Monday, May 31, 2021

Covid Behind Bars

The UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project has been tracking the spread of Covid-19 in American prisons. Since March of last year the proect has been collecting data on reported cases of Covid-19 in prisons, jails, youth facilities, and immigration detention centers across the United States.

The United States has one of the largest prison populations in the world. The systematic overcrowding and inadequate healthcare found in American prisons means that a pandemic such as Covid-19 is a potential catastrophe waiting to happen. According to the Marshall Project, which is also tracking COVID-19 infections in state and federal prisons, there has so far been at least 2,683 deaths in federal prisons from the coronavirus. 

The data section of the COVID Behind Bars Data Project allows you to explore incarcerated Covid-19 deaths and infections on an interactive map. The map uses data spikes to show the cumulative number of infections and deaths in individual carceral facilities across the country. The map also allows you to view death rates from Covid-19 in each facility. 

An 'active cases' view provides an up-to-date view of where prisoners currently have COVID-19 in a carceral facility. On the map different colors are used to show different types of carceral facility. This view reveals what appears to be significant outbreaks of Covid-19 infections in ICE Detention Centers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arizona.

Mapping Dutch Inequality

Here are some essential tips which can help you succeed in life - if you are Dutch. First off make sure you have rich parents. In the Netherlands you are five times more likely to get a university degree if your parents are in the top 25% of wage earners. 

To succeed in life you should also make sure you are born male. Throughout the Netherlands women tend to earn less than men. For example in Urk women from low-income families earn on average €16,000, while men of a similar background earn on average €55,000. If you can then make sure that you are born to someone who was themselves born in the Netherlands. Children of migrant parents in the Netherlands on average have significantly worse educational and economic outcomes than children whose parents were born in the Netherlands.

Erasmus University's Kansenkaart is an interactive map which reveals the shocking levels of inequality of outcomes in the Netherlands. The map visualizes the disparities in outcomes for children born in different locations in the Netherlands and in different circumstances. The map allows users to explore the effect of gender, ethnicity, and family income on a child's economic and educational outcomes, wherever they were born in the country.

As well as revealing some of the class and racial inequalities in the Netherlands the map also reveals some of the geographical inequalities of outcome faced by Dutch children. For example, children of low-income families who grow up in a big city (particularly in the north of the country) on average have lower educational and economic outcomes than children of low-income children who are raised in the countryside. 

The Erasmus University map was partly inspired by Harvard University's Opportunity Atlas, which is now being used by the Biden government to help address inequality of outcomes in the United States.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Median Property Prices in Australia

A house over-looking the Sydeny Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli could be yours for around $3,562,500 (around 2,747,382 American dollars). According to Aussie's Suburb Spotter that is the median property price in this neighborhood of Sydney. Of course if you want an actual view of the harbour then you will probably have to pay a lot more. 

Property prices in Sydney are notoriously high and have been sky-rocketing even higher over the last few months. If you want to know where you can afford to buy a house in Australia you could use Aussie’s Suburb Spotter interactive map.The map shows the median price of properties in different suburbs in Australia's biggest cities. You can search the map for either median house prices or median apartment prices. The map also includes a filter tool which allows you to only show suburbs on the map which are within your deposit range. is another interactive map which shows median property prices in Australia. On this map the most expensive postcode areas are shown in red and the most affordable are shown in green. The interactive map also includes charts which allow you to view the year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter change in property prices in different postcode areas. If you click on a postcode area on the map these charts will update to show the fall & rise of the median property price in that area since 2016.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Day in the Life of the North Sea

The Belgian financial daily newspaper De Tijd has published a data-driven story about the huge amount of human activity that can be seen in the North Sea. The area of the North Sea off the Belgium coast is one of the busiest seas in  the world. In fact Belgian territorial waters are so busy that the North Sea off the Belgian coast sees more marine traffic than both the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. 

To help illustrate the huge amount of marine activity which takes place off the coast of Belgium De Tijd has created an animated map which visualizes 24 hours of marine traffic, using data from marinetraffic. On this animated map different colors are used to show four distinct types of marine vessel. In the story The North Sea is Teeming container ships are shown in yellow, the blue vessels are fishing boats, dredgers are shown in red and other types of ship are shown in gray. 

The North Sea off the Belgian coast is very shallow and contains many sandbanks. As you progress through De Tijd's story the navigable sea routes off the Belgian coast are added to the map. Look out for the red boats on the map which show the dredgers constantly working to keep these sea routes navigable.Keep scrolling and the dredging dumps, where the dredgers tip the sand and silt cleared from the sea routes, are also added to the map.

Of course boating is not the only human activity taking place in the North Sea. As well as this animated map showing 24 hours of marine activity 'The North Sea is Teeming' includes maps which show the major wind farms off the Belgian coast, the location of protected nature zones in the North Sea, and the locations of gas, electricity & telecommunication pipes & cables. Towards the end of De Tijd's story another map is used to show that underwater noise pollution in the North Sea is loudest off the Belgian Coast. With all this marine activity going on it is easy to see why.

Friday, May 28, 2021

UFO Sighting Maps

The UFO Sightings Map plots sightings recorded by the National UFO Reporting Center. It shows the locations of over 80,000 records of UFO sightings across the United States from 1910 to 2014.

