Friday, August 22, 2014

Fracking Hell


This Global Flaring Visualization is an animated map showing nightly, infrared satellite detected natural gas flaring across the world.

For cost reasons oil producers frequently flare methane and other gases produced by oil wells rather than recover the gases. This flaring adds huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere and the gases themselves can often pollute the air.

The map uses data collected by NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite to show a nightly global snapshot of natural gas flaring over the last five months. Identifiable hot-spots on the map include flaring from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and the huge natural gas flaring in Russia and the Middle East.

Mapping Strabo's Geographica


Recently Google Maps Mania reviewed the Hestia Project's Herodotus Timemap. Herodotus, sometimes known as the Father of History, was a fifth century Greek historian. In his 'Histories' Herodotus recounts the origins of the Great War between the Greeks and Persians and the rise of the Persian Empire.

The Hestia Project's Herodotus Timemap connects the text of the Histories with a Simile timeline to allow users to visualize geographical references in the Histories on a Google Map. Using the application you can read through the chapters of the Histories and view the locations of all the place-names mentioned in the text on the accompanying map.


If Herodotus was the 'Father of History' then the title 'Father of Geography' could be given to the Greek philosopher, historian and geographer Strabo. In the early days of the Roman Empire Strabo's 'Geographica' described the cultural and geo-political world of that time.

To accompany the publication of Duane W. Roller’s new English translation of Strabo’s 'Geography' the University of Cambridge Press has released an interactive map of all the locations mentioned in Strabo's Geographica.

The Strabo Map uses Mapbox to add place-name mentioned in the Geographica to an interactive map. If you purchase the e-text of the new translation you can click through on place-name links in the text to view the locations on the map. However the map itself is free, so you can explore the world as documented in Strabo's Geographica to your heart's content.

The map tiles used in the map are the same AWMC map tiles, as used in the Pleides gazette of ancient places.

Tracking Dr Who on Street View


The new season of Dr Who starts tomorrow. During his absence from our screens the Google Maps Street View car has been tracking the Tardis. The car has managed to capture a number of Street View shots of the Tardis while the Doctor has been enjoying his vacation time travelling around the UK.

I've put together a little slideshow of some of the Street Views of the Tardis on Google Maps. I was helped in this task by this Ordnance Survey Tardis Map showing the location of 73 police boxes in the UK.

My Dr Who map includes forward and back arrows so you can navigate through the different Street Views. If you make it to the end of the collectionyou can actually explore the inside of the Tardis on Street View.

The Worst Map of the Week


I don't usually criticize maps on this blog. Google Maps Mania is mainly concerned with interesting on-line maps and maps which are experimenting with new or original visualization techniques. This means I tend not to concentrate on the cartographic failings of the maps featured on Google Maps Mania.

Yesterday's Van Gogh map post is a good example of this. This map is never going to win any awards for excellence in cartography but the Van Gogh map is an interesting experiment in using the new Mapbox GL mapping platform. It could therefore be very useful as a demo map for any developers who are starting to explore Mapbox's new map library - so it gets no criticisms from me.

However cartographic critics do play an invaluable role in sharing and encouraging good cartographic practice. Kenneth Field's Cartonerd is a great blog for anyone who is interested in good and bad cartography. Kenneth's constructive criticisms of published maps are really informative and he regularly explores the common cartographic mistakes made in maps. This recent post on the Gaza Everywhere map is a great example of how Cartonerd's observations can actually lead to a map developer creating a better map.

I am going to make an exception today however, in my 'no criticism' policy, for a map by The Daily Telegraph which has really annoyed me. I'll let Cartonerd criticize the cartography if he wants - I want to concentrate on the map's horrible social prejudices.

The Daily Telegraph has mapped the 'best places' to live in England and Wales. To make this map The Telegraph has created its own 'index' based on five social and economic criteria. Average Weekly Incomes and Home Ownership levels make up two of these five criteria. Therefore the map places a huge weighting in its judgement of the 'best places' to live on areas having no poor people or people who don't own their own homes.

On first reading about these criteria my first thought was that The Telegraph was making a really nasty judgement in deciding where the better places to live are, assuming that if you have the choice it is better to avoid living anywhere near poor people. I then wondered a little about whether this judgement might actually be true. It is entirely possible that the nicer places to live become beyond the means of people without high incomes. The 'best places' to live attract more people and the market drives up the price of property and the area eventually becomes dominated by people with high incomes.

To be fair to the newspaper The Telegraph's assumption might be not that an area is better because it has no poor residents but that the better areas have higher incomes because they eventually become unaffordable to anyone without a high income.

To test this hypothesis I looked at the rankings for areas around where I live in East London. In The Telegraph map Redbridge is declared a far better place to live than Hackney. Hackney scores very low on the home ownership and average income levels while Redbridge scores very high on both criteria. Hackney is therefore declared a less nice place to live because it has too many poor people.

Given the choice however I don't think I'm alone in thinking that I would far rather live in Hackney than Redbridge. Hackney is a far more vibrant and exciting community than Redbridge, with far more options in terms of restaurants, night-life and cultural activities.

Herein lies one of the problems in The Telegraph's criteria for deciding where the 'best places' to live are. My experience is that areas with low income and home ownership levels are often the areas which are the most exciting to live. These are the areas, in cities in particular, which often attract the young, the artistic and the dynamic start-up companies looking for cheap rent.

