Thursday, December 31, 2020

How Sea Walls Destroy Beaches

Propubilica and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser have produced a joint story into how sea walls are helping to cause coastal erosion in Hawaii. Over the last one hundred years Oahu, Maui and Kauai have lost around 25% of their sandy beaches. To help protect their homes from rising seas the owners of sea-front properties often erect sea walls. These sea walls then contribute to the loss of Hawaii's sandy beaches - as over time waves hitting these sea walls pull the sand away from the shore. 

Hawaii's Beaches are Disappearing uses a combination of drone captured video, aerial imagery and maps to document and explain the loss of sandy beaches in Hawaii. These disparate element are tied together using Mapbox's Scrollytelling Template. As you progress through the story maps are used to show you where properties have built sea walls and where Hawaii's sandy beaches have disappeared. Overhead aerial imagery and drone shot videos provide stark illustrations of the power of the sea hitting property sea walls.

In Hawaii the authorities are supposed to have a 'no tolerance' policy towards the building of new sea walls. In reality however property owners are able to exploit a number of loopholes to protect their properties from rising seas. Government officials are also often adverse to denying home owners the right to defend their properties and environmental exemptions are often allowed. The result is that sea-front homes are being protected at the cost of the loss of Hawaii's sandy beaches.

The Interstate Highway Transit Map

For the last nine years Cameron Booth's Transit Maps blog has been reviewing the design and effectiveness of transit maps created by transport networks around the world. He also occasionally features his own transit network maps.

Sometimes Cameron creates transit diagrams for networks which don't strictly fall within the normal bounds of a transit map. For example Cameron's Interstates as a Subway Map is a diagram of the U.S. interstate highway network created in a style more commonly used for subway maps. It uses the language of subway maps to create a very handy and easy to read diagram of America's vast interstate highway network. 

Cameron has recently updated the map to include a number of new additions to the U.S. interstate highway network. He has also used a few new design principles in the new map. You can read more about the map and how it was made on Cameron's blog post, Project: Interstate Highways as a Subway Diagram, 2020 Revision.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How Far Have I Walked?

After the excesses of Christmas many of us are now thinking about what New Year's resolutions we can make in order to lose a few lbs. Last week I wrote about the new Trail Router interactive map, which can help you generate new running, walking and cycling routes to help keep your exercise regime a little more interesting. 

One very useful feature of Trail Router is that it can generate routes for customized distances. For example if you want to walk five miles every day you can use Trail Router to generate a new 5 mile hiking route each morning.

I have been using Trail Router myself over the last week in order to generate new walking routes around my neighborhood. However I'm not always very good at sticking to a set route. While walking I often find myself diverting from the route suggested by Trail Router in order to explore, pop into a nearby shop, visit an ATM etc. The result is that when I get home from my walk I am often unsure about how far I have actually walked.

When this happens I refer to How Far Did I Run?. How Far Did I Run? is another handy route planning tool which can be used to generate walking, running or cycling routes. I, however, often uses How Far Did I Run? to work out how far I have actually already walked (I don't run!).

If you plot a walk that you have already taken on the How Far Did I Run? interactive map it will tell you the distance that you completed. The map comes with three handy 'snap-to' tools which will snap the drawn route to the nearest path, cycle path or road. This is very handy for quickly drawing a route that you have walked or cycled as the map snaps the route to follow the paths or roads that you are likely to have actually used (if the map won't snap to the route that you took you can switch to a more free-hand tool).

How Far Did I Run? is therefore a very useful tool for quickly working out how far you actually jogged, walked or cycled once you return from your daily exercise.

Painting the World with Maps


I've been working hard on completing this painting over the last few weeks. I'm actually quite pleased with the result. This mountain landscape, which I finally finished this morning, is now ready for framing.

Actually to say I've been working on this painting for a few weeks is a slight exaggeration. It is also a slight exaggeration to call it a painting. In truth this masterpiece only took me a few seconds to create - and involved no messy paint. My mountain landscape was in fact created using the new mapping tool Stippler.

Steve Attewell has been having a lot of fun since the release of Mapbox GL's new 3D terrain view. Two weeks ago Steve released the 3D Stereoscopic Anaglyph and Crossview Map, which allows you to view a 3D map with 3D glasses - to add even more depth to Mapbox's new 3D view. Now Steve has released another impressive interactive map tool called Stippler.

Stippler turns Mapbox's 3D terrain maps into real works of art. Using Stippler you can add an artistic effect to the 3D map of any location in the world. The tool comes with seven different artistic effects, each of which subtly changes the appearance of Mapbox GL's 3D terrain view. The results can be very pleasing. At least I am very happy with some of the masterpieces I have already knocked off this morning. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

How Coronavirus Spread in Canada

CBC / Radio-Canada has published a story map which compares the latest surge of Covid-19 cases in Canada with the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year.

At the heart of Two Parts of a Pandemic: How the Coronavirus Spread in Canada is a 3D interactive map visualizing the number of coronavirus cases across Canada during the two periods of the year which saw dramatic surges. On top of this 3D map case 'spikes' show the number of Covid-19 cases in each of the country's health regions. The higher a region's spikes then the more Covid-19 cases (per 100,000 people) were recorded in the region. 

As you progress through CBC's story the map rotates and zooms to show regions which experienced dramatic surges during the first and second waves. CBC defines the first wave as happening from March 11 to July 28 and the second wave as occurring from July 29 to December 15. Using the map CBC shows how during the first wave coronavirus spread rapidly through central Canada. However west of Ontario regions managed to avoid the worst of the first wave of the pandemic. 

Unfortunately many of these health regions west of Ontario suffered a high number of cases during the second wave. In the east the 'Atlantic bubble' also largely avoided a pandemic in the Spring. This area was also unable to avoid the pandemic during the second wave. However, although in the whole of Canada the second wave saw three times as many Canadians testing positive as in the first wave, knowledge about the virus and improvements in patient care ensured that only half as many Canadians died during the second wave as died during the Spring wave.

