycheck Protection Payments

In response to the devastating effect of Covid-19 on the economy the US government has initiated the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). PPP is a business loan program which provides low-interest loans to companies to help with payroll and other costs.

On Monday the Small Business Administration released the data on the companies who have received loans under the PPP program. Open The Books  has now mapped that data to show the location of all the companies which have received loans in excess of $1 million.

The Open The Books map is very good for finding companies which have received PPP loans by location. If you enter a zip-code into the map you can view a list (beneath the map) of all the local companies which have received loans over $1 million within that neighborhood. However the map is not searchable by company name. This means it is a hard to discover whether individual companies have received a PPP loan, unless you know where the company headquarters are physically located.

PPP loans do not have to be repaid if a company retains all of its employees and the company doesn't reduce employee wages.

Virtual Tours of the World's Museums

In my continuing quest to virtually visit every museum in the world during lock-down I am today touring the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Colonial Williamsburg living-history museum in Virginia.

Florence's Uffizi Gallery dates back to the 16th Century and has one of the greatest collections of Italian Renaissance art in the world. In 2019 the Uffizi reopened ten restored galleries housing its collection of Venetian paintings of the 1500's. You can explore these galleries yourself online on the Uffizi Galleries Virtual Tour.

On this virtual tour you can explore 360° degree panoramic imagery of the Uffizi's Hall of the Dynasties and the Galleries of Sixteenth-Century Venetian Painting. Using the interactive white circles you can move around just as you would using the arrows in Google Maps Street View. As you virtually explore the galleries you can discover more about each of the paintings by clicking on the small green circles to read the painting's wall notes.

The Colonial Williamsburg museum in Virginia includes several hundred restored or re-created buildings from the 18th Century. The museum provides a unique glimpse into life in 18th Century America.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has created three virtual 360° degree panoramic tours. These tours allow you to explore the Governor's Palace, the Capitol Building, and the Art Museums. Each of the panoramic tours starts with an introductory video. The Governor's Palace video in particular is very impressive as it takes you into the palace while accompanied by a number of actors in 18th Century dress.

Each of the three virtual tours allow you to explore using a number of connected 360° degree images. These images include interactive hot-spots which allow you to learn more about the individual rooms and the artifacts found within them.

If you want to explore more of the world's best museums and galleries during lock-down then here are a few more virtual tours that you might enjoy:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - includes a number of virtual exhibitions
The National Gallery - London's National Gallery has a number of virtual tours
The Rijksmuseum Masterpieces Up Close - a virtual tour of the museum's Gallery of Honour
The Sistine Chapel Virtual Tour - explore the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's astonishing ceiling
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural Museum - has created a number of virtual tours
The Stonehenge Virtual Tour - places you in the center of this mysterious pre-historic monument
Beijing Palace Museum - the Palace Museum has created a number of virtual tours which allow you to explore some of the museum's galleries and also some of the amazing buildings of the Forbidden City
Buckingham Palace - take a virtual tour around the Queen's favorite pad

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Which Voters Believe in Climate Change?

Yale University has mapped out the results of a detailed survey into the views of Democratic and Republican voters about climate change. Democratic and Republican Views of Climate Change includes a number of maps which show the views of Democratic and Republican voters across the United States when they were asked about their beliefs, attitudes and policy preferences around global warming.

Do you think global warming is happening? - Democrats left map, Republicans right map

I suspect the results of Yale's survey into climate change won't be too surprising to most people. For example the maps above show the response of Democrats (left map) and Republicans (right map) to the question 'Do you believe global warming in happening?'. The results show that across the whole of the United States a majority of Democrat voters believe that global warming is a scientific fact. However in many parts of the USA a majority of Republicans don't think that global warming is actually happening.

What is particular useful is that you can view the results at congressional district level. Across the whole of the United States a small majority of Republican voters (52%) actually do believe that global warming is happening. However the map allows you to see in which states and congressional districts the majority of Republicans are in a state of denial.

Should citizens should do more to address global warming? - Democrats left map, Republicans right map

Many of the responses to the attitudes of voters towards global warming are very enlightening. For example the two maps above show the responses of Democrat and Republican voters to the question 'Should citizens do more to address global warming?' In most areas of the U.S. Republican voters (those who vote for the party of small government and personal individual responsibility) don't believe that they should do anything themselves to address global warming. Although to be fair to Republican voters, although a majority of them think that global warming is happening, most of them also don't think that the government should do anything to stop it.

