Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Iceland's Shrinking Glaciers

The map above shows the size of the Langjökull and Hofsjökull glaciers at the end of the 19th Century (yellow line) and in 2019 (red line). Glaciers in Iceland have in total shrunk by more than 2200 km² since the end of the 19th century. You can explore the extent to which each glacier has changed in size for yourself on the Icelandic Glacier Web Portal.

The Icelandic Glacier Web Portal displays measurements of Icelandic glaciers taken since 1890. The maps are based on a number of different sources. The Icelandic Glaciological Society have carried out measurements of the country's glaciers since the 1950's. Other institutions such as the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Meteorological Office also carry out regular measurements of glacier mass and termini.

Using the portal's interactive map it is possible to view outlines of the extent of each of Iceland's glaciers at different dates from 1890-2019. In this way it is possible to explore how each glacier has changed in size over time. The interactive map on the portal uses the Leaflet.js mapping platform. As well as the glacier extents layer the map includes layers which show terminus measurements and historical photographs. All these layers are available as both #WMS and #WFS map tiles and can be used under a CC-BY 4.0 licence.

You can explore other powerful interactive visualizations of glacial melt in the Maps Mania post Melting Glaciers.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Distribution of Surnames

The superbly named Namensverbreitungskarte is an interactive map which can show the distribution of surnames in Germany. Enter a family name into the map and you can see where people with that name lived in 1996 and in 1890. The distribution is based on German casualty lists of the 1st World War and the German phone directory from 1996.

One neat feature of Namensverbreitngskarte is that you can visualize more than one name at once. Search for a new name and its distribution will be added to the map using a different color. For example the map above shows the 1880 distribution of the names Kruse, Kraus and Krause. The Benrath Line (a line which roughly divides German northern and southern dialects) can be seen in the distribution of the name's variations across Germany. If you click on the 'About Name distribution map' link you can view a few more interesting examples of the distribution of various German surnames. 

The German Surname Map is another fascinating tool for visualizing the geographical distribution of surnames in Germany. Enter a surname into the tool and you can view a map showing where people with that name are distributed throughout the country. 

If you enter the name Merkel into the map (the name of the ex-German Chancellor) you will discover that it is a common surname in Germany, with quite an even distribution throughout the country. Angela Merkle was born in Hamburg. There appear to be quite a few Merkles in Hamburg, although the biggest concentration of the surname appears to be in some of the southern states.

In Germany you can also use GeoGen to view the geographical distribution of German surnames. The use of three dimensional stacks on this map helps to make it a little more clear where a particular surname has its highest concentration in the country.

Searching Merkel on GeoGen and the German Surname Map seems to suggest that the highest concentration of Merkels in Germany can be found in Baden-Baden. However as neither map uses place-name labels it isn't always easy to determine individual towns on either map (the highest concentration of Merkels may therefore be in one of Baden-Baden's closest neighboring towns). 

If you want to research the geographical distribution of surnames in other countries then you can use:

You can also explore the global distribution of your family name using Forebears. You can use Forebears to undertake a global search for your surname. If you enter a surname into Forebears it will tell you both 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.

The 2023 Czech Presidential Election Maps

The pro-western retired general Petr Pavel has swept to victory in the 2023 Czech Presidential Election. In yesterday's election he convincingly beat the ex-Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

Czech newspaper Blesk has used the Leaflet mapping library to create an interactive election map of the 2023 Presidential Election. The map colors each region to show the presidential candidate who received the most votes. If you click on these regions you can view the exact percentage and number of votes cast for each candidate. If you zoom in on the map you can also view the results in each electoral district.

Dnes has also released an interactive map of the 2023 Presidential Election. The Dnes map colors each electoral constituency to show the winning candidate. You can hover over a consituency to see the percentage of votes won by the winning candidate and you can click through to view the percentage of votes cast for each candidate in every town in the constituency. 

Denik has created its own similar map which colors each region to show the winning candidate. Hover over a region and you can view the percentage of the votes won by the leading candidate. If you click on a region on the map you can also view a map of the results in each district in the selected region.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Natural Gas Flaring Map

The SkyTruth Flaring Map visualizes daily infrared detections of oil wells around the world burning off excess gas. Flaring from natural oil wells is a huge contributor to global heating. For example in 2018 145 billion cubic meters of natural gas was burned during flaring. That is the equivalent of the entire gas consumption of Central and South America combined.

The SkyTruth Flaring Map uses data detected by NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite. The map is updated daily to show all infrared detections hot enough to be gas flares. The map animates through these nightly detections of global flaring. The animation can be controlled using the timeline tool in the map sidebar.