The First #UKSnow of Winter

For the first time this winter the hashtag UKSnow is trending on Twitter. This means that it is time once again to fire up the #uksnow Map.

The #uksnow Map uses crowdsourced Tweets to map the location and levels of snow across the UK. Judging by the current map snow has been falling widely in the North and Midlands. There also seems to have been a smaller number of snow showers in the South of the country, mostly in the Hampshire area. 

To add your information to the #uksnow Map you just need to Tweet a message with the '#uksnow' hashtag,  including your location (the first half of your postcode) and a 1-10 rating for the amount of snow (with 10 being a full-scale blizzard).

The Met Office is predicting snow in many areas of the UK for the next 5 days, therefore the #uksnow Map is likely to be very busy for at least the reswt of this week. In particular the Met Office has issued snow and ice warnings covering South Wales and Southern England for both Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Like the Back of Your Hand

Some interactive map games can be very difficult to play. Many of the map games I review for Maps Mania start by generating a random location. This location could be a city that you have never visited and know very little about. I have found over the years that it can be very frustrating to try to answer questions about a city that you know very little about.

This is why you might enjoy playing Back of Your Hand.

Back of Your Hand is a new interactive map game which allows you to answer questions about a location that you know very well. Instead of generating a random location Back of Your Hand allows you to select the area that you would like to answer questions about. It then tests your knowledge of your selected area. 

For example - if you click on your house on the map you will be asked to identify the location of five roads or points of interest in the neighborhoods around your home. You are then awarded points for how close you get to the correct location of each of those roads.

One really nice feature of Back of Your Hand is that you can play it as a socially distanced game with your family. Once you press the 'Start' button you are given a unique link for your game. If you then share this link with your friends and family they can then play the same game - in which they all have to identify the location of the same five streets. You can therefore all compete to see who gets the best score and determine who in your family really knows your neighborhood like the back of their hand. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The 2020 Map of the Year

In 2020 there was really only one serious contender for Map of the Year. 

At the beginning of January I was convinced that the U.S. Presidential election was going to dominate the news and consequently we were going to see thousands of election maps during the course of the year, climaxing with hundreds of election result maps in November. 

The U.S. election was indeed one of the major stories of 2020 and thousands of election maps were indeed created and released into the world. However the U.S. Presidential election wasn't the big story of 2020. In the third week of January I posted what was then called the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Global Cases Dashboard. A name which was later changed to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard

When I first published a link to the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 Dashboard in January the map was reporting only 555 cases of Covid-19 and 17 fatalities. However there was something about the virulence of the virus and the reaction of the Chinese government to the disease (they had just shut down public transport) which suggested that Covid-19 might just be more serious than other virus outbreaks.

By the third week of January all the deaths from Covid-19 had occurred in China but cases of the virus had already been reported in Japan and one confirmed case had been reported in the United States. Just one month later, on the 23rd February, the map was showing 2,462 deaths and 78,823 confirmed cases. These included 100 cases in Italy where two people had already died from the virus. 

Today, on the 26th December, as 2020 enters its final days, the map shows that there have been nearly 80 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world and there have been 1,751,634 deaths, including 330,279 in the United States alone.

Simply by being the first to create a global map of the spread of reported cases of Covid-19 the Johns Hopkins dashboard has become for many one of the most accepted resources for tracking the global impact of Covid-19. It is certainly the interactive map which I have referred to most during 2020 and has to be (unfortunately) my 2020 Map of the Year.

My big hope is that during 2021 Covd-19 vaccinations will make the Covid-19 Dashboard redundant.

If you are interested in viewing more great maps and data visualizations created in 2020 then you should have a look at Maarten Lambrecht's List of 2020 Visualizations List. Maarten provides links to 2020 data visualization round-ups from lots of different sources. Including Cartonerd's Favourite Maps from 2020 and National Geographic's The Maps and Graphics of 2020's Events and Discoveries.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Hunting the Xmas Elves

This year all Santa's elves are having to work from home. Unfortunately Santa's Human Resources Department has somehow managed to lose the home addresses of all the Christmas elves. This makes it very difficult to deliver the wish lists from the children of the world to Santa's little helpers. Luckily Santa does remember some of the world famous landmarks near where his many elves live.

Your job is to use the Save Christmas interactive map to find Santa's elves and help save everyone's Christmas. Santa will give you a clue to the whereabouts of each elf. You just need to find the correct location on the map and then find the elf on Google Map's Street View. If you can't find an elf straight away then you can ask Santa for another clue. If you still can't find the elf you can skip forward and search for the next elf instead.

There are five elves to find in total. Good luck with your search and I hope you manage to save Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Interactive Globes

The David Rumsey Map Collection has added 18 new interactive 3D globes to its huge collection of online digitized vintage maps. The new globes include 9 Terrestrial Globes, 3 Celestial Globes, and 6 Planetary Globes.

The Planetary Globes include globes of the Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury. It also includes a 3D globe of Jupiter's moon Io. All these planetary globes are made from recent imagery. The 9 Terrestrial Globes have been created from vintage historical maps. These vintage maps are not globe gores but historical world maps. The 3 Celestial Globes have also been created from historical, vintage maps, including two celestial maps from 1693 and one from 1792.

Trans World Airlines. TWA World Routes. U.S.A. 1958 (David Rumsey Map Collection)

If your personal favorite world map is not in David Rumseys' new globe collection you can just make your own. Map to Globe is an amazing website which can take any 2D map and turn it into a 3D interactive globe. Using Map to Globe you can take any image of a map (or any other image) and drape it over a three dimensional ball to create your very own interactive globe.

