Friday, April 30, 2021

Melting Glaciers

One of the most visible effects of global heating is the extraordinary reduction in the size of the world's glaciers. Because of the rise in temperatures around the world glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, which could have a dramatic effect on the planet. Melting glaciers contribute 20% of global sea level rise and around a quarter of the world's population depends on water released from glaciers. 

The Guardian newspaper has created a very effective animated visualization which shows the extent that 90 of the world's largest glaciers have shrunk in size over the last 40 years. In Visualised: glaciers then and now The Guardian uses an animated small multiple visualization to show the size of 90 glaciers today compared to the size of the same glaciers 40 years ago. The 90 small maps of individual glaciers clearly shows the dramatic effect that global heating has had in just 40 years on the size of glaciers around the world.

One of the most beautiful and effective visualizations of glacial retreat is Timelines. Artist Fabian Oefner has created two outstandingly beautiful images from the heartbreaking effects that global heating is having on the world's glaciers. Using historical data of glacial retreat Oefner has released two interactive photographs which visualize how Switzerland's Rhône and Trift Glaciers have shrunk in size over the last 140 years.

Timelines by Fabian Oefner consists of two interactive nighttime photographs - one of the Rhône Glacier and one of the Trift Glacier. Superimposed over the image of each glacier are lines which show the glacier's maximum extent for each year. Both of the photographs are interactive. If you move your mouse over either photo the lines are added or removed from the image by year. The effect is an astonishingly beautiful but extremely worrying visualization of how each glacier has shrunk over the years.

To create these interactive images of glacial retreat historical data was used to plot the maximum expansion of each glacier during each year between 1874 and 2017. Drones were then flown along the line of maximum expansion for each year. These drones flew at night - lit up by LED lights. The artist Oefner then photographed the LED line of maximum expansion created by the drone for each year from a vantage point high on a mountain top above the glacier.

The result is two extraordinarily beautiful images of the dreadful results of global heating.

In 2017 the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger visualized the extent of Switzerland's shrinking glaciers over the last 160 years. In So Schmolzen die Schweizer Gletscher in 160 Jahren Weg the paper produced a series of multiple maps visualizing the change in size of the country's 38 largest glaciers. Tages Anzeiger reports that the Rhône Glacier has shrunk by 4.7 km² or about 23.4% in size over the last 160 years. Over the same period of time the Trift glacier has shrunk by -4.6 km² or around -23.8% in size.

CBC News' How a melting glacier could redefine the Alberta–B.C. border uses a 3d map of the Haig glacier to show how the glacier is retreating and causing a shift in the border between B.C. and Alberta.

Disappearing Glaciers is an Esri StoryMap designed to highlight the alarming speed at which glaciers are disappearing around the world. This map looks at recent aerial imagery of six different glaciers.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The True Cost of Living Map

HowMuch's True cost of living in the United States interactive map can tell you how much it costs to live in American neighborhoods based on your own personal needs. Using the map you can discover where you can (and cannot) afford to live in America's major towns and cities.

Enter a city into HowMuch's cost of living interactive and you can view a map visualizing how much it costs to live in each of the city's neighborhoods. Your personal cost of living will obviously depend on factors such as the size of your family, your income, occupation, and even your food preferences. The cost of living map therefore includes a number of filters which allows you to customize the neighborhood cost of living ratings to match your own circumstances. 

After you have entered your income (and other  cost of living factors) the map will color neighborhoods based on whether you can afford to live there are not. The areas colored red on the map are neighborhoods where you would have to increase your income in order to be able to afford to live there. You can hover over individual neighborhoods on the map to view exactly how much more you would have to earn to be able to afford to live there or (if you are lucky) how much money you will have left living in the neighborhood after your costs of living have been deducted.

MegaCity Fourteen

The world's 100 most populous cities are responsible for around one-fifth of the world's carbon emissions. The MIT Technology Review argues that if we want to tackle global heating we must address the carbon emissions of the world's largest cities. In fact they say by reducing the emissions in just a few of the wealthy megacities in the northern hemisphere we can go a long way to slowing down or halting climate change.

In How Megacities Could Lead the Fight Against Climate Change MIT Technology Review has created a scrollytelling story map which looks at the growth of megacities around the world and visualizes the carbon footprint of the world's most populous cities. Megacities are cities with a population of at least 10 million. There are currently 34 megacities around the world. The United Nations says that by 2035 there will be 14 more.

The MIT story map shows how the megacities in the northern hemisphere have a far larger carbon footprint per capita than those in the south. However it is the poorer southern megacities who will be less able to cope with the effects of climate change. The richer megacities will also be effected by climate change but have more money to pay the costs of climate change. They also have the resources to begin the fight against climate change. 

The MIT Tecnology Review argues that the "concentration of wealth and technology" in rich megacitties means that they are in a unique position to lead the way in combating climate change. Because these megacities are responsible for such a large percentage of the world's carbon emissions they could also have a huge impact in reducing the global carbon footprint.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Are these Trump or Biden neighborhoods?

The New York Times has created a fascinating quiz which requires you to identify whether a neighborhood voted for Trump or Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election solely from looking at how the area looks on Google Maps Street View. The Trump-Biden Geography Quiz shows you a series of random neighborhoods on Street View and asks you to simply guess if most people voted for Biden or Trump.

The NYT quiz is very simple to play. For each question you are shown the Street View image of a neighborhood. You can rotate around the 360 degree panorama to get a good look at the street and its houses. Purely on this evidence you need to then guess whether in the 2020 election most people voted for the Democrat or Republican presidential candidate.