SkyTruth has also released an Annual Flaring Volume Map. This map shows the annual volume estimates of gas flaring maintained by the Earth Observation Group.

On this map oil refineries around the world are shown using a red marker. You can click on the individual markers to view the estimated volume of gas flared and the detection frequency. The map includes drawing tools which allow you to create your own areas of interest on the map to view (and download) the flaring data for only the refineries in your defined area.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Asteroid Watch

Yesterday an asteroid the size of a minibus narrowly passed by the Earth. Asteroid 2023 BU actually missed the Earth by 2,200 miles, but was so close that it passed inside the arc of our orbiting telecommunications satellites (orbiting around 22,000 miles).

Thanks to NASA's Eyes on Asteroids you can take a closer look at 2023 BU and even replay its close pass-by of Earth. NASA’s 3D interactive celestial map plots the locations of comets and asteroids in real-time. The map tracks the orbits of every known near-Earth object (currently around 28,000 objects).

If you enter the name 2023 BU into the Eyes on Asteroid search box you can view a 3D model of the asteroid. Using the slide control at the bottom of the map you can then move back and forward in time to view the asteroid's orbital motion (and replay its close fly-by of Earth). 

The asteroid was only discovered last Saturday, by a Crimean amateur astronomer named Gennady Borisov. Even if 2023 BU's orbit had led to a collision with Earth it is unlikely that it would have done much damage, Because of its size BU 2023 would most likely have been destroyed high in Earth's atmosphere. Small pieces of the asteroid may have fallen to Earth as meteorites.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Cinematic 3D Space Simulations

Online astronomy has now entered the space age. Thanks to advances in 3D modeling in JavaScript astronomy articles online are now often accompanied by amazing cinematic 3D illustrations.

A great example of this is RTBF's How the James Webb Telescope Opens the Gateway to the Stars includes a truly impressive 3D animated illustration of NASA's newest space telescope. As you scroll through the beginning of this online article a 3D model illustrates how the telescope's solar panels, heat shield and 6.5m diameter mirror were unfurled in space. Information windows are also used in this 3D simulation to explain the purpose of each of these components and to explain how the telescope actually works. 

Another fantastic example can be viewed in ZDF's Mission Artemis. ZDF's interactive introduction to the Artemis mission includes 3D models of the Earth, the Moon, Mars and even the Gateway Space Station.

NASA's Artemis program will build a Lunar Gateway space station which could be used to establish a permanent home base on the Moon and to launch human missions to Mars. The Lunar Gatway Station will be the first space station in orbit around the moon. It will serve as a communication hub, science laboratory, and habitation module for astronauts. The station will also be used as the staging point for human missions to the Moon and hopefully in the future as a staging point for NASA's Deep Space Transport manned missions to Mars.

ZDF's introduction to the Artemis program includes an animated 3D simulation of an Orion transport module docking with the Lunar Gateway Station. It also shows the location of the Shakleton Crater at the Moon's South Pole, where a future Moon base station could be built.

Germany's Zeit newspaper has also created an amazing 3D space simulation to model and illustrate the destruction of the Iridium-33 satellite in 2009.

On Feb 10th 2009 a malfunctioning Soviet-era satellite smashed into Iridium-33 at ten times the speed of a flying bullet. The crash shattered both satellites and turned them into two clouds of debris containing more than 1,700 pieces of space junk. Even now, 13 years later, that debris is still orbiting the Earth, and makes up just a tiny part of the garbage that is now littering Earth's near space.

The 3D modelled simulation in the article Space Junk: Our Garbage is Space is used to help illustrate the growing problem of space debris and the danger that it creates to other space missions. The article also includes a 3D visualization of the millions of pieces of space debris now in low Earth orbit, in medium Earth orbit and further out in geo-stationary orbit around the Earth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Global Contrail Map

Global air travel is a significant contributor to climate change. A recent study revealed that aircraft contrails contribute over half of the sector's global warming impact. The study shows how contrails (the icy clouds that form in the wake of aircraft) effectively trap heat in the atmosphere, heat which would otherwise be released into space.

The Contrail Climate Initiative's Contrail Map explains how contrails are formed, how they contribute to global heating and how flights can be diverted to avoid forming contrails by adjusting the plane's altitude. Contrails are formed when there are low temperatures and high humidity. If these atmospheric conditions persist then the contrails also persist and act as heat traps.

The interactive Contrail Map visualizes contrails around the world on one day in 2022 (8pm Jan 21 - 8pm Jan 22). On the map warming contrails are shown in red and cooling contrails are shown in blue. The moving white lines are the flight trajectories of planes flying around the world. 