The map's heatmap view presents a very disturbing picture of what could be a huge alien invasion of the United States. If you compare the screenshot above to a population density map of the United States then (under a worst case scenario) it suggests that 80-90% of Americans may have already fallen to an alien invasion of body snatchers.  


Metrocosm's UFO Sightings Map also paints a very worrying picture. This map plots over 90,000 reports of UFO sightings since 1905 in the USA. Metrocosm's map also uses data from the National UFO Reporting Center.

UFO sightings are shown on the map using scaled map markers. The size of each marker relates to the number of eye witnesses. Judging by the size of these markers the cities of Chicago and New York have already fallen to the alien invasion of America. If you select a marker on the map you can actually read the witness reports of individual alien sightings. Many of the reports are accompanied by videos or pictures recorded by these eye witnesses. 


For a number of years UFO Stalker has been mapping the locations of the latest UFO reports made to MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network). If you click on a marker on this map you can read the event details of the reported sighting. It is also possible to search the map by location and date and view the latest UFO reports in list format.

Tracking Elephants Tusks with GPS

In order to help reveal the routes used by illegal elephant tusk smugglers National Geographic created artificial tusks, embedded with GPS tracking technology. African elephants are currently under seige from smugglers who can make a fortune feeding China's insatiable demand for ivory. In Tanzania 60% of elephants have been slaughtered in the last 5 years and in Mozambique 48% of the elephants have been slaughtered. In many places in Africa this illegal trade in elephant tusks is being driven by militias and terrorist groups.

In Tracking the Illegal Tusk Trade National Geographic has mapped out some of the routes being used to smuggle elephant tusks out of Africa. These routes were discovered by planting artificial tusks in the supply chain. By mapping the smuggling routes taken by these artificial tusks alongside the reported locations of terrorist organizations National Geographic shows what appears to be a clear connection between the illegal trade in elephant tusks and African militias and terrorist groups. Groups who use this trade to finance their violent operations.

The National Geographic story accompanying the maps of the illegal smuggling routes explores how Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army is killing elephants in order to be able to afford guns and ammunition. Kony is one of Africa’s most wanted terrorists. In 2015 The Guardian estimated that Kony was responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people and the abduction of at least 60,000 children in Uganda.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Point Nemo & the ISS

Point Nemo is the name given to the point on Earth which is furthest from any land. Point Nemo, in the middle of the South Pacific, is about 2,688 kilometers away from the nearest land. Point Nemo is actually more or less equidistant from Ducie Island (Pitcairn Islands), Motu Nui (Easter Islands), and Maher Island (Antarctica), to the south. All three islands however are a long, long way away. In fact the nearest land is so far away that it is often said that if you found yourself at Point Nemo you would be closer to the astronauts on the International Space Station than to any other humans on Earth. 

Omar Shehata recently decided to find out if it was really true that Point Nemo is nearer to the ISS than it is to the Ducie, Motu Nui and Maher islands. It is possible to use NASA data to pinpoint the location of the International Space Station at any time. Therefore using an interactive 3D map, such as Cesium, it should be fairly easy to find out how far Point Nemo is from the ISS at any point in time and if this distance is further or nearer than the 2,688 km distance from Point Nero to the nearest land.

You can play with Omar's interactive map and his write up of what he found on Visualizing the distance between point nemo and the International Space Station. Omar discovered that the ISS is indeed often nearer to Point Nemo than Point Nemo is to the closest land. However Omar suggests in his write-up that this doesn't necessarily mean that Point Nemo is closer to astronauts in space than to any other humans on Earth (read Omar's post if you can't work out why). 


Point Nemo is a Pole of Inaccessibility. A pole of inaccessibility is term used to describe a location on Earth furthest from a point of accessibility. It is often used to describe a point in an ocean which is the most distant from a coastline. However it can also be used to describe the point in a country which is the furthest distance from the sea.

Atlas Obscura has worked out a number of Poles of Inaccessibility. Their collection of points on the Earth which are hard to access include the Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility (the northernmost point that is furthest from land), the Eurasian Point of Inaccessibility (the point on the Eurasian continent that is furthest from the ocean) and the North American Pole of Inaccessibility (the spot in the USA furthest from the coast).

Places of Inaccessibility is an interactive map which shows Germany's most inaccessible locations. The map visualizes the points in Germany which are the furthest away from a road. Großer Knechtsand is Germany's Pole of Inaccessibility being 13.59 km from the nearest road. Part of the reason it is so far from a road is because it is on a road free island. A point in a military training area in Bergen is the most inaccessible place that is neither in the water, on an island or in the mountains.

Where the Mountain Meets the River

Jack Zhao has been Mapping Where the Mountain Mets the River in East Asia. By mapping only place-names which contain the characters for mountain (山) and river (水 or 川) in East Asia Jack is able to explore how closely these geographically associated place-names actually reflect the local geography.

As well as being words in their own right the mountain (山) and river (水 or 川) characters also appear as building blocks in other words with related but unique meanings. For example the character for ‘harbor’ (港) contains the radical for water. This can be seen in the name Hong Kong (香港, fragrant harbor).