During my limited time playing the game I managed to guess over 80% of the neighborhoods correctly. I'm not alone in being able to guess most neighborhoods correctly. After each question you are told how many players answered the neighborhoods correctly. For most neighborhoods the majority of readers are able to tell purely from the Street View imagery whether a neighborhood voted for Trump or Biden. 

My answers were mainly guided by how urban or rural a neighborhood appears on Google Maps and also on how affluent the neighborhood seems. It would be interesting to know how other players decide on which neighborhoods voted Republican or Democratic.

England's Most Popular Drugs

The most popular illegal drug in London (after cannabis) is cocaine. In fact cocaine is the drug of choice for much of the southeast of England, except for Hertfordshire (heroin) and the Thames Valley (anabolic steroids). In South Wales benzodiazepines are the most popular drug (after cannabis), while in much of the north of England amphetamines are very popular.

The Most Popular Drugs Map uses Home Office data on the most seized drugs to map the most popular drug (after cannabis) in each region of England & Wales. Like a lot of these 'most popular' maps the map actually doesn't actually show the most popular thing but the second most popular thing in each region. This is because cannabis is the most seized drug in every region of England & Wales and the map wouldn't be very interesting without showing some regional differences.

As well as revealing an interesting amphetamine - cocaine divide between north and south England I find the map interesting in how it is being used by the Reach company of regional newspapers. I have linked to the map on the Yorkshire Live website but I could have linked to copies of the map on hundreds of different local newspaper websites. Reach PLC, who publish 240 regional newspapers in the UK, produce a lot of these faux local data visualizations across their stable of regional papers. By creating an 'interesting' national map they can post the same article across the whole stable of regional newspapers simply by changing a few words in the accompanying article (pulling out the local data to give the article that local focus).

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Winners & Losers of the 2020 Census

Texas has gained two seats in the House of Representatives as a result of the 2020 census. California, New York and five other states have lost seats. 

The 2020 Census Population Counts for Apportionment have now been released by the US Census Bureau. Every ten years the results of the U.S. census are used to calculate the number of seats that each state will have in the House of Representatives. Based on the population counts from the census each state is awarded seats in the House. Due to the changes in each state's population some states will gain seats and some will lose.

You can view how each state has been affected by the 2020 census on the Census Bureau's Historical Apportionment Data Map. The map colors each state to show whether the state has gained or lost seats or whether they have kept the same number of seats in the House of Representatives. The yellow colored states have all lost seats. The Census Bureau's map also allows you to view the apportionment map for every U.S census since 1910 so you can see the number of seats each state has had in the House for every decade in the last 110 years.  

You can explore the data further and view more visualizations of the census population data on the Census Bureau's 2020 Census Apportionment Results page.

Mapping the Cost of Road Accidents

Stefan Lehmkühler, a city activist currently ruuning for a seat in the Berlin House of Representatives, has mapped out the costs of road accidents in Berlin. 

The German Federal Highway Research Institute has calculated the costs of different types of road accident. For example a crash leading to a fatality is assumed to cost around 1,121,888 euros, while an accident leading to a minor injury is assumed to cost around 4,959 euros.Using these costs and accident data from the Berlin police on the location of traffic accidents in the city for 2018-2019 Lehmkühler has been able to evaluate how much each segment of road has cost the city as a direct result of road accidents. 

The Accident Cost Density Map (Unfallkostendichte Karte) colors Berlin's roads based on the costs incurred on each section from traffic accidents.Mapping the accident cost of each section of road is an interesting approach to mapping traffic accidents. Instead of highlighting the roads with the most traffic accidents it should reveal the sections of roads which have had the most severe and deadly accidents. In other words the map shows where the most serious accidents have happened per meter of street. 

For the map to really make a difference to the severity of road accidents then the Berlin House of Representatives really needs to be made responsible for the costs of these accidents. If the map was used as an annual auditing tool of costs, which the House of Representatives was then forced to pay, the city authorities might be inspired to more quickly act to reduce accidents. Impose a financial penalty on the council (make them pay for the true costs of road accidents) and I bet they would quickly introduce a whole host of traffic safety measures and quickly work to make the city more pedestrian and bike friendly.

Via: Der Tagesspiegel

Monday, April 26, 2021

Mapping World Obesity

According to data from the World Obesity Federation around 23.29% of American boys are obese. This means that the USA ranks as 12th in the list of countries with the highest percentage of obese male children. The Cook Islands rank first in this list, with 33.3% of boys in the Cook Islands diagnosed as obese.

The World Obesity Federation is a not-for-profit organization which represents and links scientific, medical and research communities from obesity associations around the world. The Federation's main goal is to halt the rise of global obesity. It works to achieve this through research and education, which can be used by governments and health authorities around the world to help manage and prevent obesity. 

The World Obesity Federation data on global obesity levels can be accessed in a number of ways, including on the WOF Interactive Map This interactive globe allows you to explore and compare the obesity data of countries around the world. You can select to view adult (male & female) and children (male & female) obesity rates of countries via a choropleth layer. You can also click on individual countries to view the male and female, adult and children obesity data for the selected country.

The globe also allows you to view other data relevant to obesity rates. These other data sets include data on different types of food consumption, diabetes prevalence and obesity rates by socio-economic status. 

A study published in 2019 predicted that by the end of this decade half of all adult Americans will be obese. Already there are ten states in the U.S. with obesity levels over 45%, including Mississippi (the state with the highest obesity rate). Half of the adult population in Mississippi are obese. Based on the rate of increase in obesity rates over the last few decades by the year 2030 50% of all adult Americans will be obese.