In fact I look at The Telegraph's The Best Places in England and Wales and find that in the areas I know about I would far rather live in the places that The Telegraph claims are the worst places to live than in their 'best places'. But I guess that could be down to my own social prejudices and the fact that I don't necessarily despise people on low incomes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

If Van Gogh Made Maps


Here's another little Mapbox GL created map. The Van Gogh Map uses a few images from Van Gogh paintings as textures for the map feature types.

Feature types on this map, such as water and different types of land cover, are made up of map tiles created with textures taken from Van Gogh paintings. The result is a map style which you probably wouldn't want to use very often but the map does serve as a neat demo of how easy it is to create interesting map styles with Mapbox GL.

This is the second Mapbox GL map I've seen this week. The first, Birthplaces of Liverpool Football Club Players, is a handy little demo map showing how to add markers with text labels in Mapbox GL.

A Serendipitous Stereographic Projection


Serendipity uses data from Spotify to show you the locations of two Spotify users who are listening to the same track at the same time. The map shows the locations of two users who have started listening to the same song on Spotify within a tenth of a second of each other, in different towns, cities, states, nations or timezones.

The thing I most like about this application is the use of a stereographic projection. The Web Mercator projection seems to rule the roost in online mapping these days, so it is nice to see a different map projection get a rare outing.

When the map progresses from one paired serendipitous song to the next couple of users it animates to a new map view, which is particular interesting to watch with this stereographic projection. You also get a quick blast of each new song featured as the map animates around the world.

The map was created with the help of D3.js. If you want to use a stereographic projection in your own maps you can check out the D3.js code for this map projection and a demo stereographic projection map here.

I've Found Your Town on Google Maps


In a vain attempt to get people to try and share my NSFW map on social media I've added a little link to the map which creates a URL for the current map view. The map is a collection of some of the rudest place-names around the world.

You can now grab the URL address for a map view and insult your friends by sharing the link on social media sites such as Twitter. For example you could insult your friends by sending them a link to Bald Knob on the map, like this:

"I've found your town on Google Maps - http://goo.gl/7IHyNr"

I'm sure you can come up with even better insults. To link to a particular map view just click on the 'Get Link' option and cut & paste the address from your browser's URL address bar.

I've also renamed the map Your Town, mainly to provide a little hint about one way the map could be used to insult other people.

Animated Heat Mapping


Thanks to CartoDB's Torque library we are now used to seeing markers being animated on a map to represent changes in data over time. By adding and removing markers according to a time stamp the Torque library can be used to visualize relative intensity over time, such as in this Twitter map showing, News of  Ferguson on Twitter,

By not removing markers once they have been added to the map the Torque library can also be used to show the accumulation of data over time, A good example of this is this animated map of 72 hours of seismic activity in Iceland, Bárðarbunga - Last 72h in 10 Seconds. This map does not remove the markers once they have been added to the map so that a picture of where the most seismic activity has occurred emerges as the animation plays.

Real-estate data analysts Illustreets have taken yet another approach to mapping the relative intensity of geographical data over time. Their new map, London House Prices: Evolution Over 13 Years, visualizes the cost of property in London over 13 years by providing an animated heat map of property prices in London boroughs. As the animation plays the colors of each of the London boroughs changes to show the evolution of average house prices in each borough over the 13 years.

This Illustreets map also superimposes an animated line chart over the map, which plays in conjunction with the animated heat map. You can select any of the London boroughs from a drop-down menu to view an animated line chart comparing the average house price in the borough over the 13 years compared to the average London house price.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making Sense of Ferguson Tweets


I've already stated my disinterest in Twitter's map, News of  Ferguson Spreads Across Twitter, which really signifies nothing except that a lot of people around the world have Tweeted about the situation in Ferguson. Mapbox has now released a map using Twitter data from Tweets about Ferguson which actually tries to make sense of some of the social media activity around the events unfolding in the Missouri town.

The opening map view in  Ferguson, MO, Tweets shows how visitors have converged on the town. The lines on the map show where people Tweeting in Ferguson have traveled from. Mapbox compared geotagged Tweets from Ferguson with previous Tweets from the same people to determine which Tweets were made by locals and which were made by visitors to the town.

This first map view shows an incredible influx into the town from across the world. Presumably a large proportion of these visitors are journalists and people working for news organisations.

The map includes three other views; Local Tweets, Visitor Tweets and All Tweets. Locals are determined by looking at whether the Twitter users had most recently tweeted within seven miles of Ferguson.  The 'All Tweets' view shows the local Tweets in green and the visitor Tweets in purple. This view shows that the visitors to Ferguson are mainly clustered around distinct locations, suggesting that reporters of a feather presumably tend to flock together.

You can read more about the map and this clustering of local and visitor Tweets on the Mapbox blog.

Mapping Seismic Activity at Bárðarbunga


Since 16th August there has been intense seismic activity at Bárðarbunga in Iceland. The seismic activity around the volcano, located under the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland, has led to fears that the volcano may erupt. Yesterday the police closed and evacuated the area north of Vatna­jök­ull.

Aitor García Rey () has used CartoDB to create two maps of the ongoing seismic activity in the area around Bárðarbunga. Bárðarbunga - Last 72h in 10 Seconds is a Torque powered animated map of 72 hours of seismic activity. This map allows you to view the seismic activity in chronological order. The map was last updated yesterday (but seems to be getting daily updates).

The second map, Bárðarbunga: +1.6K Earthquakes in 72h, uses the same data to map the magnitude and depth of each recorded earthquake (the earthquake markers are scaled in size to represent their order of magnitude).