Monday, August 02, 2021

Google & Facebook Under Water

satellite image of San Francisco Bay showing planned new builds by Google and Facebook

Both Google and Facebook are spending millions of dollars expanding their shiny campuses along the waterfront of San Francisco Bay. Campuses which thanks to climate change could be underwater within a few decades. 

Now you might be struggling to find a downside in this scenario but both Google and Facebook could be saved by hugely expensive anti-flooding measures. The costs of which are likely to be borne by the tax-payer. 

In a very impressive scrollytelling presentation NPR asks Who Will Pay To Protect Tech Giants From Rising Seas?. The presentation uses drone footage and satellite maps to visualize where Google and Facebook are building along the San Francisco Bay and how these areas are threatened by rising sea levels. Alongside these impressive visuals NPR asks some important questions about what infrastructure measures can be taken to mitigate against flooding, how much these will cost and who will pay for them. 

Google and Facebook will be the major beneficiaries of the building of anti-flooding infrastructure along this section of the San Francisco Bay. The question therefore arises as to how much these tech giants will pay towards ensuring their own protection.Surely neither company would allow the public to pick up the bill.

Segregating Highways

Urban Labs has been exploring how the construction of highways through city neighborhoods in the 20th Century consistently involved the destruction of thriving black businesses and communities. The legacy of these highways has been to divide and permanently blight many traditional black neighborhoods in America's cities.

The Interstate Highway System was championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was first authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. A year earlier, in 1955, the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, informally known as the Yellow Book, was published. This mapped out what was to become of the Interstate System. In 1956 the American Automobile Association published the National system of interstate and defense highways : as of June, 1958, a map of the planned interstate network. 

The building of the highways through city neighborhoods was often coupled with the idea of demolishing 'blighted' neighborhoods. In effect what this meant in reality was that when it came to decide where the highways were to be built time and again it was decided it was best to build them through predominantly black neighborhoods. In What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways City Lab has mapped out how in city after city highways bulldozed their way through black communities, destroying local businesses and creating 'border vacuums' - areas cut-off from resources and jobs.

The City Labs article also looks at how Biden's infrastructure plan, which has allocated $1 billion to reconnect communities, might be used to improve these urban communities blighted in the 20th Century by the car and the construction of huge highways through city neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Peaky Finders

I first wrote this post 9 years ago. I've decided to bump Peaky Finders to the front page of Maps Mania again in celebration of the fact that these three interactive maps still work. 90% of the interactive maps that I wrote about on this blog a decade ago no longer work. Not only are these three interactive mapping applications still flourishing all three are also really fantastic uses of location data.

PeakFinder is a really useful application which can generate a 360° panoramic map which names all the visible peaks and hills which you can see around you from your current location.

To create a panorama users just need to share their location with PeakFinder. PeakFinder will then magically create a a 360° panoramic sketch of the view from your location. You can then zoom in & out and pan around the panorama and identify the names of all the peaks which surround you.

HeyWhatsThat also allows you to create panoramic sketches showing names of visible peaks. HeyWhatsThat allows the user to click on highlighted peaks to view the name and see the peak's location on a Google Map. This map view also displays the distance and the direction to the selected peak from your location.

Generate a Panorama lets you click on a Google Map and create a bird's eye representation of the view from that location. To generate your own view you just need to click on a location on the map. You can then drag a polyline to choose the direction you wish to view and you can also adjust the span of the view. Like PeakFinder and HeyWhatsThat this application also labels all the peaks that you can see from your current location.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

It's Open Mic Nite

There are lots of webcam maps which allow you to view live webcam feeds from locations around the world (check-out Earthcam, igoCam and Ivideon TV). Most of the well known sound maps however are not live, and tend to feature prerecorded sound clips rather than allow you to listen to live audio feeds. 

That is why I have taken a shine to the Locus Sonus Stream Project, which is an interactive map featuring open microphones around the world that provide permanently streaming local sounds. Click on any of the mike shaped markers on this map and you can listen live to the real-time sounds being recorded at that location. The map also features a day-night overlay so you can tell at a glance which of the open microphones are currently capturing daytime sounds and which are recording at night.

Locus Sonus is actually a research group which is interested in the relationship between place and sound.If you click on the 'about' link on the Locus Sonus Stream Project map you can view instructions on how to set up your own live streaming microphone, using a Raspberry Pi, a phone, tablet or computer. If you are struggling to identify the sounds from one of the open microphones you can always click on the 'read more' link to view some clues as to what sounds can normally be heard on the live audio stream.

The UK's Most Dangerous Roads

Every year Ageas Insurance and the Road Safety Foundation release an interactive map which rates the UK's main roads based on the number of serious accidents occurring in the past few years. The Dangerous Roads 2021 interactive map uses data from the Department of Transport to rate individual road sections based on the number of serious crashes which happened on them from 2017-2019.