Time has used data from the 2019 study to map the state obesity rates for 2000, 2010, 2019 and the projected obesity rate for 2030. The data for these four maps comes from the study Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Time maps show the obesity levels in each state for the last three decades and the projected obesity rate in each state for the end of this new decade.

In Half of the U.S. Population Will Be Obese by 2030 Time has used the Datawrapper platform to create interactive maps of U.S. obesity rates. For some strange & perverse reason Time has only posted screenshots of these interactive maps (including the zoom buttons). So although the maps were originally interactive (and still look interactive) they are only presented as static maps in the article (with no link to the original interactive maps). This means that if you want to explore the actual obesity rates for different states you will need to read the original study on the New England Journal of Medicine.

Anti-Fascist Heroes

In Italy the 25th of April is Liberation Day. A national holiday is held on this day to celebrate the anniversary of Italy's liberation from Mussolini's fascist regime and of the occupation of Italy by Nazi Germany during World War II.

To commemorate Liberation Day mad-scientist has created an interactive map which highlights all the streets in Italy which have been named for Partisan heroes of the resistance. If you hover over any of the streets colored red on the Roads of the Resistance map the name of the street will be shown in the map sidebar. If you click on a street then an information window will open providing a preview of the individual's Wikipedia entry. 

The Roads of the Resistance map was partly inspired by Geochicas' Calles de las Mujeres analysis of the disparity in the number of streets named for men compared to those named for women.On the Calles de las Mujeres map individual roads are colored either blue or yellow to show whether they were named for either men or women. A doughnut chart also displays the percentage of the streets (with people's names) named for men compared to the percentage of streets named for women

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Ever Given Stuck in the Thames

Insizeor is a fun (but inaccurate) tool for exploring the size of things on an interactive map. I used Insizeor to create the map above showing the Ever Given container ship struck in the River Thames in London. 

Insizeor claims to show "any image to scale on top of an aerial map." Using Insizeor you can upload any image on top of a satellite map. You can then move that image to any other location on Earth to get a rough comparison of your uploaded image with any location on Earth. 

I say a 'rough idea' because unfortunately Insizor actually doesn't actually show images to scale. Like some of the other map comparison tools that have been released in the last few weeks (e.g.  the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map) Insizeor makes the mistake of not compensating for the distortions that map projections cause.

You can see the problems with Insizor in action by loading an image of Wales onto Insizor. Enter the URL - - into Insizeor. Then scale the loaded image of Wales to 238,000 metres and press 'Enter'. Now move Wales up and down on the map to compare the size of Wales with the size of other countries.

You might notice that when you move the image of Wales around on the map that it stays the same size. Insizeor does not resize the image of Wales when it is moved to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection. This means that once you move Wales north or south it is no longer scaled at 238,000 metres.

In comparison have a look at The True Size Of map instead.This interactive map allows you to select any country on Earth and drag it around a world map to see how it compares in size with any other country or countries.Select any country on this map and move it north and south on the map. You should notice that when you move countries on The True Size Of map they grow bigger and smaller automatically. This is because The True Size Of map automatically compensates for the distortions of the map projection used. Although the countries appear to become bigger and smaller as you drag them around the map they are in fact remaining at the same scale in comparison to their current location on the map and the other countries on the map. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Manhattan, Texas

Stamen Design has been inspired by the recently popular map Ever Given Every Where interactive map to create their own size comparison map. Ever Given Every Where allows you to superimpose an image of the Ever Given container ship on top of any other location on Earth. The map enables anyone to compare the size of the ship (famous for becoming stuck in the Suez Canal) by comparing it to any location that they are familiar with. 

Stamen's new scale-a-tron map lets you draw any shape on an interactive map and then move that shape anywhere else on Earth. For example in the map above I have moved Manhattan to Dallas, Texas. Of course I am not restricted to Texas. If I want I can use scale-o-tron to compare Manhattan with San Francisco, Paris, Rome or any other city in the world. 

There has been a little trend for creating size comparison maps recently. Last week the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map claimed to show how much land Bill Gates owns in America. The map displays a large square which it claims is 242,000 acres in size. Unfortunately the Bill Gates Land Ownership map does not resize itself when it is moved on the map to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection. This means that once you move the square north or south it no longer shows 240,000 square acres.

Stamen has not made the same mistake with scale-o-tron. Any shape that you draw on this map will automatically resize itself when you move it on the map to compensate for the distortions of the map projection. scale-o-tron is therefore very useful for demonstrating how much the continent of Africa is distorted by the Mercator map projection (see screenshot above).

If you can't be bothered to draw the outlines of countries yourself then you can use The True Size Of comparison map instead.This interactive map allows you to select any country on Earth and drag it around a world map to see how it compares in size with any other country or countries.The True Size Of is also a very useful map to use if you want to demonstrate the distortions caused by the Web Mercator projection.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Commuting by Doughnut

Jobs in the Netherlands is a mapped visualization showing where people commute to and from in the Netherlands. The map uses flow lines and doughnut charts to plot data from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) to visualize where workers in major towns have commuted from. 

The doughnut charts placed over each town shown the percentage of workers in the town who commute in from other towns and cities (and the number who commute internally within the town or city). The flow lines between towns also show the number of workers who are commuting between the two towns. If you click on a doughnut chart you can view the actual numbers of people who commute internally within the town and the number who commute in from neighboring towns and cities.