Luckily it is possible to significantly reduce the number of contrails produced by global air traffic. The Contrail Map explains how specific atmospheric conditions help form contrails and how weather forecasts can predict where these conditions are likely to appear. Airlines can therefore use weather forecasts to adjust their flight plans to avoid areas with atmospheric conditions conducive to the formation of contrails. 

Often this is as easy as making small changes to a plane's altitude. The Contrail Map guide animates an example flight showing how by applying a small change to the plane's altitude it could avoid all the 'potential contrail regions'.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Mapping the Ocean Deep

On 21 December 1872 HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth on a four-year scientific expedition to map the ocean floor, to measure ocean temperatures and to document marine life. It was the first global marine research expedition. A four-year expedition which managed to discover 4,700 new species, record hundreds of sea soundings (in the process verifying the existence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge), and make 263 water temperature observations.

The University of Illinois' Challenger Expedition portal allows you to explore an interactive map of the HMS Challenger's marine research voyage.  Using the map you can follow the route taken by the ship on its four year voyage and explore some of the data recorded in the 50 volumes of the voyage's logs. 

If you click on Station 1 (just west of Spain and Portugal on the map) you can start at the beginning of the ship's voyage (1872-12-30). You can then use the forward arrows to follow the voyage chronologically. The information window on the map provides details of the discoveries made at each station. It shows you the date of the observations made at this location, the recorded ocean depth, the surface and bottom temperatures, and the detected species at that location. 

If you navigate to Station 225 on the map you can explore the results of HMS Challenger's findings at Challenger Deep (a depression now named after the Royal Naval ship). On 23 March 1875 the ship recorded a depth of 4,475 fathoms. The expedition had (unknowingly) found the deepest point on the Earth's seabed in the Mariana Trench.

Challenger Deep is deep. Very Deep. Located in the Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep is the deepest known point in the Earth's seabed. But just How Deep is Challenger Deep?

John Nelson has the answer in his beautiful Esri story map. This map helps to explain the staggering depths first discovered by HMS Challenger. As you progress through this story map you will learn about the natural forces which created this huge depression deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. You will also learn about the kind of dark inhospitable conditions which exist at so many fathoms beneath the sea.

To help convey the staggering depth of Challenger Deep the map uses a number of non-standardized units of measurement. This involves showing how many Everests, Manhattans or Grand Canyons deep the depression falls beneath the surface of the sea. To help illustrate these non-standardized units of measurement Nelson has stacked a number of Mount Everests one on top of the other and relocated the Burj Khalifa to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. All for a sense of scale - of course.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Open Etymology Map(s)

Back in 2013 I saw Noah Veltman introducing his History of San Francisco Place Names map at Geomob. Noah's map explains the meaning of San Francisco street names. Click on a street on the map and you can learn who or what that street is named for. 

Ever since the release of the History of San Francisco Place Names I've become fascinated by toponyms and the etymology of street names. If you are also interested in knowing the meanings behind the street names in your town or city then a good place to start is two maps, both of which are confusingly called the Open Etymology Map. 

In 2021 Daniele Santini released his Open Etymology Map, a global map which explains the origins of individual street names around the world based on information taken from OpenStreetMap and Wikidata. MapComplete has also released their own Open Etymology Map. If you click on a highlighted street or location on either of these two maps you can view a Wikipedia article related to the street's etymology.

Both these Open Etymology Maps have the same problem. Using data from OpenStreetMap and Wikidata has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is Wikidata has far more information about the origins of street names in some cities (e.g. San Francisco) than it does in other cities (e.g. London). The advantage is that you can actually improve the map in your town or city yourself by adding etymological data to Wikidata. Once Wikidata has the etymological information about a location then that same information should start appearing on both the Open Etymolgy Maps.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Forever Chemicals in Freshwater Fish

A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found harmful levels of PFAS in freshwater fish throughout the United States. The study measured the harmful levels of 'forever chemicals' in freshwater fish collected across the United States. 

PFAS are known as 'forever chemicals'  because they never break down in the environment. They have entered freshwater bodies across the United States because industrial discharges of PFAS, from manufacturing facilities, municipal landfills & wastewater treatment plants, airports, and firefighting foams are routinely discharged into groundwater. 

Even very low doses of PFAS in drinking water can suppress the human immune system and can increase the risk of certain cancers. The new EWG study has found that eating one contaminated freshwater fish could equal a month of drinking PFAS contaminated water. 

You can view the results of the EWG study on a new Forever Chemicals in Freshwater Fish interactive map. The map allows you to discover the levels of PFAS contaminations found at over 500 freshwater sites across the United States. Click on one of the sampled sites on the map and you can view its exact location, the fish species sampled (and the date of the sample) and the levels of the various PFAS detected in the fish.