Jack has created a series of maps on which place-names are reduced to just the radicals for mountain and water. These are shown on top of a terrain map. There are some obvious patterns which we would expect to see in these maps. For example on the map above (mountain radicals shown in black, water radicals shown in white) we can clearly see lots of white related place-names around the coast. The mountain place-names (in black) mostly seem to be concentrated in areas with high elevations (as we might expect).


By mapping the root radicals for water and mountain Jack's map doesn't reveal the regional differences in the names for these geographical features in East Asia (I don't know if there actually are any). For example in America the navigable passages between mountains in the USA have lots of different names. Some are called 'passes', others are called 'gaps' and some are even called 'notches', or 'saddles'. 

A few years ago Esri's John Nelson undertook a similar mapping project to Jack Zhao's, except in John's case he mapped out place-names in America which contained the word 'pass', 'gap', notch' or 'saddle' in order to see if there are any regional variation in the use of these names for navigable valleys.The results can be explored in his Gap, Pass, Notch and Saddle story map.

To examine the regional variations in the words given to navigable valleys in the USA Nelson downloaded and mapped every named place from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. The result is a fascinating map of 2.3 million place-names in America. As you scroll through the Gap, Pass, Notch and Saddle story map you are shown how place-names in the USA concentrate where humans settle along coastlines, along transportation routes and in major conurbations.

As you progress further though the Gap, Pass, Notch and Saddle story map the non-valley place-names are removed from the map. The different navigable passage place-names are then each given a different color. The result is a map which clearly reveals the regional variations in how these passages are named throughout the USA.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob of White residents of Tulsa, some of them deputized and armed by city officials, attacked Black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Greenwood District, sometimes called the Black Wall Street, was a thriving community of residential properties, stores, hotels, nightclubs, billiard halls, theaters, doctor’s offices and churches. Over the Memorial weekend of 1921 white mobs and private aircraft went on a frenzied rampage killing at least 26 Black residents, destroying more than 35 square blocks of the district, leaving 10,000 people homeless, and damaging more than $1.8 million in real estate.

Today it is hard to picture what Greenwood looked like before the Tulsa Race Massacre. The reason it is so hard to picture is because this successful Black community was almost totally destroyed by mobs of rampaging White people. Thanks to the New York Times we can now get a limited sense of how Greenwood looked before racist resentment ran riot in the 1920's.

In What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed the NYT has created a truly impressive 3D model of the Greenwood District before the massacre. This 3D map was created using vintage maps, photographs and residential and business data from census records, city directories and newspaper articles. As you scroll through the NYT's article you are taken on a tour of the Greenwood District through this 3D model. This tour highlights individual buildings, explaining the businesses and people who resided in them and whose lives were destroyed by the Tulsa Race Massacre.

It is obviously difficult to imagine the horror of the events of Memorial weekend in 1921. However the NYT's 3D map really helps to convey the size of the area destroyed by the white residents of Tulsa and the thousands of lives which were ruined forever by their criminal attack. The use of the vintage photographs and the details about the building and business owners also goes a long way to personalize the harm caused by the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Bletchley Park & the Enigma Machine

During World War II Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, England became the principal center of Allied code-breaking. It became the headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). It was at Bletchley Park that Alan Turing and other code-breakers built Colossus, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer. It was this computer which was responsible for decoding the messages created by the German cipher device, the Enigma machine.A feat which many believed shortened the war by at least one to two years.

Bletchley Park is now a museum open to the general public. The museum's Bletchley Park interactive map is a useful plan for visitors to the Bletchley Park site and to its facilities and attractions. The map contains lots of useful information about the Government Code and Cypher School and the role that its different buildings played in the breaking of German codes.

The map itself is an oblique pictorial plan of the Bletchley Park Estate. It features a couple of animated features, such as birds flying over the estate and a working fountain. Labels on the map reveal the name's of the museum's significant buildings. If you click on a building's label an information window opens providing information of the building's role in the GC&CS during the war. 

Huts, 3 and 6 are two of the code-breaking huts where Enigma messages were decrypted. Hut 8 was where Alan Turing's office was located and where Enigma messages were also decoded. The Bletchley Park Museum website provides lots of additional information of the role that the site played in the war, the amazing people who worked there, the challenges they faced in decrypting enemy codes and how they created and built the world's first programmable digital electronic computer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The 2021 Submarine Cable Map

Every year Telegeography releases a new map of the huge global network of undersea telecommunication cables which carry all our data around the world.The 2021 Submarine Cable Map has now been published.

Subsea cables carry telecommunication signals under the oceans, communicating information between different countries and regions of the world. In the 19th Century the first submarine cables were laid to carry telegraphy traffic. In the 21st Century submarine cables carry digital data, which includes telephone and Internet data.

The new submarine cable map from Telegeography shows 464 cables and 1,245 landing stations. This year's map also features lots of textual information, featuring both cable trivia and answers to FAQ's about cable suppliers, content providers, fiber etc. For example - did you know that there are now over 1.3 kilometers of underwater cables around the world (if they were laid end-to-end they could wrap around the world 30 times).

Every year's edition of the Telegeography Submarine Cable Map has a different design. You can explore Telegeography's Submarine Cable Maps for previous years by changing the year in the map's URL. For example, one of my favorite Telegeography maps can be found at This 2015 map was inspired by medieval and renaissance cartography and features a vintage map style containing sea monsters, cartouches and border illustrations.