If you browse the David Rumsey Map Collection you can find lots of world maps. The David Rumsey Luna Browser includes an export option for all maps, which allows you to download the image of a map to your computer (the Luna Browser filtered to only show only 'world atlas' maps). Map to Globe works best with images that have a 2:1 ratio, where the width of the image is twice the height of the image. For the very best results you might want to use a photo image editor to tweak any downloaded map into the correct ratio. 

After you have created your interactive globe on Map to Globe you can download an animated gif of your creation. If you select the 'Animations' option from the menu then Map to Globe will automatically generate an animated image showing your new interactive globe spinning around.

LeWitt Mapping

This is my LeWitt Map of London. It is a satellite image of the capital - with a white four sided polygon cut from the map. The four corners of this cut-out have been defined by four of the addresses where I have lived in the city.

Sol LeWitt was an American conceptual artist. As part of his 1960's collection '$100 Drawings' LeWitt produced a series of maps with large geometric shapes cut out of them. His drawing 'The Area of Manhattan between the Places Where I Have Lived Is Removed' consisted of an aerial view of Manhattan with the area between the places he had lived in NYC cut out.

You can now create your own LeWitt inspired map using Matt Miller's Between the Places. Between the Places is an interactive map tool which allows you to create your own cut-out map of a town or city based on the places that you have lived. Just enter three or more addresses into Between the Spaces and it will create your very own LeWitt Map - a map with a gap showing the area between the places that you have lived.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Color of Rivers

The color of a river is one of the oldest methods of determining the health and quality of its water. The Gardner Hydrology Lab has now updated this ancient methodology using the tools of the space-age. The Lab has used Landsat satellite imagery from 1984-2018 to measure the colors of rivers in the USA in order to help to determine their health and quality.

The Color of US Rivers is an interactive map which shows the most common color of American rivers from 1984 to 2018 - as determined by remote satellite sensing. If you click on an individual river on the map you can view graphs showing the full color distribution of the river recorded over the last 35 years. The map includes visualizations of the long-term trend in color distribution and the short-term seasonal trend. 

The Gardner Hydrology Lab analysis examined U.S. rivers over 60 metres in width. The analysis discovered that over a third of American rivers have seen a significant color shift in the last 35 years. The color of rivers can be altered by the amount of sediment, algae, and dissolved organic carbon in the water. This methodology of using satellite imagery to measure the change in colors of rivers can be used to remotely pinpoint rivers which are undergoing rapid environmental change.

Joy Plots in 3D

Two weeks ago Mapbox introduced 3D terrain into their popular JavaScript mapping library. Since then a lot of cartographers have been having fun experimenting with 3D visualizations of map data. One such experiment is this interactive map of Joy Plots in 3D.

Joy-plots (or ridgeline plots) are inspired by the famous album cover of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures record. Over the last 40 years Peter Saville's design for the record cover for Unknown Pleasures has become an iconic image. The original cover was inspired by a visualization of the radio waves emitted by a pulsar, which was published in the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy. In data science a visualization which is inspired by this radio waves graph is often called a 'joy-plot' in acknowledgement of Joy Division's iconic album cover. 

Joy Plots in 3D is not entirely successful. By their very nature ridgeline plot maps already provide a kind of faux three dimensional view of the terrain of a landscape. Using Mapbox's 3D terrain data doesn't really add much to this kind of Joy Plot visualization. If you want to create your own ridgeline plots then you can also use Peak Map. Peak Map is an interactive tool which can create a joy-plot map for any location on Earth. 

Other fun experiments using Mapbox's new 3D terrain data include this 3D Map of the Golden Gate Bridge, this 3D Stereoscopic Anaglyph and Crossview Map (a map for 3D glasses) and my own Vintage Mapper (an 1833 map of Vesuvius shown in 3D). If you want to experiment with 3D terrain data yourself then might want to take a look at these demo maps in the examples section of the Mapbox GL JS documentation: 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Mapping the Illegal Pushback of Migrants

From 2017-2020 Europe forcibly expelled over 10,000 migrants without allowing individuals to exercise their rights to seek asylum or have their cases heard. This is just the number we know about and the true figure is likely to be substantially higher. 

Portuguese newspaper Expresso has released an interactive map which tells the stories of a large number of refugees who have been illegally expelled from Europe in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Status Convention. In order to halt immigration and deny the entry of migrants it appears that many European countries are either encouraging or turning a blind eye to the actions of border authorities and police in repatriating or expelling refugees without due process.

Returnees is a story map which highlights a number of known cases of pushback on Europe's borders just in 2020. ‘Pushback’ is a term which is used to describe the practice of stopping individuals from seeking protection by forcibly returning them to another country. Instead of examining and judging cases individually as required by European law many countries appear to be illegally pushing back migrants at their borders. Often using excessive violence.

As you progress through the Returnees story map you can read (in Portuguese) individual cases where migrants have been expelled from Europe, often violently by European police forces. For example in the summer 23 migrants from Pakistan were stopped in Italy and forcibly taken to Bosnia. The migrants complain that during this process they had their personal property stolen and were subject to violence. 

This is just one of 150 separate pushback incidents reported on the Returnees map. Nearly every one of these 150 incidents involve a large number of migrants. So the Returnees map plots over a thousand individuals who were denied the right to seek asylum in Europe during just the first nine months of 2020.

Fitness Route Planner

Thanks to London's new lock-down rules I can now only realistically leave my house for essential shopping or for exercise. To help pass the time, and in an attempt to lose a little weight, I have set myself a goal of walking 10 kilometres a day. To help me achieve this aim I want a route planner which can generate random 10k routes and which, when possible, will pick the most scenic routes.

The new Trail Router interactive map has therefore arrived just in time to support my new exercise regime. The map can help me plot new 10k routes every day which start and finish at my front door. To generate a new route with Trail Router you just need to enter a location into the map and pick the 'round trip' option. You can then enter the distance that you wish to walk, run, or cycle and Trail Router will map a route of your chosen length, which starts and finishes at your selected location.