Mapping the Distribution of Place-Names

Bynavn is an interactive which shows the distribution of Danish towns with similar place-name endings. For example the map can show you the location of all Danish towns which end with '-havn'.

The Bynavn map includes a menu which allows you to quickly view the distribution of towns with a number of common place-name endings (e.g. -havn, -borg, -home etc). The map also includes a search box which allows you to type in any letters to view all the towns in Denmark which include those letters.

There are clear geographical patterns in the distribution of some of the place-name endings found in Denmark. For example the ending 'havn' (harbor) is found exclusively in coastal towns. While towns ending in 'løse' and 'rød' seem to be found only in eastern parts of the country. If you want to know the meaning of some of these place-names then you can refer to the University of Copenhagen's Common Place Name Types.

Bynavn seems to have been inspired by a similar interactive map which shows the distribution of different types of place-name in Germany. The End is Near allows you to search and visualize German towns by common place-name endings.

The letters at the end of German place-names can tell you a lot about local history, culture and geography. For example there are many German place-names which are derived from foreign languages. A search for Slavic suffixes, such as -ow or -itz, will reveal a strong distribution of these place-name endings in eastern Germany. These names date back to when Slavic languages were spoken in the eastern parts of the Holy Roman Empire.

Other place-name endings probably derive from local geographical features. These geographical based suffixes include -berg (mountain), -furt (ford), -brück (bridge) or -feld (field).

You can explore the distribution of US place-names on Place Names in the United States. This interactive map visualizes the spatial distribution of town & city place names in America.

For example you can view the distribution of place-names starting with the Spanish articles (El-, Los- & Las-) (mainly found in the Southwest). Alternatively you can search using suffixes. For example the distribution of towns with common British town endings, such as -chester, -wick, -wich, -pool, -ham, -ness, -port & -worth (mainly in the Northeast).

Place Names in the United States has a database of around thirty thousand towns and cities in the United States. The place-name data used is from

Monday, July 06, 2020

America's Failed Response to Covid-19

The New Statesman has published a series of interactive maps which dramatically visualizes just how bad the United States has been in responding to Covid-19. The maps show areas in the United States and in European countries where there are 50 cases or more of Covid-19 in a week per 100,000 residents.

The German government has set a threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 residents in a week as the trigger for when regions must enter lockdown. If the same rules were applied to the USA then half of Americans would currently be in lockdown (and America might begin to get a handle on this pandemic). In Italy and France there are currently no regions with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents. In Germany only the region around Gütersloh has been put in lockdown (after an outbreak at a meat-packing plant). In the UK there are a few regions where there are more the 50 cases per 100,000 residents (these seem to be often related to outbreaks in meat-packing plants or textile sweat-shops).

In the US there are 1,094 regions with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents. The New Statesman concludes that with the growing number of infections in the U.S. the number of regions are 'about to be a lot more'.

If you want to check the current levels of Covid-19 in your county then you can refer to Harvard's Covid-19 map. The Harvard Global Health Institute's COVID Risk Level map shows the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak at county level across the United States. The map reveals which counties have a green, yellow, orange or red risk level, based on the number of new daily cases. The map also includes guidance as to how county authorities should respond to each of these risk levels.

How Clean is My River?

Because of the lockdown swimming pools across the UK are all closed. Which means that this summer the only place to cool-down with a refreshing dip is in a river or the sea. Unfortunately many, many rivers in the UK really aren't clean enough to swim in safely.

Last week The Guardian revealed how water companies routinely discharge untreated sewage into UK rivers. Water companies are allowed to discharge untreated human waste only in 'exceptional' circumstances - for example during extreme rainfall. However The Guardian has revealed that last year UK water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers for more than 1.5m hours.

There is no public monitoring of the health of rivers in the UK, so it is therefore difficult to know which rivers are safe to swim in. Therefore the Rivers Trust has created an interactive map, Is My River Fit To Play In, which shows where water companies are discharging sewage into rivers. The map shows all the locations on rivers where water companies (and other entities) are discharging untreated sewage. The Rivers Trust advises that you should not swim downstream from any of these locations, especially after it has been raining.

The Rivers Trust map only shows where sewage is known to enter rivers. The map does not show where agricultural pollutants enter rivers or where discharges from household appliances or hidden septic tanks enter rivers.