Mapping Income Inequality in the UK

Last week the UK's Office of National Statistics released a map which explored income disparities at the regional level. The ONS' What are the regional differences in income and productivity? visualizes average incomes and productivity levels at the regional level in the UK. This week the ONS has released a new data visualization which looks more closely at income levels at the neighborhood level.

In Exploring local income deprivation the ONS has mapped average neighborhood income levels in all 316 local authorities in England. This map provides a detailed look at income disparities in every town and city in England. The ONS visualization makes excellent use of robot-journalism to personalize the data visualization to individual readers. At the beginning of the article you can select one of the 316 English local authorities and the rest of scrollytelling data visualization is then personalized to your selection, highlighting the income deprivation and disparities in your chosen area. 

The ONS uses a choropleth map to show the income levels at the neighborhood level in your chosen local authority area. As you progress through the data visualization the ONS go on to group local authority areas in England into one of four types of income-deprivation profile, according to the income levels in each area. These are: more income-deprived, less income-deprived, n-shaped profiles (where most neighborhoods in an area have close to average income levels), and flat profiles (where there is an even distribution across the different income levels).

Mapping these four types of income-deprivation profiles helps to reveal which areas of England have the most income-deprived areas and which areas have the least income-deprived. It also helps to reveal what types of areas of the country have the most n-shaped and flat patterns of income level distribution.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Cicada Mapping

Every 17 years cicada nymphs in the eastern United States emerge en masse from underground. For a few weeks the adult cicadas fly around, make a lot of noise, have sex and lay eggs. Then they die - not to be seen again for another 17 years. 

Brood X cicadas have this month been spotted in Washington, D.C., and in surrounding areas such as Virginia and Maryland. They have also emerged in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. You can keep up with the latest sightings of Brood X cicadas for yourself on Mount St. Joseph University's Cicada Map.

The Cicada Map shows all the locations where cicadas have been reported using the University's citizen science app - Cicada Safari. Cicada Safari is a cell phone app which has been released to help track the emergence and locations of this year's brood of cicadas. The app allows anyone to photograph and report the location of cicadas that they spot in the wild. After the photos have been verified they are then posted to the Cicada Map.

Brood X is the largest of the 17-year cicada broods. They should emerge and be seen and heard in at least 15 states across the eastern United States.

The Small Blue Marble

Last week I posted a link to River Runner, a fascinating map which allows you to view the route that a drop of rain would take from any location in the United States to the ocean. However the big question is - how would a 1000 mile wide inflatable ball react if you dropped it on the Earth?

Darren Wein's Whirld allows you to roll a gigantic floating ball around the Earth. Like 'River Runner' Darren's Whirld map uses Mapbox's 3D elevation data. In Whirld the elevation data is a used to restrict the huge ball's movement as you try to roll it around the Earth. In order to move the ball around you need to tilt and rotate the map. 

Darren's little game is created using Three.js with Mapbox GL. The small 3D Earth ball object is created using Three.js (you can change the texture of this ball using the drop-down menu). On the map the ball interacts with the elevation data - so that high elevation on land will effect how and where the ball will move. 

When Mapbox first released their 3D elevation layer last year I did think we might see a few games created with this feature. A fairly easy game to make would be a simple flight / plane simulation. I am surprised I haven't seen a Mapbox powered flight sim yet. 

If you are interested in observing how smaller objects react to Mapbox's terrain data then you can play with Darren's Flowtrack interactive map. This map allows you to click anywhere in the world to view how water dropped at that location would flow based on the local terrain. I assume this map uses Mapbox's elevation data to work out the downhill path of least resistance.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

No Heritage for Confederate Monuments

Axios has created an animated map which shows the construction and removal of Confederate monuments over time. The map reveals that there have been two key periods in the history of monuments to the Confederate side in the American Civil War. The war ended in 1865 but it wasn't until the first two decades of the 20th Century that the South became obsessed with constructing monuments to Confederate battles and leaders. 

The second key period in the history of Confederate monuments has been the first two decades of the 21st Century which has seen a significant campaign to remove Confederate monuments. One of the arguments against removing public memorials to the Confederacy is that they are historical monuments. Axios's map Confederate monuments in the U.S. over time goes a long way to deconstruct this argument by revealing that the majority of Confederate monuments aren't even one century old. Most Confederate monuments therefore have little heritage value.

Axios' map uses data from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center has mapped over 1,500 public symbols of the Confederacy across the United States. These public symbols include not only statues but schools, parks and roads which have been named for Confederate leaders or battles.

The SPLC has created its own map Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy showing the location of these Confederate symbols and memorials. The SPLC map uses color coded markers to show which are monuments, which are schools and which are roads. If you select a marker on the map you can also see the year that the selected memorial to the Confederacy was dedicated.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Animated Emoji Globe

Making Maps out of Emojis is one of the coolest things I've seen for a while. I'm not sure Making Maps out of Emojis has any practical application - unless you have a need to display a very basic map on a very, very low resolution screen - but it is a lot of fun to play with. 

Essentially Making Maps out of Emojis makes a map of the world by using colored flag emojis to represent land and using blue wave emojis to represent water. This amazing emoji map making tool even includes an 'auto-rotate' option which turns your map into a spinning globe. The animated emoji map above is just a GIF of a map created with the emoji map creator. However, because these maps are made from emojis, you can actually cut & paste any of the maps that you make with the tool. 

