Thursday, September 28, 2023

More Medieval Murder Maps!

On Saturday 2 Feb 1297 three Oxford University students decided to celebrate the festival of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary by going on a frenzied rampage. On the evening of the festival John de Skurf and his two friends Michael and Madoc ran through the streets of Oxford with swords, bows, and arrows "attacking all passers-by". One John Metescharp was shot with an arrow by Michael of St. Aldgate and he eventually died from his wound two days later.

This is just one of the gruesome murders which are recounted on Cambridge University's Medieval Murder Maps.

Back in 2018 Cambridge University unveiled an interactive homicide map which used historical coroner records to plot the locations of murders in medieval London. The university has now released two more interactive maps to also record the grizzly homicidal histories of the medieval English cities of Oxford and York. 

The interactive Medieval Murder Maps use coroners records (and, in the case of Oxford, the records of the antiquarian Twyne) to show the locations of some of the murders carried out in each city in the 14th Century. Murders on the maps are shown using categorized markers. These markers depict the murder weapon used in each recorded medieval homicide.

As well as the two new city maps there is now also a Medieval Murder podcast, in which the team behind the maps discuss some of the most interesting cases, try to solve some of the cold cases, and explore 'the similarities and the differences to violent crime in our modern world'. As well as this podcast the maps themselves also now contain a number of voice overs, providing a narrated summary of some of the medieval murders featured on the maps. Each of the three murder maps now includes a filter option which allows you to see only those murders with voice overs on the map.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Same Size As

Gibraltar (left) compared to Central Park (right)

Same Scales is an interactive map which allows you to compare two different locations side-by-side at the same scale. Comparing locations on the same map can be difficult because of the distortions caused by map projections. Same Scales helps you compare two different locations by showing each at the same scale on two different maps placed side-by-side.

Africa (left) compared to Greenland (right) on the same map

Famously Greenland and Africa appear to be similar in size on maps which use the Mercator projection. The Mercator projection is commonly used in many world maps because it accurately represents direction and shape. However, it distorts the size of land areas the further they are from the Equator.

A small part of Africa (left) compared at the same scale to Greenland (right)

If we compare Africa and Greenland using the Same Scale map we can see that in reality Africa (30.37 million km²) is far larger than Greenland (2.166 million km²).

The Urban Fabric Map is another useful map tool which can be used to compare two different cities side-by-side. This map allows you to select two individual cities and compare their building footprints at the same scale. Comparing the building footprints of cities can reveal interesting differences in the building densities of different cities across the globe. The Urban Fabric website helps you understand these building densities by also listing the number of buildings found in each city map view.
If you are interested in comparing the sizes of different countries with each other then you can also use The True Size Of interactive map. The True Size Of app allows you to overlay the shape of one country on top of an interactive map. You are then able to select and drag this country polygon around on the map in order to compare its size with any other location on Earth.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Global Problem of Forever Chemicals

Forever chemicals are almost everywhere. If you search for PFAS contamination in any country, continent, or wildlife species around the world, the chances are you will find it. This revelation comes after a massive analysis of data by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has exposed the global scale of the PFAS problem. 

PFAS or toxic "forever chemicals" are harmful substances that pollute the environment, and expose both people and animals to a number of health risks. To help show the threat of forever chemicals to wildlife around the world the EWG has released a new interactive map which visualizes the extent of PFAS contamination. The map was created following an extensive study of over 125 scientific reports on PFAS contamination in wildlife. 

The EWG study reveals that wherever we look for forever chemicals around the world we find them. The fact that PFAS is present in wildlife samples from all over the world suggests that the contamination issue is a global problem. It is also extremely worrying for human health, as even the occasional consumption of contaminated fish or meat will increase the amount of PFAS in an individual.

If you are worried about the impact of forever chemicals on the environment then you can read EWG's new peer-reviewed paper, published in Science of the Total Environment and explore EWG's interactive map, Global Danger: Threatened Wildlife at Risk from PFAS Exposure

The map reveals the extent of PFAS exposure to freshwater fish across the whole United States. According to the EWG eating "just one PFAS-contaminated freshwater fish per month could be the equivalent of drinking a glass of water with very high levels of PFOS or other forever chemicals". However it isn't just fish that are being contaminated by forever chemicals. The map shows that fish, birds and mammals across the world are being exposed and contaminated by PFAS.