The data appears to be from December 2019 - so from just before the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. The map therefore provides an important historical visualization of commuting in the Netherlands before the global outbreak. It will be really interesting to see a similar visualization in the future - to observe if the coronavirus has had a permanent effect on the number of  commuting and the number of people working from home. For example this map shows that before the epidemic 11,300 people commuted from Utrecht to work in Amsterdam. I wonder how many people will be doing that same journey every day in 2025?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Roads Kill

According to the World Health Organisation by 2030 road deaths are set to become the fifth leading cause of death in the developed world. The Pulitzer Center's Roads Kill interactive map visualizes the number of people killed by roads in countries around the world.

The Roads Kill map provides a choropleth view showing the number of people killed on roads in each country (per 100,000 people). This choropleth view reveals that there are some stark differences in the number of people killed on roads in different countries around the world. Some of these stark differences are highlighted and picked out when you click on the information button. 

If you click on the 'i' button the Pulitzer Center takes you on a guided tour of some of the interesting stories revealed by the road deaths data. For example Norway and Sweden have very low rates of road deaths (2.7 & 2.8 respectively). By contrast the United States has a very high rate - especially when compared to other wealthy countries (12.4 per 100,000 people). If you want you can ignore the guided tour and explore the map for yourself. If you hover over a country then you can view not only the rate of road deaths in that country but the percentage killed in cars, on motorbikes, on cycles and while walking.

One Continent is Not Like the Others

On this global map of Covid-19 vaccinations one continent stands out as being not like the others. While good progress is being made to vaccinate the populations of many countries around the world the situation in Africa is a damning indictment of the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and the selfish stance of so called 'first world countries'.

Bloomberg's Vaccination Tracker map shows that people lucky enough to live in one of the richest countries of the world are much more likely to have been vaccinated than someone living in a poorer country. According to Bloomberg "countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated 25 times faster than those with the lowest". If you live in an African country then your chances of getting vaccinated are even lower.

Bloomberg reports that around 15.9 million vaccination doses are being administered around the world every single day. So far around 6% of the global population have been vaccinated. Very few of those people live in Africa. Hover over a country on Bloomberg's interactive Vaccination Tracker map and you can see what percentage of the country has been vaccinated against Covid-19. For example in South Africa, one of the richest African countries, just 0.5% of the population has been vaccinated. In the USA 33.3% of the population has been vaccinated.

The president of South Africa says that there is a "vaccine apartheid", because the majority of the world's vaccinations have been given to the rich and just 0.2% of the world's vaccination supplies have been given to low-income countries. Of the pharmaceutical companies only AstraZeneca are providing vaccines at cost price. The rest see Covid-19 as a way to make huge profits. However the main problem is actually one of supply. The simple fact is that western 'first world' governments are hoarding supplies of Covid-19 vaccines. 

The result of this hoarding is that Covid-19 will probably continue to surge in countries with low vaccination numbers (for example the recent astronomical rise of cases in India). This will lead to further mutations of the virus. Some of these mutations will be more resistant to Covid vaccinations. Therefore the richer countries of the world are not only showing staggering levels of selfishness by hoarding vaccination supplies they are also shooting themselves in the foot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

EarthPorn - The Prettiest Places on Earth

EarthPorn is a forum on Reddit dedicated to beautiful images of natural landscapes. People across the world submit photographs of beautiful locations to the EarthPorn subreddit. Chris Linderman wonders whether it is possible to use the popularity of locations which have lots of photographs taken of them on EarthPorn (and other subreddits) to determine where 'beautiful' landscapes can be found around the globe. 

Chris's EarthPorn is an interactive map which visualizes where the most photographs have been submitted to four subreddits (EarthPorn, travel, CityPorn, and MostBeautiful). The brighter a hexagon appears on the map then the more photographs of that area have been submitted to Reddit. As Chris acknowledges himself because Reddit is primarily an English language forum the map might be biased towards locations where English is spoken.

EarthPorn may not be entirely accurate as a visualization of where the most beautiful places around the world can be found. However the EarthPorn map is a great way to search for beautiful photos of locations which have been posted to Reddit. Click on a hexagon on the map and you can view the top rated photographs posted to Reddit from that area. 

You can also explore popular locations with photographers around the whole world on the Geotaggers Atlas. The Geotaggers Atlas is a series of fascinating maps showing the paths taken by Flickr photographers between separate photographs, based on the time stamps and locations of the photos. Using the maps you can discover not only the most popular places photographed by Flickr users but the paths the photographers have taken around those cities.

For years Eric Fischer of Mapbox has been extracting location data from Flickr photos and mapping not just where those photos are taken but the routes that the photographers have taken between pictures. Using the Flickr search API Eric is able to retrieve photo geo-tags and draw lines between all the photos in a sequence.

The red lines on the map show where a photographer traveled at a speed between 7 and 19 mph, based on the time stamps and locations of the pictures. As you can see on the map (above) the river Seine stands out in Paris - perhaps as a result of ferry passengers happily traveling up & down the river snapping the sights of Paris.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Trees, Bees and Tardigrades

There is now a reasonably long history of scientists using the Leaflet.js mapping library as a way to present and view microscopic images. In the past Leaflet has been used as a tool for visualizing high-resolution images of cells, tiny insects, pathobins and extremophile microbes. You can now add gigapixel images of tree rings to that list.

The University of Minnesota's DendroElevator is a platform for curating, analyzing and visualizing gigabyte sized images of tree rings. The Leaflet based visualization tool developed by DendroElevator can be used to present megapixel images of tree rings with tools for tree-ring measurement, dating, and annotation. 

Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) has important applications across many different branches of science, from studying the history of climate change to authenticating archaeological objects. The University of Minnesota has used DendroElevator to curate and visualize thousands of its own tree-ring samples. They have also open-soucred the leaflet-treering code so that other institutions can implement their own tree-ring measurement, dating, and annotation platforms.

British photographer Levon Biss has also used the Leaflet mapping library to map migapixel images. In his case Leaflet is being used to showcase his beautiful extreme close-up photographs of insects. His Microsculpture website allows you to view high resolution photos of insect specimens from Oxford University Museum of Natural History in exquisitely fine detail using the Leaflet zooming and panning tools.

Each insect's completed image map consists of around 8,000 individual photographs (the large scale photographic prints are up to 3m high), captured using optical microscopes. The Leaflet mapping library really allows the user to fully explore these high resolution photos by zooming in close on the insects. The map scale in the top right-hand corner of the map provides a useful guide to the size of the insects as you zoom in & out on the images.


The Cell Image Library is a database of cell images from a wide variety of organisms. The images in the library are used to help demonstrate cellular architecture and their functions and to help advance research on cellular activity.

Each of the cell images in the Cell Image Library database can be viewed in microscopic detail on its own interactive map. If you click on the 'Open detailed viewer' link on a cell's individual entry in the database you can then explore the cell in more detail using a Leaflet map. This map allows you to zoom in and out of the cell image and pan around, just as you can with an online interactive map. The Leaflet powered cell viewer also allows you to adjust the contrast and brightness of the image and to add annotations to parts of the cell.

In 2019 Ariel Waldman led an expedition to Antarctica to film the extremophile microbes living under the Antarctic ice. The expedition found microbes living in glaciers, under the sea ice, next to frozen lakes, and in subglacial ponds.

You can explore some of the microbes found in Antarctica on Life Under the Ice. Life Under the Ice uses the Leaflet mapping platform to present microscopic videos of the microbes discovered in Antarctica. If you click on the 'What's this' button you can discover more about the microbe in the current map view, including where the microbe was discovered, its size and its level of magnification on the map.

360 Cave View

The Sơn Đoòng cave in Vietnam is one of the world's largest caves. Sơn Đoòng's main cave passage is the largest known cave passage in the world. The cross-section of the cave is twice as wide as that of the next largest cave passage. The cave is also home to some of the tallest known stalagmites in the world, which are up to 70m tall.

National Geographic has released a fantastic virtual tour of the Sơn Đoòng cave which allows you to explore this huge cave from home. In Sơn Đoòng 360 you can explore the cave system using connected 360 degree panoramic imagery. These panoramic images were captured in very high resolution so they allow you to zoom in and view the cave in very close detail. Arrows within each image allow you to navigate your way through the Sơn Đoòng cave. A small inset map also allows you to quickly jump to different sections within the cave system. 

Each of the many panoramic images in the Sơn Đoòng 360 tour is accompanied by its own sound recording. These sound recordings really help to convey some of the wonder which must be felt when exploring the world's largest cave in person. 

If you are still feeling intrepid after exploring the world's largest cave then you might also like to virtually climb some of the world's tallest mountains in Climbing Mountains in Street View.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Space Junk Mapping

There are thousands of man-made objects in orbit around the earth. These objects include both operating and obsolete man-made satellites. There are also thousands of pieces of debris floating around the Earth resulting from collisions and the launch debris from the rockets which were used to launch these satellites into orbit.

What Goes Up takes you on a guided tour of the history of the Earth's conquest of near space, from the oldest object still in orbit (the Vanguard 1 satellite launched in 1958), through the start of the construction of the International Space Station in the late 1990's, to the current mass space littering by Elon Musk. 

The interactive 3D map which accompanies this guided tour shows the location of all these thousands of objects currently orbiting the Earth. If you mouse-over any of the satellites shown on this map you can view details on when it was launched and by which country. You can also discover what type of satellite it is.

Satellites is another visualization of the man-made debris which is currently floating in orbit around planet Earth. This 3D globe shows 10,000 orbiting objects that are tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

There are currently more than 20,000 objects, mostly rocket bodies, debris, and satellites in orbit about our planet. This map simulates around 10,000 of those objects orbiting the Earth based on real data. Three different types of man-made object are shown on the map, these are designated as Payload, Debris or Rocket Body. These three different types of object are represented on the map by different shapes. If you select an object on the map you can also see what type of object it is and more details from its entry on the Space Track database.

You can learn more about how all this debris ended up orbiting the Earth on the Story of Space Debris. The Story of Space Debris visualizes the history of space debris accumulating around the Earth since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. The rocket that launched Sputnik was the first ever piece of space debris. There are now over 20,000 man-made objects currently orbiting the Earth.

The visualization shows all these man-made objects orbiting an interactive 3D globe. The Story of Space Debris starts in 1957 with that Russian launch of Sputnik 1. If you use the forward buttons you can progress chronologically through the history of the space program and watch as the space debris quickly accumulates in orbit around planet Earth.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Mapping Medieval Trading Routes

During the Middle-Ages a number of trade guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe formed a commercial and defensive confederation in order to help ensure safer trade. The Hanseatic League grew from a loose collaboration of a few North German towns in the late 1100s to dominate trade in Northern Europe and the Baltic for the next three centuries.

You can learn more about the trade routes and main roads of late medieval and early modern northern Europe on Viabundus, an interactive map of medieval Northern Europe.The Viabundus interactive map uses historical atlases and records to reconstruct "a map of pre-modern European transport and mobility". This map helps reveal the trade routes that were used by the Hanseatic League to carry goods by both road and by navigable rivers.