Making Maps with Emojis includes a number of options. These include being able to choose the type of map projection used, the actual emojis used to make the map and the size of the font. Making Maps with Emojis also comes with very detailed instructions about how the tool works by obtaining a map projection, transforming this into a Grid of NxM points and converting this grid into an emoji map.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Placing Poems in Ireland


During lock-down most of us had our personal geographies curtailed. However physical restrictions on our movements didn't stop us thinking about far away places and people. In April Irish poet Roan Ellis-O’Neill asked the people of Ireland to write a poem about an imagined journey "away from the stifling reality of the pandemic". The result is the Placing Poems interactive map.

Placing Poems features poems about locations across the whole of Ireland. Each of the poems was submitted by a member of the public. The deadline for submitting poems has now passed but you can read the poems which were submitted simply by clicking on any of the markers on the Placing Poems interactive map. 

In 2019 a similar public art project was carried out in England & Wales. Places of Poetry was devised to inspire the English and Welsh to write poetry about the places that inspire them. The project asked budding poets to pin their poems about English and Welsh locations directly to the Places of Poetry interactive map.

The background map used for the Places of Poetry project is inspired by William Hole's engraved maps created for Michael Drayton epic poem Poly-Olbion (1612). The new map is an original work but is heavily inspired by Hole's highly decorative and iconographic style. The Place of Poetry map includes new icons celebrating some of the UK's most well known heritage sites. These include Stonehenge, Ely Cathedral and even the Oval cricket ground. Other icons on the map (for example for forests and farming regions) are more direct copies of Hole's iconography. The marine icons of Neptune, sirens and ships are also direct copies from William Hole's engraved maps.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Animated Procedural Art Map

Infinite Noise is an animated procedural artwork which uses the Leaflet.js interactive mapping platform. Open Infinite Noise in your browser and you can view an infinite moving pattern of colors. 

Because this procedural work of art is presented as an interactive map you can pan around and zoom in and out. There really isn't much else to say except that this mesmerizing work of art was created using the p5.js JavaScript library and Leaflet.js.

Of course this isn't the first time that Leaflet has been used to create procedural art. MandelbrotGL is a Leaflet based map of an infinite Mandelbrot set pattern. The map uses WebGL to render the Mandelbrot set on the fly in the browser. 

The map has infinite zooming, so you can keep zooming into these fractal pattern for ever. Unfortunately the pattern starts getting a little pixelated after zoom level 20. That still leaves you with a lot of beautiful math to explore.

Fractal Map also uses the Leaflet library to visualize a number of beautiful fractal patterns. Using this map you can view a number of different fractals and use the map controls to zoom in and out on the repeating patterns.

The map includes a Leaflet hash library, which means that you can pan and zoom the map to find your favorite fractal patterns and then share the view by cutting and pasting the URL. The map is also a neat demo of using the Leaflet mapping platform with HTML5 canvas and Web Workers. You can explore how this is achieved on the map's GitHub page.

Every Map at Once

Leafroulette is an animated map,created by @cartocalypse, which continually pans over the city of Hamburg. Every few seconds, as the map moves across the city, the map layer smoothly changes to a completely different map of the city. In the few minutes that I sat mesmerized by Leafroulette the base map layer switched between a Lidar map, a map of just colorful house numbers, a satellite map, a map of building footprints and a NDVI vegetation map. 

Leafroulette is described by its creator as a "screensaver, CPU burner, background animation thing". It definitely is a fun map to watch moving around in the background. My only regret is that there aren't more background map layers. 

If @cartocalypse is interested in adding a few more map layers then he could always have a look at Leaflet Providers Demo. This map provides views of a number of OSM, MapQuest, Stamen and other map tile layers, all of which can be used with Leaflet.js. The map even includes a JavaScript snippet for each layer so you can just cut and paste the code into your own Leaflet map.

OpenWhateverMap is another map which uses a number of different map tile layers on the same map. This interactive map of the world is created from a random hotchpotch of different map styles. OpenWhateverMap is a showcase for a number of different base map styles that can be used with any of the leading interactive map libraries. It includes base maps designed by Mapbox, OpenStreetMap, Thunderforest,  Stamen and CartoDB.

If you like the look of one of the random map styles then click on the map tile on the map. This will open an information window containing the base map's template URL and the attribution you need to use the style in your own interactive maps.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Mapping US Poverty

Todd County in South Dakota is the county with the most people living in poverty in the United States. According to the 2018 American Community Survey 5-year estimates over 55% of the population of Todd County are living in poverty. In fact five counties in South Dakota feature in the list of the top ten counties with the highest proportion of the population living below the poverty line.

You can explore the levels of poverty across the United States for yourself on Overflow Data's interactive map Which U.S. Counties Have the Most People Living in Poverty?. This choropleth map visualizes the proportion of the population living below the poverty line at the county level. On the map you can make out the Black Belt in the American South, which is traditionally an area with high levels of poverty. Outside of the Black Belt, as well as South Dakota, the state of New Mexico stands out as having a number of counties where large percentages of the local population live in poverty. 