The new global map of forever chemicals is just the latest effort of the EWG to expose the problems of PFAS contamination. It follows their previous map of Forever Chemicals in Freshwater Fish and their list of the 100 U.S. Military Sites With the Worst PFAS Contamination.

Monday, September 25, 2023

A Cool, Shady Spot with a Breeze

One result of global heating is that nearly every summer most of us spend some time thinking about places we can go to avoid the oppressive heat. In recent years a number of interactive maps have been released which can help you find shady places to relax and escape the direct sun. These include popular shade maps such as JveuxDuSoleil, ShadeMap and Shadowmap.

Now a new interactive map goes a few steps further and allows you to find shady spots which are also cool & breezy, and which in addition have refreshing amenities nearby. The erfrischungskarte is an interactive map which identifies cool, windy and shady areas in Berlin. It allows you to quickly find areas of the German capital where you can relax in summer based on the level of shade, temperature or breeze, and which have refreshing infrastructure nearby, such as drinking fountains, swimming holes, or green parks.

The erfrischungskarte includes a useful clock-face menu which allows you to choose any time of day. Select a time on this clock and the map will update to show where building shadows will fall at the chosen time. The color of locations on the map relate to estimated temperatures at different times of the day (4 a.m., 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., modeled for a typical summer day, with a resolution of 10 meters). In the 'filter' menu you can change the colors shown on the map to indicate the levels of the wind across the city (cold air volume data for 4 a.m. and 10 p.m., modeled for a typical summer day, at a resolution of 10 meters).

The markers on the map show the locations of drinking fountains & other water sources (blue), parks & other green areas (green) and benches (yellow).

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Restricting the Right to Protest

The right to protest is being restricted in countries around the world. Amnesty International's new interactive map, called Protect the Protest, highlights the growing numbers of human rights violations which are being committed by countries around the world aimed at removing the rights of citizens to legally protest. 

The Protect the Protest map sheds light on the types of repression that are now being faced by protesters around the world. Click on a country's marker on the map and you can learn more about how the right to protest is being attacked in that country. According to Amnesty International governments used illegal force against protesters in 86 of the 156 countries they examined in 2022, and protesters were arbitrarily detained in 79 of those 156 countries.

If you select the 'Human Rights Concerns heading in the map sidebar you can view a list of some of the methods used by authorities to restrict citizens' rights to protest. These include the 'unlawful use of force' and 'repressive legislation'. If you click on any of these methods then the countries which have been found to use this repressive method are then highlighted in yellow on the map. You can then select an individual country to learn more about how this method of repression has been used in the chosen country.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Royal Parks of London

There are eight Royal Parks in London. The parks are owned by the Crown and managed by the Royal Parks charity. The parks originated from land that the royal family once used for recreation and hunting. Over time, these lands were enclosed and became known as the Royal Parks. The public can enter and use the parks for free but public access to the parks remains at the grace and favor of the Crown.

How well do you know London's Royal Parks? Find out by playing the interactive map game London Park Names. All you have to do is type in the name of each one London's eight Royal Parks. Name all eight and you win the game.

London Park Names is my latest interactive map game inspired by the brilliant San Francisco Street Names (and I promise it will be my last for a while). Having created versions of the game using polylines (Streets of Winchelsea) and place-name labels (US State Names) I wanted to create a variation of the game which used polygons to highlight defined geographical areas. The result is London Park Names.

If you want to create your own variation of the game you can clone London Park Names on Glitch.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Global Migration Explorer

In both American and European politics immigration has become one of the most centrally contested issues. However, according to the authors of World’s human migration patterns in 2000–2019 "a global-scale, high-resolution quantification of migration and its major drivers for the recent decades (has) remained missing" from this political debate. They have therefore created their own global dataset of annual net migration for the years 2000 to 2019.

The Net Migration Explorer is an interactive map which visualizes this global net migration data at three administrative levels. The map also allows you to view population change, and birth & death levels at three different admin levels around the world.

Using the map you can explore which locations around the world have experienced net migration loss and gain for every year from 2000-2019. Many patterns of migration are clearly apparent on the map but I think the data is crying out for someone to create a guided story-map of some of the migration stories revealed by this data (although you can obviously read the authors' paper to learn more about their interpretation of the data). 