On the map road sections are colored to show their 'road risk level'. This rating is based on the number of "crashes resulting in death and serious injury" weighted by the amount of road traffic each section carried. The map also uses colored markers to highlight road sections which have shown significant safety improvements or deterioration (when compared to the period 2014-16). 

The section of road with the most improved safety record in the UK is on the A688 between Barnard Castle and West Auckland. This section of the A688 has seen an 85% reduction in serious crashes. Perhaps it is a result of people driving carefully to Barnard Castle while testing their eyesight.

You can also explore the UK's most dangerous roads on the Most Dangerous Roads in Britain map. This interactive map of dangerous roads shows the UK roads with the highest accident rate (although this map is using older crash data from 2007-2016).

According to this map the top 13 most dangerous roads in the UK are all in London.Using the Most Dangerous Roads in Britain map you can view the top 50 most dangerous roads (ranked in order in the map side-panel) or you can view the most dangerous road in each UK region. The map shows the UK roads with the highest accident rate. These are the roads with the highest ratio of accidents to the amount of traffic.The data for the map comes from the Department for Transport and covers ten years of road use from 2007-2016.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Nation Still Under Fire

ABC News has created an animated interactive map which shows the location of every shooting incident in the USA last week. Press play on the One Nation Under Fire map and you can watch as all corners of the United States are peppered by over 900 shooting incidents.

Reminder: this map shows just one week of shooting incidents in America (July 17-23 2021).

Last year there were 43,000 gun deaths in the United States. This year is shaping to be just as deadly. Last week there were over 1,000 shootings. 404 people died in those shootings and 928 were wounded.

According to Wikipedia's List of countries by firearm-related death rate the United States has a firearm-related death rate of 12.21 per 100,000 people per year. That is about 61 times as high as the United Kingdom's rate of 0.20, or over 600 times as high as Japan's rate of 0.02.

The ABC News map uses data from the Gun Violence Archive, who collect data on gun-related violence in the United States.The Gun Violence Archive has a map showing the location of all gun deaths in the USA this year. So far there have been over 25,000 deaths. 177 of those deaths were children under 12 years of age and 715 children aged 12-17.

The Newspaper Archive Map

Ancestry's claims to be the largest online archive of newspapers. The archive includes searchable articles from over 21,000 newspapers dating back to the 1700's (although there seems to be a distinct bias towards English language newspapers). 

Using's interactive map you can search for historical newspapers by location and by date. If you pay to subscribe to Ancestry you can then read the digitized articles. A similar service exists in the UK at the British Newspaper Archive, which allows you to search archived British newspapers for free but only allows registered users to read actual digitized content from the archived papers. 

The NewspaperArchive provides a similar subscription service to, allowing you to search 'billions' of newspapers from around the world.Again you can search the archived newspapers for free but you need to register to actually view and read the archived articles. 

You can search and read through 129 years of New York Times back editions on the newspaper's TimesMachine website (again a subscription is needed). Using the TimesMachine's interactive interface you can read the Time's contemporary accounts of historical events, including the shooting of President Lincoln, the sinking of the Titanic and the landing of the first men on the moon.

By using the zooming and panning controls used by interactive mapping platforms, the New York Times provides users with familiar navigation controls with which to browse through its historical archives. The TimesMachine relies on panning, zooming and the click & drag method that web users are familiar with from using mapping platforms, such as Google Maps.

Wikipedia also maintains a list of online newspaper archives. This list includes links to both free and paid archives of newspapers around the world. The Wikipedia introduction to its list also includes the handy advice that some local library services may have subscriptions to newspaper archives which you may be able to access for free if you have a library card.

One other option is to explore the archives of still operating newspapers. The Newspaper Map provides direct links to thousands of newspapers currently operating all around the world.

Monday, July 26, 2021

The World is Burning

In the summer the Northern Hemisphere normally experiences a number of large wildfires. However this year, following record breaking temperatures across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere, the number and size of wildfires has been unprecedented.

Wildfires have burned over 1.5 million hectares in Siberia. In Northern California the Dixie Fire has burned an area the size of Chicago. In Canada British Columbia has declared a state of emergency with nearly 300 active wildfires. In Italy around 7,500 firefighters have been fighting wildfires in Sardinia. In Northeastern Spain a large area near Tarragona has been blazing since Saturday. In France over 900 hectares of forest has burned in the department of Aude.

NASA's FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System) interactive map provides near real-time active fire locations using data gathered from MODIS and VIIRS satellites. The FIRMS map is updated every five minutes. The satellites from which the data is gathered generally make two complete global overpasses a day. The data from these satellites is usually processed within three hours. You can actually overlay the satellite overpass tracks on top of the FIRMS map to see the acquisition times for a specific location.


The Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS) interactive map provides a 10 day danger forecast and near real-time information on active fires around the world.This map also uses FIRMS data. By identifying areas with higher temperatures than surrounding areas FIRMS is able to identify locations with active fires. The GWIS map also allows you to view burnt area perimeters for active fires using the same satellite data.

Kontur's Global Fires interactive map allows you to visualize all of the past year's global fire data. It also can be used to visualize smoke pollution during wildfire seasons around the world. The Global Fires map consists of two main views. Using the 'Fire (last year)' option you can view a year's worth of global wildfire activity play-out on the map. The other main view of Global Fires is the 'Air Quality (now)' option. This allows you to view the current data from air quality monitors across the world.

The British Conversation Map

If you have ever traveled around the UK then you've probably discovered that the natives aren't always friendly.Talking to strangers is one of those 'foreign' activities which is largely frowned upon by your average Brit. Which is why whenever I travel around Britain I take along Cecil W. Bacon's What Do They Talk About? map

What Do They Talk About? is a humorous pictorial map of the UK which was published by the Geographical Magazine in 1951 during the Festival of Britain. The map depicts local buildings, landmarks and industries and text labels which highlight popular local topics of conversation. 

Some of the conversation topics suggested by the map are ones you would probably guess yourself. For example it is fairly obvious that in Cambridge people usually chat about Isaac Newton and the Universe, while in Oxford the conversation often involves philosophical discussions about Aristotle's ideas on deductive logic. 

Unfortunately some of the conversation topics are now a bit out-of-date. Conversation about 'the pit' in South Wales and 'the mill' in the North East died out with the collapse of UK industry. However it is good to see that many other British traditional topics of conversation still persist. For example to this day it is impossible to visit Bath without a conversation about the 'Regency Days' or discussing the 'Test Team' in Yorkshire.

The map cartouche proclaims that "Most people talk about the place where they work-the pit, the office, the mill ..." This preoccupation with occupations and local industry features heavily on the map. Therefore in Northampton they talk about 'Boots and Shoes', in Sheffield they chat about 'Steel', in Coventry they discuss the 'Internal Combustion Engine' and in the Potteries all the talk centers around (you guessed it) 'Pots'. 

It is interesting that despite the dramatic contraction of industry in Britain since the 1950's that many UK cities are still strongly associated with certain particular industries and occupations, even if most of the locals no longer work in these industries. However despite the strong bonds of history and tradition the 'What Do They Talk About? map does now feels like a product of its time. Which makes me feel that the world might be ready for a new 'What Do They Talk About? map ... (to be continued) ...

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Cuckoo Flying the Nest

Because the European common cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite and lays its eggs in the nests of other birds it is free to migrate south much earlier than other species of birds. In early summer, when most other bird species are busy raising their young (and sometimes the young of cuckoos), the adult cuckoo is able to begin its migration to Africa. Adult cuckoos in Europe are among the first bird species to begin their migrations. For example in the UK most cuckoos begin flying south in June.Which is great news for anyone who is interested in tracking the progress of migrating Cuckoos.

The British Trust for Ornithology's Cuckoo Tracking Project is currently mapping the migration of twelve European common cuckoos on their journey from the UK to their wintering grounds in the Congo basin of central Africa.The map shows the latest recorded location of each bird and the route they have taken from the UK. The map also includes a playback feature which allows you to watch each bird's entire journey from the 2nd May animated on the map. 

Over the last couple of weeks eyebrows have been raised over the movements of one of the tracked cuckoos. Around the middle of July the cuckoo name Attenborough (in honor of the famous natural historian and broadcaster) decided to suddenly take a massive detour in an easterly direction. He left Spain and flew via Sicily to Greece. This is quite a detour on his journey to his hopeful destination in the Congo basin. 

A cuckoo flying from the UK to central Africa will typically fly travel around 5,000 miles. This is an epic journey but not as far as the migrations taken by the cuckoos who migrate from Mongolia to eastern Africa every year. Mongolian cuckoos make migratory journeys of around 7,500 miles to and from Africa. 

In 2019 the Mongolia Cuckoo Project tracked five cuckoos migrating from Mongolia to Africa. These five birds included a cuckoo called Onon, who made a 16,155 mile migratory round trip to Africa and back to Mongolia. This was one of the longest recorded journeys made by any land bird. 

On Onon's epic journey he visited China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately he was the only one of the five tracked birds in the Mongolia Cuckoo Project who successfully made the full round trip. Onon himself is suspected to have died the following year. His tag stopped transmitting in southern Yemen in September 2020.