The Viabundus map provides both information about the large market towns of Northern Europe, and the factors (such as tolls, fairs and markets) which promoted and affected trade between them. The map also includes a route calculator which can be used to discover what routes travelers and traders were likely to have taken to travel between two different pre-modern European towns.

If you select a town on the map you can view information such as the town's estimated population for different years and the existence of markets. You can also view details on the dates of any fairs in the town (and surrounding towns) and use the route calculator to view a route between the town and any other medieval town shown on the map.

If you want to learn more about travel in Europe before the Middle-Ages then you might be interested in the OmnesViae interactive map. OmnesViae: Itinerarium Romanum is a route planner that lets you navigate the Roman Empire using the roads and shipping lanes available to the ancient Romans.

OmnesViae is based on an ancient Roman map known as the 'Tabula Peutingeriana' and allows you to plan a route that contains all the main roads and cities of the Roman Empire. Routes generated by OmnesViae list the towns and cites and also the river crossings on your trip in the map sidebar and displays the actual route on top of a modern map of Europe.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Creating 3D Medieval Cities

Watabou's Medieval Fantasy City Generator is a fantastic tool for generating random maps of medieval towns.The generator allows you to magically create your very own random fantasy medieval map based on a number of customizable options.

I've featured the Medieval Fantasy City Generator on Maps Mania before in my round-up of Fantasy Map Generators. I'm returning to the generator today because I have just discovered that Watabou also allows you to create incredible 3D fly-throughs of your invented medieval cities. Once you have created a map using the Medieval Fantasy City Generator you can export the city as a JSON file (Settlement >.Export as > JSON).

Now if you open Watabou's City Viewer you can create a 3D version of your medieval city map. Just select 'Load JSON' and City Viewer will automatically create a 3D model of your medieval city. The 3D model includes two animated options. The 'rotation' view provides a bird's eye view of your city, while the 'fly-through' view provides an animated first person walk along your city's roads. 

City Viewer comes with a number of other options. One of these allows you to explore the city yourself (using your w,a,s,d and arrow keys). The 'style' option allows you to manually select the colors used for the walls, roofs, water, fields etc.

All I want now is a version of City Viewer that works with real geographical data - for example a GeoJSON file of neighborhood data exported from OpenStreetMap. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The United Gates of America

Apparently Bill Gates now owns almost 242,000 acres of land in the United States. That is a big chunk of land. In fact it is so big that it is a little hard to conceptualize. Which is where the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map comes in. 

The map shows a 242,000 acre square situated over New York. This square is draggable so you can move it around the map and place it over a location that you are familiar with.

Being able to drag a 240,000 acre square onto a familiar location is a great way to be able to visualize and understand the size of the land owned by Bill Gates. Unfortunately that is not what this map does. When you move the square north or south on the map it does not resize to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection used by the map. This means that once you move the square north or south it no longer shows 240,000 square acres.

The Bill Gates' Land Ownership map was made with the Leaflet mapping library. It could therefore be made more accurate by using Webkid's Leaflet Truesize plugin. You can see how Leaflet Truesize works on the plugin's demo map. Move the shapes of India or Mexico around on this map and you can see how they appear to get bigger as you approach the poles. Although the shapes grow bigger on the map the area of land they represent on the map remains the same. They just grow bigger to compensate for the map projection used. Something that the Bill Gates' Land Ownership map currently doesn't do.

The Danish Map of Art

The National Gallery of Denmark (SMK) has released an interactive map which geolocates over 4,000 artworks. The Kunstens Danmarkskort allows you to find paintings which depict locations across the whole of Denmark. Click on any of the markers on the map and you can view how that location has been depicted by an artist who is featured in the National Gallery.

Using the map is a great way to explore the museum's works of art by location. My one quibble with the map is that despite using the Google Maps API the map has Google Street View disabled. While exploring the paintings on the map I would love to be able to open up Google's panoramic imagery to compare the artist's depiction of a scene with the modern view, as captured by Google. 

What I do really like about the map is that when you open an image you can zoom in and out and pan around to explore the chosen painting in close detail. I also like the fact that each image has its own unique URL which you can copy to share a direct link to the painting on the map.

Each painting on the map also includes a 'Suggest a new position' link. To geolocate the artworks the SMK used a Named Entity Extraction technique to find place-names within the titles of the museum's 250,000+ paintings. This method has led to a few errors - where paintings have been placed in the wrong position on the map. The SMK has been engaging with local Facebook groups and local newspapers in order to help find wrongly positioned artworks on the map and discover where they should be located. If you know that a painting is in the wrong location you can use the 'Suggest a new position' link to tell SMK where the painting should be located instead.

You may also like these interactive art maps:

Ukiyo-e Map - an interactive map of geo-located prints by the Japanese artist Hiroshige
Place to Paint - the interactive map for artists to share the locations where they paint and the artworks which they have created at those locations
Watercolor World- a global map of watercolours painted before 1900

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Where to Discover New Life

If you've ever dreamed of increasing the pool of knowledge by discovering a new species of animal then I have the map for you. The Map of Life's new Discovery Potential layer uses knowledge of the current known species existing in different habitats around the world to predict where new species might be discovered. 

The Discovery Potential map includes four different layers which visualize the potential of discovering new species of mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians around the world. In general tropical forests have the highest potential for the discovery of new animal species. Which is one of the reasons that it is important that we protect the rain forests of Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and Colombia from further deforestation. 