The Overflow Data map also allows you to view the percentage of children in each state living in poverty and / or the percentage of adults below the poverty line

The Economic Innovation Group's High Poverty Map is another interactive map which uses 2018 American Community Survey data to explore poverty in the United States. This interactive map compares the metro neighborhoods in the United States which had high levels of poverty in 2018 with those which were in high poverty in 1980 but have since successfully turned around.

On the interactive map high-poverty census tracts are colored to show if they are newly poor, persistently poor, deepening poverty or turned around. If you select one of these colored neighborhoods you can view the poverty rate in that census tract for the years 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 & 2018.

Alongside the interactive map the Economic Innovation Group has published a number of city profiles. These profiles provide a detailed analysis of poverty levels in some of America's largest cities. For example the city profile for New York notes that although the city still has a high number of neighborhoods in poverty the number of high-poverty neighborhoods has dropped sharply since 1980. In Los Angeles the number of high-poverty neighborhoods has increased a lot since 1980. Unlike New York it has seen very few neighborhoods transition from high-poverty to low-poverty.

Where are the Highest Incomes in the UK?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has mapped out the average income per person across the United Kingdom and has compared these average incomes with each area's level of productivity in 2018. How economically productive an area is should have a determining effect on local income levels. However the ONS's maps reveal that this is not always the case in the UK.

In What are the regional differences in income and productivity? the ONS has created a story map which visualizes both average incomes across the UK and regional productivity levels. As you scroll through the article the map is also used to highlight those areas of the UK which have low productivity & high incomes, and those areas which have high productivity but low incomes. 

London and the South East (respectively) top both the list of the highest income areas and the highest productivity. Perhaps the most interesting areas however are those areas with high productivity levels but low average incomes. The ONS highlights a number of inner city areas such as Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham where this is the case. The ONS explains that this might be due to a 'commuter effect', where high earning individuals work in these cities but don't live there. 

There is a clear north-south divide when you look at the levels of income relative to the levels of productivity. In the East England region average incomes are higher than the national average but productivity is lower. The South East, South West and London also all have higher incomes relative to their levels of productivity. At the opposite end of the scale the North West and the North East have lower levels of income relative to the local levels of productivity.

Monday, May 17, 2021

What is the Longest Tiny Loop?

During lock-down many of us have become very bored walking, cycling and jogging around the same local streets over & over & over again. In order to avoid the Groundhog Day tedium of walking the same route day after day you could join the Long Tiny Loop challenge.

Long Tiny Loop is an international fitness challenge to find "the longest possible non-self-intersecting loop within the smallest possible region, without revisiting any streets or intersections". The explanation for Long Tiny Loop is a little complicated but I can assure you that once you explore the maps at the top of the competition leaderboard you will quickly understand the concept. Basically you need to create a long but compact route which doesn't require you having to travel over the same ground more than once.

Scores for Long Tiny Loop are based on the ratio of the length of a route to the total diameter of the area in which you traveled. To enter a route into the competition you will need a Strava account. However you can explore the interactive maps of the routes which other people have entered without an account. At the time of writing the leading route is a 107km route around the streets of Brooklyn. A route which has a 3.6km diameter and which doesn't once require a person to travel over a path already used.

Running Rivers to the Sea


River Runner is a fascinating map which uses U.S. watershed data to calculate the route that a drop of rain would take from any location in the United States to the ocean. The map uses information about America's river watersheds to create an animated map which visualizes the journey downstream from any location in the contiguous United States.

Click anywhere on River Runner's map of the United States and you can discover the path that a drop of water would take from that location to the distant ocean (although sometimes the final destination may be the Great Lakes or another large inland water feature). A small inset map will reveal the path that leads downstream from your selected location to the sea. The main larger map actually animates the route of this journey on top of Mapbox's 3D terrain. 

River Runner uses USGS data to to find the closest river/stream to the location that you select on the map. It then uses the USGS's national hydrology data to work out the downstream path from that location to the natural endpoint.Mapbox's map and 3D elevation data is then used to create an animated journey of this downstream route to the sea.

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

FernLeaf Interactive has also created an interactive map which allows you to view over 100,000 watershed regions. The 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).

Saturday, May 15, 2021


The controversial global addressing system what3words continues to encourage criticism and parody sites in equal measure. Some of the most popular parodies of what3words include what3emojis and my own WTF (what2figures). In the past there has also been what3pictures and what3pokemon (both of which no longer exist).

Another popular parody of what3words was what3fucks - which could identify any location on Earth using just three swear words. Unfortunately what3fucks no longer works. But don't be alarmed at the demise of what3fucks - because now you can use Four King Maps instead. 

Four King Maps is a brand new global addressing system which can create a unique four swear word address for any location in the UK & Ireland (ok - it isn't really global). Click on a location on Four King Maps and you will receive a unique sweary address for that location. For example enter the address -


into Four.King.Maps and you will be taken to the Houses of Parliament in London.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sydney's Historic Estate Maps

Subplot is a new and experimental interactive map which allows you to find and view vintage estate maps owned by the State Library of New South Wales in Australia. Estate maps, also known as subdivision plans, were created by estate agents to promote and advertise new subdivisions and land for sale in Sydney and New South Wales. The library owns around 40,000 of these subdivision plans, dating from 1860 through to the 1930's. 