One feature of the route finder which should appeal to cyclists, joggers and walkers is that the application tries to find scenic and car-free routes. The Trail Router routing algorithm prioritizes routes which go through parks, forests or by water, and avoids busy roads wherever possible. This means that you should be able to generate pleasant routes, away from the pollution and noise of street traffic. 

If you find that Trail Router has generated a route which you don't want or you have already completed you can use the way-point markers to change the route. Trail Router adds numbered markers to each generated route. You can drag these markers around the map to avoid certain locations or to force the router to create a route via a selected location. 

The Trail Router settings allow you to adjust the routing algorithm to preference more or less green areas and to preference more or less flat terrain. It also has options which allow you to avoid 'potentially unsafe roads' and 'avoid unlit streets'.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Islands of Global Warming

In February 1287 a massive flood destroyed the town of Winchelsea on the English coast. In response the townspeople decided to move the whole town one mile inland to a nearby hill. They chose the location of the new Winchelsea well - because in 30 years from now the town may be the only local land which isn't under water.

According to Climate Central's 2050 Annual Flood Level map due to global heating the town of Winchelsea is likely to become almost completely cut off from mainland Britain. It won't be alone. Nearby the towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate could also find themselves surviving on their own small off-shore island.

According to Climate Central's map my own house in East London is likely to be below water level in 2050 (unless the Thames Barrier is massively improved). Which is partly why I've been searching Climate Central's map to find areas in southern England which are unlikely to be hit by rising sea levels in the next thirty years.

The 2050 Annual Flood Level map is a global map of projected sea level rise. The map uses global data on elevation, tides, and coastal flood likelihoods to predict which areas are likely to be flooded under different climate heating scenarios. The map doesn't take into account the dangers of inland flooding, coastal erosion or the dangers from increased rainfall or swollen rivers. Therefore if, like me, you use the map to search for a future place to live you will still need to carry out your own research into local flooding history, nearby flood plains and the locations of nearby rivers.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Measles Deaths Hits 20 Year High

For obvious reasons vaccinations are a very hot topic at the moment. Many countries around the world are currently rolling out programs to vaccinate their populations for Covid-19. After being vaccinated individuals have a very high degree of protection from catching the virus (although we don't know as yet how long that protection lasts). 

What is very clear from the growing number of  measles cases around the world is that fake vaccination stories can be very dangerous to the success of an immunization program. Last year more than 200,000 people died from measles. This was a twenty year high. The numbers dying from measles are likely to rise even further as this year Covid-19 has disrupted immunization programs in many countries across the globe. 

The World Health Organization says that there were rises in the number of measles cases in all WHO regions. The main reason that we are now seeing a rise in the number of deaths from a disease which is highly preventable is the failure to vaccinate children. If young children are vaccinated on time with two doses of measles-containing vaccines (MCV1 and MCV2) we can prevent measles outbreaks and deaths. Unfortunately idiots spreading vaccination scare stories are causing a fall in vaccination rates in many countries.

The University of Washington's Local Burden of Disease – Vaccines interactive map visualizes vaccination coverage across the developing world. The map reveals the MCV1 coverage (the percentage of children receiving the measles-containing-vaccine first-dose (MCV1) immunization) in individual countries. If you click on an individual country on the map you can also view a graph showing the percentage of the population immunized over time. This allows you to see at a glance which countries are seeing drops in the numbers of children being vaccinated for measles.


Last year I released a story map exploring how vaccination scare stories in Europe were causing a spike in the number of measles cases across the continent. Measles in Europe visualizes the rising incidence rates of measles in European countries. It also explores some of the reasons why most European countries have seen large increases in measles cases. The data for the map comes from the World Health Organization. This data only includes the number of reported cases of measles in each country. The actual number of measles cases is probably much higher across the whole continent.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

19th Century San Francisco in 3D

One really fun thing that you can do with the new 3D terrain option in Mapbox GL is to view historic vintage maps in 3D. This is particularly fun in places which have very interesting terrain - such as San Francisco. San Francisco, 1857 in 3D is an interactive map which allows you to view a mid-19th Century map of San Francisco overlaid on top of the city's hilly terrain.

The vintage map is entitled the 'City of San Francisco and it's vicinity, California' and was originally published in 1857. Elevation is shown on the map using contour lines and spot heights. The map also shows the locations and names of a number of important public buildings in the city. The map reveals San Francisco during a period of massive growth caused by the California Gold Rush. 

If you like this map then you might also enjoy my Vintage Mapper demo, which shows an 1833 map of Mount Vesuvius draped over the terrain of the volcano in Italy. This 1833 map, entitled, 'Vesuvius Showing the Direction of the Streams of Lava in the Eruptions from 1631 AD. to 1831 A.D.', visualizes lava flows. These colorful flows are particularly interesting when viewed on top of Mapbox GL's new 3D terrain layer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

How Full is Your Hospital?

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services began releasing data on the number of Covid-19 patients in each hospital. The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota started using this data in their COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project to reveal the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients at the county level. The New York Times has now released an interactive map which allows you to see how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the capacity of individual hospitals.

The NYT's How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You? map allows you to enter any U.S. address to see how Covid-19 is impacting local hospitals. On the map individual hospitals are shown with a colored marker. The color of the marker reveals the percentage of I.C.U. beds currently occupied by Covid-19 patients. If you hover over a marker on the map you can also view the number of Coronavirus patients in the hospital and the remaining number of free I.C.U. beds.

The map sidebar shows the same data in table view. This sidebar automatically updates to show the data for all the hospitals in the current map view. The table also provides information on the state average and national average of hospitals beds occupied by Covid-19 patients and the average for the hospitals currently shown on the map. This enables you to see if your local hospitals are more or less occupied by Covid-19 patients than the state and national averages.