The Map of Life includes other map layers which help to show where in the world animal habitats most need protection. For example, the Map of Life's Biodiversity Patterns section provides heat maps showing species richness around the world for birds and mammals. These biodiversity maps also show areas where some form of conservation protection already exists. The maps can therefore be used to identify areas where species richness is at risk and where habitat conservation protection is lacking or failing. 

You can explore the diversity of an animal species in any country by selecting an area on the Map Of Life Regions map (in the USA and Canada you can explore down to state or province level). If you click on a country on the map you can view a breakdown of the number of bird, mammal and reptile species found in the selected country. If you select the Map of Life Species tab then you can view the a habitat range map for the selected species, showing the areas of the world where that species lives.

Runnabilty Scores

Over the last few years a number of organizations have developed methodologies for ranking the 'walkability' of streets. Interactive maps of these walkability rankings tend to color streets based on how pleasant they are to walk, based on factors such as the amount of motorized road traffic and the levels of 'greenery'.

Scholars at the Simon Fraser University argue that walkability scores are not particular helpful for runners. In their paper 'Creation of a Rough Runnability Index' they maintain that runners have different goals than walkers and that there has been little attention into how the built environment facilitates running. For example city streets which disrupt momentum by requiring lots of starting and stopping may not be a major deterrent for walkers but will deter runners keen on maintaining speed and momentum.

Aateka Shashank, Nadine Schuurman, Russell Copley and Scott Lear have therefore devised three new runnabilty indices which rank streets based on how conducive they are to runners. They have then used these indices to map the runnability of the city of Surrey in British Columbia, Canada. 

The Rough Runnability Indices interactive map colors the sidewalks of Surrey to show how suitable they are for running. The darker the colour of a sidewalk the lower the runnability score. The lighter the colour of a street then the higher the runnability score. You can select to view any of the three different runnability indices ('Runnability Index Safety', 'Runnability Index PM' and 'Runnability Index Generic') from the map sidebar.

You can learn more about the methodologies used to rank the runnability of sidewalks in each of the three developed indices in the paper Creation of a rough runnability index using an affordance-based framework

If you are interested in how 'walkable' or 'bikeable' a city is then you might like Walk Score, which ranks US cities based on how conducive they are for walking and / or cycling.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Hiking the Virtual Appalachian Trail


The Appalachian Trail stretches over 2,000 miles between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine. It is believed that nearly every year at least two million people hike at least part of the trail. This year, during lock-down, you can explore the trail virtually on a new 3D interactive map.

Backpacker's interactive map allows you to explore the beauty of the Appalachian Trail in glorious 3D. The Appalachian Trail in 3D map allows you to appreciate some of the natural attractions of the trail through its visualization of the trail's peaks and terrain.

This 3D tour of the Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Forward and back buttons allow you to progress along the trail in marked stages. Each stage take you to another point on the trail. The map sidebar provides information and images of the mapped locations. The map itself provides you with a beautiful 3D aerial view of the trail from that location. 

The mapped locations include Backpacker's favorite spots on the trails and the favorite locations submitted by Backpacker's readers. You can add your own favorite spots to the map by filling in a short form on the Backpacker site.

Soviet Belfast

During the Cold War the Soviet Union carried out a huge project to create detailed military maps of the west.From the 1940's right up until the 1990's the Soviet military worked on mapping the whole world in very fine detail. One of these detailed Soviet city maps was created for the Northern Ireland city of Belfast.

Soviet Belfast presents the USSR's map of Belfast side-by-side with a modern day street map of the city. The Russian map, at a scale of 1:10000, presents the city of Belfast with street names and other locations labelled in Russian using the Cyrillic alphabet. The modern day map of the city helps to show not only the incredible detail of the Soviet map but also allows you to more easily navigate around a Belfast map written in Cyrillic.

The Soviet map includes 91 'Important Objects', which are presumably locations and facilities in the city that the USSR believe to be of significant strategic importance. These 'important objects' include power stations, pumping stations, army barracks, docks and train stations. If you click on the military hat in the map sidebar you can read these 91 'Important Objects' translated into English.

The Soviet map of Belfast also includes a lengthy 'Reference' section, which presents a general introduction to the city of Belfast. This 'Reference' section describes local social, economic, military resources & statistics. Information that might just prove useful if you had plans to say invade the city.

Hat-tip: GeoConor for both the link to the map and for his detailed Twitter thread on the Soviet Belfast map.

London's East End showing the strategically important docks 

You can explore a large number of these Soviet military maps created for other cities around the world on the OpenTiles Soviet Military Maps interactive. On this interactive map you can zoom in and explore thousands of Soviet military maps of Europe, the Middle East and large parts of Asia. The Soviet military created their maps at many different scales. You can use the map layer control to switch between the maps produced at the various different scales. 

You can view some of the Soviet military maps created for U.S. cities (and the rest of the world) on GeaMap's Soviet Military Mapping of the World.This map can be a little confusing to navigate as map tiles disappear at some zoom levels. Red stars show where there are Soviet military maps to view. You may have to zoom in very closely on a city before the Soviet Military map appears.

John Davies has written an interesting article on the Soviet military maps for the British Library. Soviet Military Mapping of the Cold War Era includes more information about the composition of the Soviet military maps, the cities mapped and some informed speculation on how these maps were made.

You might also be interested in exploring Germany's Secret Invasion Maps of Britain

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Mapping Our Music Bubbles

The Pudding has used data from from YouTube to visualize what people are most listening to around the world. What is very cool about The Pudding's Music Bubble interactive visualization is that it uses your location to present a localized visualization of the music people near you are listening to, before moving out to reveal the music which is popular elsewhere around the world.