The library's estate maps provide a fascinating insight into the development of Sydney's suburbs & regional areas, how properties were valued, and how land was subdivided. The Subplot map presents the library's vintage subdivision plans overlaid on top of a modern map of New South Wales. The map includes a timeline feature which allows you to see when the estate maps were printed. This timeline also allows you to use Subplot to search the plans by both location and by date. 

If you click on one of the vintage subdivision plans you can apparently view the plan in its own maximum resolution zoomable interface. However for some reason clicking on individual subdivision maps didn't achieve anything for me when I was exploring the map. I suspect this is mainly because my aging laptop struggles with displaying WebGL content. 

You can learn more about how Subplot utilizes WebGL, turf.js and DeckGL on this Making Sub Plot article by DX Lab.

(keep an eye out for the 3D models of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House on the Subplot map)

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Make an Animated Journey Map is an incredibly easy to use tool for making animated journey maps. Using the tool you can create animated maps of a journey you have made (or plan to make) and then share the created map with your friends and family. 

You can create an animated journey map with in a matter of seconds. It is that easy to do. All you need to do is add a list of locations (in the order of your journey) and mult-dev will automatically create your animated journey map visiting each of your chosen locations in turn. If you want you can also share your mode of transport between locations and mult-dev will add an icon to each stage of your journey showing how you traveled (or plan to travel). 

When you have finished adding destinations to your map you can either download your journey as a video or share a link to your created map (although when I tried saving an animated journey map in FireFox I kept getting a video corrupted link).

mult-dev journey maps are displayed using a 3D globe. One consequence of this is that mult-dev is really only useful for animating long journeys between countries. Because of the maps' global scale it really isn't very effective in mapping short journeys. Therefore you would probably only use multi-dev to visualize and share a long journey, which encompasses trips to a number of different countries. For example a multi-dev map would be perfect for sharing the itinerary of a planned round-the-world trip.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lightning Heat Map

I was aware that there are a lot less lightning strikes in the UK than in many other places in the world. However, until I looked at Vaisala's Interactive Global Lightning Density Map, I wasn't aware that Britain experienced less lightening than just about every other country in the world.

The Interactive Global Lightning Density Map shows the average lightning density in countries around the world.According to the map Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the two countries with the highest density of lightning strikes every year. If you zoom in on the USA on the map you can view the density of lightning strikes in America down to the county level.

If you want to know where lightning storms are occurring right now then you should have a look at LightningMaps or Blitzortung. Both these interactive maps plot lighting in real-time as it strikes in locations across the world. The lightning data for both these maps comes from Blitzortung, and is gathered from a community of weather stations reporting lightning storms around the globe.

The Sandwich Index

Sales of coffee and sandwiches might provide a reasonable guide as to how fast people are returning to the office. Bloomberg certainly think so. They have invented the Pret Index to measure the rate that people are returning to the workplace in the UK. As the UK emerges from lock-down Bloomberg is interested in observing how many people stop working from home and return to the office. In order to measure this Bloomberg is analyzing sales data from the Pret a Manger chain of sandwich shops. 

The Pret Index uses a baseline of average sales in a Pret a Manger restaurant from March 8th - the week before schools reopened in England. It then looks at how much sales have grown (or fallen) since that date and how close they are returning to the sales recorded in January 2020, before the start of the pandemic in the UK. Each 0.1 point on the Pret Index equals a 1% progress towards the January 2020 total of sales.

In Pret Sandwich Sales Show Office Workers Staying Home Bloomberg has created a story map to show where Pret sales are increasing and where they have seen little movement. In general it appears that Pret sales are increasing in major retail areas where shops have re-opened. However as yet there appears to be only the smallest of rises in commercial districts, suggesting that workers are not returning to the office in great numbers. 

Across the UK sales seem to be strongest in Yorkshire, which Bloomberg says is based on strong growth in the shopping centers of Leeds and York. Scotland, which has stronger lock-down rules than England, has seen very little growth on the Pret Index. 

Going forward Bloomberg says that they will be updating the Pret Index every week. Unfortunately the Pret Index, will obviously suffer from unforeseen changes in people's behavior when returning to work. For example many people returning to the office may avoid entering confined Pret a Manger's for their coffee and sandwiches. In the same way other measures may also prove problematic. For example analysis of public transit figures may prove a poor indicator of the numbers returning to the workplace if many commuters avoid packed trains and buses and find alternative means of transport.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Unconnected America

Now that we are hopefully approaching the end of the pandemic a lot of discussion has started about the future of work. A lot of commentators appear to think that working from home could be here to stay for many workers. For that to happen people need good access to broadband speeds. 

Unfortunately not everyone in the USA has access to broadband internet speeds. In This is a Map of America's Broadband Gap Verge has mapped counties where less than 15 percent of households have broadband speed.All the counties colored blue on this map have less than 15 percent of households with an internet speed over 25Mbps or above.You can also hover over individual counties on the map to view the percentage of households that have broadband speed. 

To create the map Verge used data from Microsoft. This data reveals that there are many counties where a large majority of counties don't have broadband speeds. For example in Lincoln County, Washington only five percent of households can access the internet at 25Mbps or above.

You can find out which companies offer broadband services in your area and the speeds that they offer using the FCC Broadband Map. Enter your address into the Federal Communications Commission's interactive map and you can view the names of all your local broadband providers and the upload and download speeds that they offer.