Stonehenge in Your City


Next Monday druids will not be meeting at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice. Every year people gather at Stonehenge on the winter solstice to observe the sunrise. Due to Covid-19 restrictions there will be no-one witnessing the sunrise at Stonehenge this year. 

But don't worry - you can still worship the solstice sun in your own city. Stonehenge in your City can help you find nearby streets which are aligned with the sunrise or sunset on the winter or summer solstice. The site has mapped out hundreds of cities around the world highlighting the streets which face towards sunrise or sunset on either solstice.

Streets which point towards sunrise at the winter solstice are marked in red on the map and the streets which align with the winter solstice sunset are marked in orange. If you click on any of these colored lines on the map you can view the degree by which the road deviates from the sun's path at sunrise and sunset.

The map may be of particular interest to photographers who want to capture a dramatic photo during the solstice. Anyone who wants a dramatic photo of the sun rising or setting at the end of a local street can use the map to find all the nearby streets which are perfectly aligned for the winter and summer solstices. 

If you really don't want to miss watching the sunrise at Stonehenge this year then you can watch it live on-line. The English Heritage website is live-streaming the event. Sunrise is at 08.09 GMT and sunset will be at 16.01 GMT

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Legacy of Redlining

Covid-19 has brought into stark relief the often shocking disparities in health provision in most American cities. Black Americans have been disproportionately infected by Covid-19 and have disproportionately died as a result of catching the virus. A new website from the University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab suggests that this is at least partly due to the historical inequality of American cities. The website suggests that the health disparities we see today can be traced back to the racial residential segregation long established in the United States.

During President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal black homeowners were discriminated against through the creation of redlining maps. These maps identified areas with significant black populations and labeled them as too high risk for mortgage support. Black homeowners living in these areas were very unlikely to be successful when trying to refinance home mortgages from the government sponsored Home Owners' Loan Corporation - because their neighborhoods were deemed to be too 'hazardous'.

The legacy of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlining maps can still be seen in cities today. Not Even Past: Social Vulnerability and the Legacy of Redlining allows you to directly compare redlining maps with modern maps which visualize the health disparities in U.S. cities today. Select a city on the Not Even Past website and you can view its HOLC redlining map placed side-by-side with a map which shows the CDC's current Social Vulnerability Index scores for the city's neighborhoods. This allows you to make a direct comparison between the two maps and see if the health disparities in your city today are a partial legacy of historical redlining maps. 

Between the two maps you can also view a chart connecting the cities HOLC redlining grades with today's SVI scores. Horizontal lines between the two grades/scores indicate that little has changed and that areas of privilege and /or disadvantage have not changed over time. Lines that drop from left to right (the past to today) suggest a decline in the relative privilege of neighborhoods. Lines that rise from left to right, suggest economic improvement in neighborhoods (possibly as a result of gentrification).

Wenfei Xu has also released an interactive mapping tool which allows you to compare historical redlining maps side-by-side with modern demographic data. The Redlining Map tool allows you to explore for yourself if the HOLC redlining maps have had a lasting impact on segregation in your city. Using the modern census data you can view the neighborhoods with a high percentage of black, white or Hispanic people and see if these areas correlate with areas which were deemed at risk or safe for lending purposes in the 1930's.

On the original Home Owners' Loan Corporation redlining maps the areas marked in blue were the neighborhoods deemed desirable for lending purposes. The yellow areas show the neighborhoods which were deemed 'declining' areas. The red areas were the neighborhoods considered the most risky for mortgage support. You can use Wenfei Xu's Redlining Map to see if the areas marked red in the 1930's redlining maps are areas which still have predominately black populations. You can also see if the blue or 'First Grade' areas are areas which still have a significantly large white population.

3D Models with 3D Terrain

Version 2 of the Mapbox GL JS mapping library includes the option to view the world's terrain in 3D. Mapbox is also very good at displaying 3D models. Combine the new 3D terrain with a 3D model and you can produce a very realistic looking 3D map. For example check-out this 3D Map of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I had a little look at the source code on the 3D Map of the Golden Bridge and it appears to be a fairly straightforward combination of mixing two demo maps from the Mapbox GL documentation. At the heart of this map is the Add a 3D Model example map mixed with the Add 3D Terrain to the Map demo map.

The San Francisco map above displays a 3D model of the Golden Gate Bridge using the glTF file format for 3D scenes and models. This is a well used format for 3D models and there are plenty of freely available glTF files of 3D models on the internet. If you want to experiment with adding other 3D models to Mapbox GL then you really are spoiled for choice of freely available 3D models. 

For example try Sketchfab. If a Sketchfab model has a download button then you can download the model as a glTF file. You only then need to copy the code for Add a 3D Model and switch the glTF link to your downloaded glTF file (just remember to change the latitude and longitude to add the model in the correct location).

Monday, December 14, 2020

Upstream / Downstream

The Watershed Explorer interactive map allows you to click anywhere in the world to view all of its upstream areas and the downstream flow.

When you click on this map a high-resolution digital elevation model is used to calculate the flow direction that water would take at every point on the surrounding land. The map then follows "these directions to calculate the region that contributes to a single outlet". You can view a more detailed explanation of how the map works on The Places Your Pee Will Go


The USGS's Streamer map allows you to trace rivers or streams upstream to their source or downstream to their final destinations in the USA. The interactive map can create very dramatic visualizations of river watersheds, particularly when you trace a river upstream to show all of its tributaries.

Streamer is incredibly easy to use. Just click on a river on the map and select either the 'upstream' or 'downstream' buttons (for the best results click on the Mississippi and then the upstream button). You can also get a detailed trace report for your selected river. This report includes information on the river's origin, length and the number of states it flows through. It also provides details about the streamflow gauging (measuring) stations found along the visualized river route.