The Pudding's new Music Bubble map starts by looking at the music which is most popular in your own city. As you progress through the Music Bubble the map starts to show you the music which is most popular in your neighboring cities, before moving out to explore the music which is popular in neighboring countries and then in other countries around the world.

One thing that The Pudding's Music Bubble clearly visualizes is that geographical cultural influences still play a huge part in the music we listen to. Some songs may have a huge global appeal. However many songs can be very popular within limited geographical areas. According to the Music Bubble there are currently 203 different No. 1 songs in the world by location. That is a lot of musical diversity around the world.

The Music Bubble is a guided tour of The Pudding's regular Music Borders interactive map, which maps what music people are listening to around the world. The Music Borders map is updated every month to show the current No.1 song in 3,000 cities around the world. As with the Music Bubbles map you can listen to any of the songs on the Music Borders map simply by clicking on a song title on the map.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Mapping the Louvre

The Louvre has digitized over 480,000 works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. It has also created an interactive map of the gallery. This means that although you might not be able to visit the Louvre in person during lockdown you can spend a pleasant hour or two exploring the Louvre online. 

The Louvre interactive map provides an easy to use plan to the museum's eight departments and hundreds of galleries. Using the plan you can explore the galleries room by room. Click on a gallery on the map and an information window will open providing thumbnail images of all the artworks on display in the selected room. Click through on any of these thumbnail images and you can view the chosen work of art in closer detail. 

Each of the over 480,000 individual artworks digitized by the Louvre can be viewed on its own interactive map interface. If you haven't got time to explore the whole gallery then why not jump straight to the interactive digitized images of the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo

If you want to explore more virtual tours of the world's most famous museums and galleries during lock-down then try these links:

The Uffizi Galleries Virtual Tour - one of the greatest collections of Renaissance art in the world
The Metropolitan Museum of Art - includes a number of virtual exhibitions
The National Gallery - London's National Gallery has a number of virtual tours
The Rijksmuseum Masterpieces Up Close - a virtual tour of the museum's Gallery of Honour
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural Museum - has created a number of virtual tours
The Stonehenge Virtual Tour - places you in the center of this mysterious pre-historic monument
Beijing Palace Museum - virtual tours of the galleries and amazing buildings of the Forbidden City
Buckingham Palace - take a virtual tour around the Queen's favorite crib
Van Eyck Virtual Tour - the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts' impressive Van Eyck virtual exhibition 
Explore the Raphael Cartoons - interactive maps of the V&A's astounding cartoons by Raphael 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

The Japanese Map of Pearl Harbor

After Japan's successful attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the commander of the Japanese air squadron, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, drew up a map to show the damage he had inflicted on the American ships. The completed map was used by Captain Fuchida to brief Emperor Hirohito on the outcome of the attack. This map was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2018. 

The Library of Congress has created a story map, Through the Enemy's Eyes, in order to explain the story behind Fuchida's historic map and to allow the public to explore the map in detail. Through the Enemy's Eyes explains the history behind Japan's attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, which resulted in America entering World War II on the very next day after the attack. 

This account of the Japanese attack includes a number of other vintage maps created by the American Government Printing Office to visualize the attack from the U.S. perspective. The Fuchida map provides a unique view of the attack from a Japanese perspective.

The Fuchida map section of Through the Enemy's Eye explores the map in some detail, including an explanation of the map key. This key includes a number of different ship symbols to show the different type of damage inflicted on American ships, from 'minor damage' to 'sunk'. Red arrows on the map show the direction of Japanese torpedoes. Red dots and crosses show where Japanese bombs exploded.

Through the Enemy's Eyes also provides a brief account of Captain Fuchida's life after the war and the response of the United States to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Ancient Tree Map

Around 500 churchyards in England contain Yew trees which are older than the churches themselves. No-one knows exactly why so many churchyards have ancient Yew trees growing in them. One common belief is that Yews were planted in churchyards to deter animals (the bark, leaves and seeds of yew trees are highly poisonous to cattle, horses and many other animals).

You can find ancient Yew trees and the locations of the United Kingdom's other most elderly trees on the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Inventory. Share your location with the Ancient Tree Inventory interactive map and you can discover the location of all the very old trees which can be found near you. On the map ancient trees are shown using colored tree markers. The different colors of marker indicate whether the tree is on public or private land. Different letters on the markers indicate whether the tree is 'ancient', 'veteran' or 'notable'. If you click on a marker you can discover the species of tree and its diameter.

Some people claim that the oldest tree in the UK is the Fortingall yew tree in Perthshire. The Fortingall yew is believed to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. Some say the tree could be as much as 5,000 years old. The Fortingall yew grows in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall.Like many yew trees found in churchyards it predates the birth of Christ - which tends to disprove the theory that the trees were planted to deter animals from churchyards (the churches came after the Yews).

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

On Virtual Safari


At the moment, if you live in the UK, it is illegal to travel abroad on holiday. Which means that this year my African safari has to be virtual.Luckily for me I can explore the Who Cares interactive map, which features a number of animals who are currently in danger of becoming extinct.

The Who Cares map provides a snapshot of an African savannah. Hidden on this Who Cares map of the savannah are ten different animal species. While on safari your job is to take a photograph of each animal and in return you can learn a little more about each animal and its current conservation status.

Your task is to hunt for  ten different animals who are currently living in the African savannah. When you discover one of the endangered animals featured on the map you just need to capture it in a photograph. Successfully take a picture of one of the animals and an information window will open with details on the species. This includes information on its current conservation status and how many individual animals of the species still exist.