If you do want to create your own data visualization of global migration then you can download the data from Zenodo. The code for the interactive map (a Shiny R app) is available on GitHub. Both the data and the map are available under Creative Commons licences. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Live 2 Years Longer with Better Air Quality

Around the world life expectancy could be raised on average by 2 years and 3 months if air quality was improved to meet the World Health Organization guideline. In countries with really high levels of fine particulate pollution (such as India & Bangladesh) life expectancy could be increased by over 5 years.

The Air Quality Life Index looks at air quality levels around the world and calculates how that impacts local life expectancy. Using the AQLI interactive map you can view for yourself how air pollution impacts your family's life expectancy and how it affects the length of people's lives around the world. On the map the potential gain in life expectancy if "fine particulate pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guideline" is shown in red and yellow. The more red a location is shown on the map then the bigger the potential increase in life expectancy.

According to the Index in the USA air pollution shortens the average American’s life expectancy by 3.6 months. If the WHO guideline was met the average American could expect to increase their life expectancy by 2 months. However air quality obviously varies across the US and in the worst affected counties (such as Plumas County, California) life expectancy could be improved by over 2 years by improving the local air quality.

Today The Guardian has reported that 98% of people living in Europe are breathing 'highly damaging polluted air'. The newspaper reports that 75% of Germans are breathing air which is twice the WHO recommended guideline. Nearly half of Spaniards are also breathing air twice the WHO guideline and 37% of French people live in areas with over twice the safe level. In the UK 75% of the population have air pollution which is over the recommended safe level. 

If you live in Europe you can discover the fine particulate levels of the air you breathe on The Guardian's interactive map Europe's pollution divide: see how your area compares. The map uses data from the Expanse project. The modeled air pollution levels are calculated by Expanse using a number of different sources and variables. You can learn more about these on The Guardian's methodology page for the map.

With the number of active wildfires recorded around the world this year air quality has become an even hotter topic than usual. You can view near real-time air quality around the world on IQAir's Live Animated Air Quality Map. The map uses data from government monitoring stations and IQAir's own monitors to create a real-time picture of air pollution levels around the world.

For example the map shows that at the moment the air quality in San Francisco is 9 times the WHO guideline value. The current dangerous levels of air pollution in San Francisco are a result of smoke from a cluster of wildfires on the California-Oregon border.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Olympic Stadia Travel Times

Brisbane has been awarded the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of Brisbane's goals in hosting the games is to be “more equal and accessible”. In order to analyze how accessible the Brisbane games will actually be the data consulting firm Smash Delta has been visualizing current travel times to two of the Brisbane games stadia and exploring how those travel times will be improved thanks to proposed public transport developments.

In Mobility and the Brisbane Olympics travel time data has been combined with the Mapbox storymap template to perfectly guide the reader through a presentation of the length of time it takes to travel to the Gabba and the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre (two of the main stadia in the 2032 Brisbane Olympics).

3D models of the Gabba and the Convention Centre provide the perfect starting point from which to add isochrone travel time data for each stadium. As you scroll through Mobility and the Brisbane Olympics you are guided through isochrone layers visualizing public transport, walking and cycling times to the two stadia. As each isochone layer is added to the map a bar chart also shows a breakdown of the population age groups living within different travel times to the stadium.

Overall Smash Delta's 'Mobility and the Brisbane Olympics' is a superb example of mapped data visualization and a very effective demonstration of the power of Smash Delta's StoryScaper interactive spatial storytelling template.

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Year of Wildfire in Europe

In July Europe witnessed its largest wildfire in 23 years. The Dadia forest fire in Greece burned 97,000 hectares and killed 20 people. The large number of wildfires in Europe this year follows the even larger number of fires last year, a year which saw the second largest total burnt area this century. So far.

Czech news website Aktuálně.cz has analyzed satellite data of European Union wildfires since the year 2000 to calculate the total burnt area caused by fires for every year this century. A storymap in Burnt Europe maps out the size of European wildfires in 2024, 2023 and 2017 (the year with the highest total burn area). An interactive map at the end of the story also allows readers to explore in detail the wildfire burnt areas for every year since 2000.

A bar chart and line graph visualize the number of hectares burnt in each of the last 23 years. The data used for the charts and maps was taken from the satellite imagery of the European Forest Fire Information System. The Aktuálně.cz article includes a number of satellite images taken from EFFIS documenting some of Europe's worst wildfires this century.