FernLeaf Interactive has also created an interactive map which allows you to view over 100,000 watershed regions. This map shows the topological relationships between the USGS level 12 hydrologic units for the entire United States.

The Watersheds Map allows you to visualize watershed regions throughout the USA. As you mouse-over the map it automatically updates to show upstream areas in red and downstream areas in blue. You can click on the map at anytime to freeze the map view (click on the map again to unfreeze & re-enable the dynamic loading of the watershed data).

Protecting British Fishing

One of the biggest stumbling blocks holding up Brexit trade talks is the right to fish in UK waters. Under European Union rules European and UK fishing vessels have been allowed to fish in each others waters. This will change after Brexit and new fishing rights need to be negotiated. At the moment the UK and EU can't agree on fishing quotas and the length of a transition period for fishing fleets after Brexit.

For some reason the UK government has made protecting its tiny fishing industry one of its biggest red-lines in its Brexit negotiations with the EU. A decision that is perplexing nearly every other industry in the UK.It certainly appears that for the UK government the question of its sovereignty over UK waters is of far more symbolic importance than the health of the UK economy. 

This Map of Fishing Vessels uses AIS data to plot the locations of all shipping vessels yesterday afternoon. On the map the nationality of individual fishing boats are shown using country flags. You can also click on individual markers to view where a fishing vessel is registered.

It is important to note that this map only shows a snapshot of the location of fishing vessels at one moment on a Sunday afternoon in December. To get a true picture we would need a bigger dataset -perhaps looking at the number of fishing vessels from different countries fishing in UK waters over a whole year.

The Map of Fishing Vessels also doesn't display the Exclusive Economic Zones around each coastal country. An Exclusive Economic Zone is the area of the sea over which an individual country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. A few days ago The Guardian published the above map of the Exclusive Economic Zones of the UK and neighboring coastal countries in an article on the UK's planned deployment of four gun boats to protect UK fishing waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Using the two maps it appears to me that on Sunday the only significant number of non-UK fishing boats within the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone were Norwegian. 

Norway isn't in the European Union.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Perseverance Landing Site on Mars

The Mars 2020 mission will land the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone on Mars on 18th February next year. The Perseverance rover will land in the Jezero crater. The crater is believed to have once been filled with water and to be now rich in clay deposits. One of the primary aims of the Mars 2020 mission is to find evidence of ancient life on Mars. The lake that once existed in the Jazero crater is believed to have lasted a very long time and it is therefore possible life may have once developed in the crater.

You can explore the Jazero crater and the landing site of the Perseverance rover for yourself on a new interactive map by the United Stated Geological Survey. The Geologic Map of Jezero Crater and the Nili Planum Region, Mars is a geologic map of the north-west area of the Isidis Planitia, a large plain inside a huge impact basin. The Jazero crater is located within this plain.

If you click on the book icon on the map you can select to view a number of layers overlaid on top of the geologic map. These include an ellipse which shows the landing site of the Perseverance rover inside the Jezero Crater. The rover is equipped with a 7 foot long five-jointed robotic arm. This arm will be used to collect and analyze geologic samples from the Martian surface. If you click on the map around the rover's landing site you can learn more about the geology of Mars that the rover will explore during its planned one Mars year mission.

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Hospital Capacity Map

The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota has released a new interactive map which shows for the first time how hospitals in the United States are coping with epidemic levels of coronavirus. According to the map Tioga County in Pennsylvania currently has the highest percent of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. While Lincoln County, Nebraska, has the highest rate of ICU beds occupied by people suffering with Covid-19.

The COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project visualizes the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients at the county level. The map includes two views, one shows the percentage of occupied inpatient beds and the other the percentage of occupied ICU beds. The table beside the map allows users to view all counties listed in order of the level of hospital beds currently occupied by people suffering with Covid-19.

The map uses data provided by each state's Department of Health. The data on the map is updated when states update their own data. The percentage of each county's hospital bed occupancy is based on a seven day rolling average. If you hover over a county on the map you can view the percentage of both inpatient and ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients (where data is available).

The Air War on Germany

When I walk around my neighborhood in East London I can easily see where the bombs fell in World War II. There are a few plaques and memorials which mark locations which experienced a particularly large number of causalities. However the main clue is the age of the buildings. In my street every building constructed post-1945 is built on the site of a building bombed in World War II.

A similar methodology can be used in many German towns and cities to see where Allied bombs caused damage during the Second World War. For example the town of Görlitz is full of cobbled streets, narrow alleys and many beautiful old buildings. Conversely the town of Dessau is full of new buildings and wide streets. It isn't hard therefore to see which of these two German towns was more heavily bombed by the Allies.

1945 – Unsere Stadte is a fascinating scrollytelling exploration of where and when cities in Central Germany were bombed during World War II. As you scroll through the story you progress through the war chronologically and a series of maps show where the Allied bombs caused the most damage to towns and cities. A timeline is used to show the currently displayed year, while the map sidebar provides an historical explanation of the Allied air campaigns, the intended targets and the outcomes of the bombing campaigns (in German).

Towards the end of 1945 - Unsere Stadte a map is used to show the level of building structure damage in towns across Central Germany. Each town on this map is represented by a pie chart showing the level of destroyed building structure. For example in central Dessau 85 % of buildings were destroyed by the Allied bombing campaigns. Scroll on a little further and you can view a visualization of the building ages in each town and city - revealing the percentage of buildings in the town built before and after the war.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

In the Minds of Tudor England

I am currently reading Hilary Mantel's fantastic historical novel Wolf Hall, which explores the plots and intrigues of the court of Henry VIII, told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. I am in awe of Mantel's skill in being able to bring to life (in the minds of her readers) the lives of people from half a millennium ago.

The only other way I know of gaining such an insight into the minds of the Tudors is by reading their letters. Something you can now easily do using the impressive Tudor Networks of Power visualization. Tudor Networks is a fascinating visualization which allows you to explore and read thousands of letters written during 100 years of the Tudor dynasty. 

The Tudor Networks Project includes a network visualization, which allows you to view the interpersonal networks of Tudor England as emerges from the letters sent and received by prominent members of the time. The letters are those sent and received by members of the Tudor government and are part of the State Papers, many of which are held by the National Archives. The Project also includes an interactive map view which allows you to visualize where individuals in the Tudor court were sending letters within the UK and throughout Europe.

The map is probably the least interesting part of this visualization. It is very interesting to view the geographic spread of letters being sent across Tudor England and between England and the rest of Europe. However it is much more interesting to read the actual letters themselves.

For example you can read Henry VIII's letter to the Duke of Norfolk and George Boleyn (the uncle and brother of Anne Boleyn) in which the King asks them to consult "by what ways and means we can best annoy the Pope". Or you can read the letters of Eustace Chapuys (the ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V). On the very day of Anne Boleyn's beheading Chapuys wrote to inform the Emperor that he thinks "the Concubine's little bastard (the future Elizabeth I) will be excluded from the succession".

The project's collection of letters includes thousands of these political missives and intelligence reports sent by members of the Tudor court and by foreign diplomats and spies. It is a truly fantastic resource for any lover of history and for anyone with any interest in Tudor Britain.

Mapbox 3D in 3D

If you have been enjoying viewing maps in 3D using version 2 of Mapbox GL JS then you might also enjoy the 3D Stereoscopic Anaglyph and Crossview Map.

A 3D anaglyph image works by placing two images of the same thing, taken one eye width apart. One of the images is tinted red and the other blue. The two images are then superimposed on top of each other. When you then look at your anaglyph image with 3D anaglyph glasses the image appears to be in 3D. The 3D Stereographic Anaglyph and Crossview Map works on exactly the same principle. Only in this case we have a red tinted map overlayed on top of a blue tinted map.

I'm not sure how well the 3D view actually works. To view the map in 3D you need 3D glasses (glasses with one blue and one red lens). I don't own any 3D glasses so I can't attest to how good the map looks in 3D.  If you also don't own any 3D glasses you can still enjoy the Crossview map view. In order to view the maps in Crossview you don't need 3D glasses and only need to cross your eyes and then stare intently at your screen.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Vintage Maps in 3D

Yesterday Mapbox released version 2 of the Mapbox GL JS mapping library. Among the new features included in version 2 is the ability to view the world's terrain in 3D. One consequence of this is that we can now overlay vintage / historical maps on top of a 3D terrain. 

I've set up a little demo map which shows an 1833 map of Vesuvius draped over the terrain of Mount Vesuvius in Italy. Vintage Mapper allows you to view the map "Vesuvius Showing the Direction of the Streams of Lava in the Eruptions from 1631 AD. to 1831 A.D." on top of a 3D map of the volcano. This vintage map was taken from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

86 Mount Fuji, Japan. The David Rumsey Map Collection

I've published my Vintage Mapper demo on Glitch so if you want to clone the map then you can do so on its Glitch page. All you have to do to adapt the map is add a new vintage map layer and change the Vintage Mapper's starting latitude and longitude. If you click on the 'Georeference' button on a vintage map in the David Rumsey Map Collection you can grab the URL for that map's map tiles. Once the map opens in the Georeferencer you need to sign-in and then click on the 'This Map' link. Then you need to click on the 'Get links' button to copy the URL for the map tiles.

If you open up Vintage Mapper on its Glitch page you will see that I have commented the code to show where the vintage map tiles URL should go. Just delete the URL for the Vesuvius map and paste in your own URL. All you need to do then is to change the latitude and longitude to center the map on your new vintage map tiles.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Mapbox GL JS V2 Launches

Mapbox GL JS V2 has been released, and it arrives with some truly impressive new features. 

The standout new features in version two of Mapbox GL mostly relate to the new 3D mapping options in the Mapbox JavaScript library. A digital elevation model allows you to map the world's terrain in three dimensions. A Camera API allows you to seamlessly move around this 3D terrain and a Sky API allows you to simulate the sun’s position based on location and the time of day.

You can read more about this new release and the new features in the library on the Mapbox Blog post Mapbox GL GS V2: 3D Maps + Camera API + Sky API Launches.

If you want to jump straight in and start playing with the new features then you might want to take a look at these demo maps in the examples section of the Mapbox GL JS documentation: 

A History of Southern America

Southern Journey - The Migrations of the American South, 1790–2020 is a new history of the American South, written by Edward L. Ayers. The book explores southern history from the founding of the United States up to the present day. Ayers history weaves geography with history to illuminate how migration is the dominant theme of southern history. 

Southern Journey is illustrated throughout with a series of maps, created by Justin Madron and Nathaniel Ayers. These maps can also be viewed online on A Companion Site to Southern Journey. A Companion Site to Southern Journey consists of three Story Maps tracing the history of migrations in the American South. 

Each of these three Story Maps looks at a different period of American history. Each one is illustrated with a series of maps. These maps explore the changes in the black and white populations in Southern America over time. Other maps help explain the causes in the historical development of the black and white populations in the region, such as the the history of slavery and emancipation, the development of the railway and the historical trends in agriculture and industry.

Planting Britain

Countryfile Plant Britain is an ambitious two year project to plant 750,000 trees across the UK. That is one tree for every UK child starting primary school this year. 

Countryfile is a BBC television programme which reports on rural, agricultural, and environmental issues in the United Kingdom. Their Plant Britain campaign is designed to help fight climate change and to help wildlife and our own well being. As well as planting trees the Plant Britain project is also promoting the planting of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

In order to track the progress of Plant Britain Countryfile has released an interactive map which anyone can use to report where they have planted a tree, fruit, vegetables or plants. So far nearly 100,000 items have been planted across the UK. According to the interactive map residents of the Newcastle Upon Tyne region have been the most prolific planters, having planted between them over 7,000 items, including 6,600 trees and 300 plants.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Around the Sun in 365 Days

PD: Earth/Sun is a brilliant 3D map which visualizes the orbital relationship between the Earth and the Sun. The map is a fantastic tool for learning about relative solar motion and visualizing the orbital relationship between the Earth and Sun at any time of the day and on any date of the year.

Earth/Sun is a WebGL powered interactive model of the orbital relationship between the Earth and the Sun. The map can provide a full 3D Sun-path diagram for any location on Earth. Using the Earth and Sun buttons (top-left) you can switch between a geo-centric or helio-centric view. Other options allow you to overlay a range of other information useful for understanding the relationship between the Earth and the Sun on top of the 3D map.

The information display at the top-left of the map show the currently selected location and time & date, and information on the time of Sun-rise and Sun-set, the length of daylight and the twilight times for the selected location and time. The buttons at the bottom-left of the map allow you to overlay information useful for understanding the Sun and Earth's orbital relationship. These buttons include options to overlay information on the Sun-path, Sun-beam and Twilight for the selected location and time.

Gritty McGritface - Scotland's Live Gritter Map

When winter comes, and the temperatures drop below freezing, Scotland's brave gritters take to the roads. Luke Snowalker, Grittie McVitie, the Ice Queen and the many other Scottish gritters leave their council depots, and led by the fearless Sir Salter Scott, they begin making Scotland's roads safe for all drivers. 

The Gritter Tracker is a real-time interactive map which allows you to view the live position of all Scotland's road gritters.The map also displays a trail behind each truck which allows you to view the age range of when the road was last gritted. If you click on the green arrows on these trails you can view how many hours ago the road was gritted.

Active gritters are shown on the map in yellow. These yellow trucks are the gritters currently in action, gritting Scotland's roads. The grey trucks are currently inactive and parked up in a council depot. The map includes a search option which allows you to quickly find an individual gritting truck by name. It is of course the wonderful names of Scotland's gritter trucks which make the Trunk Road Gritter Tracker such a popular map. My favorite is 'Gritty Gritty Bang Bang', who is currently gritting the roads of Dundee.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Six Minute Map

The new European Union Map - Minus the United Kingdom

For my breakfast this morning I decided to make a 6 minute map. I like to share, so you can find the recipe for my map below.

At the end of this month the UK will leave the European Union. This means that there is likely to be a lot of demand for new maps of the European Union sans the UK.By following my recipe for the Six Minute Map you can create your own new map of the European Union, as it will look from January 1st 2021.


Step 1. Preparation 

First we need to prepare the data. For this map we need polygons for the 27 European Union countries. You can get open source country data from is a great resource which provides public domain Natural Earth map data in web-friendly sizes.

In geojson.xyx select the "admin 0 countries" data set. On the right you can find a link which will automatically open the selected countries of the world map data in

Step 2. Cooking Your Data is an online geojson editor. Using you can select and delete individual countries from the 'admin 0 countries' data. We just need the 27 European Union countries - so go ahead and delete all the other countries on your map - leaving just the 27 EU countries. When that is complete save the remaining countries as a new GeoJSON file.

Step 3. Serve

Open Mapstarter and click on the "Drag a shapefile, GeoJSON, or TopoJSON file here, or click to select one" button. Now upload the data you saved in Now you can download your data either as a SVG, PNG or Code. If you download the data as code you can create an interactive map of your new European Union map. For this post I downloaded the PNG image file of the map (which is shown at the top of this post).

Disclaimer:  Like all good chefs I cheated in creating my map. I actually skipped step 1 and step 2 as described above. Deleting 200 odd country polygons from the Natural Earth data for countries of the world will probably take more than six minutes. For my map I instead downloaded the European Union Countries GeoJSON data from Open Datasoft. I then used this data in Mapstarter to create my map. By doing this I actually created a map of the new European Union in less than 2 minutes.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Living Nations Poetry

Joy Harjo is the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. As a member of the Muscogee Nation she is also the first Native American to hold the position of Poet Laureate. Joy's signature project as the 23rd Poet Laureate is an interactive map of the United States featuring recordings of a number of Native Nations poets and their poems.

Living Nations, Living Words - A Map of First Peoples Poetry features 47 Native Nations poets. Each of the poets has selected an original poem for the map on the theme of place and displacement. Each poet also chose where they wanted to be placed on the map. If you click on a poet's marker on the map an information window opens with a photograph, a short biography, and a link to actually hear the poet recite and comment on their original poem. 

You can also listen to each of the poems featured in the Living Nations, Living Words Collection on the Library of Congress website. The Living Nations, Living Words Collection includes a recording of each of the 47 poems in the collection and a short introduction to each of the poets.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Mappng Elon Musk's Starlink Network

Elon Musk's space transportation company SpaceX is in the process of creating a constellation of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit. This constellation is called Starlink. The small satellites in Starlink will be used for a range of military, scientific and exploratory purposes.

SpaceX has already launched hundreds of these small satellites into space. You can explore all of these satellites for yourself on the Live Starlink Satellite Map. The map consists of a 3D globe of the Earth which shows the real-time location in space of all the Starlink satellites. If you zoom in on the 3D globe you can see these satellite moving in real-time as they move on their orbits. 

A menu of all the Starlink satellites allows you to find any individual satellite on the map by name. You can also use the 'Settings' menu to filter the satellites shown on the map by individual SpaceX launches. The settings menu also allows you to switch between the 3D globe view and a 2D Mercator map projection.