The FCC Broadband Map is color-coded to show the number of fixed residential broadband providers in each census block in the USA. If you click on a census block on the map you can view a list of the available broadband providers, the technology they offer (cable, ADSL or satellite) and their upload and download speeds (which I assume are self-reported by the companies and not the actual speeds experienced by consumers).

The Night Trains of Europe

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic reduction in Europe's night-train services. Bloomberg says that this is a trend that is set to end. Because of the huge ecological cost of flying Europe is once again encouraging people to replace plane journeys with the train. To support these rail journeys new night-train routes are once again being opened in Europe.

A train journey from Paris to Vienna produces one tenth of the emissions of the same journey by plane. Countries such as France and Austria have introduced financial penalties for short-haul flights in order to make flying less attractive to customers. In order to encourage passengers to take the train instead of the plane new night-time train routes are also being opened across Europe.

Bloomberg's Europe Asks Travelers to Ditch Planes for Night Trains looks at some of the new night-train routes being developed. As you scroll through the article an interactive map updates to show some of the planned and existing night-train routes across Europe. 

While Bloomberg's article provides an interesting overview of some of the new night-train routes being planned in Europe it doesn't provide information on the existing night-train coverage across the continent. The formidable Night Train's website is a useful resource if you want to plan a night-train journey anywhere across the globe.

Night Train's Europe page includes an interactive map of Europe's Night-Train routes in 2020. You can use this map to plan a train journey from Lisbon to Moscow or from Edinburgh to Rome (although some of these journeys may take you more than one night of travel).

Monday, May 10, 2021

Population Transfers

In the last few weeks an old interactive map by Slate has become very popular again. Slate's Equal Population Mapper allows you to compare the populations of select cities and counties with other locations in the United States. 

The Equal Population Mapper lets you click anywhere on a map of the United States and view a circular region of equal population to New York around the selected area. It really is a very effective tool to visualize the population density of New York in comparison to other regions of the US. The map isn't restricted to only visualizing the population of New York. You can also use the map to view the populations of Los Angeles County, Wyoming, New Jersey, Texas and the coastal areas of the United States overlaid on other areas of the country. 

Inspired by Slate's map the State of NYC also allows you to visualize the population of New York by showing you how large an area an equal sized population would be elsewhere in the USA. Every time you refresh State of NYC it will show you the populations of New York City, Los Angeles County, Harris County (Texas), Cook County (Illinois) and Maricopa County (Arizona) by highlighting counties with similar populations elsewhere in the country. You just need to refresh the page to view these populations visualized on different locations.

The Building Heights of Beijing

Wendy Shijia has created an interesting building height map of Beijing. Wendy's The Height of Central Beijing colors individual buildings in the Chinese capital based on the number of levels they have.

Unlike many other cities around the world Central Beijing actually has shorter buildings in its center, with its taller buildings concentrated outside of the city center. This is mainly because the map is centered on Beijing's historic Forbidden City, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, and which was built long before the current craze for ultra tall buildings. 

Another interesting visualization which allows you to explore city building height data is the Rendering OSM Objects in Mapbox GL interactive map. This map includes a dynamic histogram which tells you how many buildings of each height there are within the current map view.

Drag this map around and the histogram will automatically update to show you the number of buildings of different heights in the map view. A small inset map also provides a 3D view of all the shown buildings which provides a neat overview of where the buildings of different heights are actually situated.

There are many reasons why you might want to show the number of buildings by height in a defined area. For example, many residents in my neighborhood are currently fighting a planning application for the development of a tall block of apartments. This map could be used to show the current number of local buildings of different building heights. It could help to highlight how a taller building would look very out of place in a neighborhood which is predominantly constructed of much shorter buildings.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Growth of a Ukrainian Town

For centuries the town of Khmelnytskyi was just a normal small Ukrainian town. 200 years ago the town consisted of a mere nine streets. Now the city of Khmelnytskyi has thousands of streets and is the administrative center for the whole Khmelnytskyi Raion (district). 

You can learn more about how the city of Khmelnytski grew from such humble beginnings to become a major city in this Khmelnytskyi - History of the City story map. Unfortunately for non-Ukrainian speakers the map is entirely in Ukrainian (and at least for me doesn't work with Chrome's automatic translate tool on desktop or tablet). However if you interested in story maps then this history of Khmelnytski is worth exploring anyway - because it is a fantastic example of a story map created with Leaflet.js.

As you scroll through the text of Khmelnytskyi - History of the City the map automatically updates to visualize the historical developments in the city as they happen. This includes adding and removing lines and polygons to the map to highlight certain streets and areas of the city as they are mentioned. It also includes adding and removing historical vintage map overlays to the modern map to show how the city appeared during different periods of its development. Certain words in the text are highlighted in color. These words are automatic links which relate to features highlighted on the map. Hover over a date in the text and a map from that date will be overlain on the map. However over a place-name and it will be highlighted on the map.

If you want to create a similar story map using Leaflet.js you night also be interested in exploring my own Measles in Europe story map. My map includes similar scroll based actions, where the map moves and updates as you scroll through the text. It also includes highlighted text which also can be hovered over to highlight features on the map. Feel free to re-use and adapt my story map as you see fit. The code for the map can be viewed, adapted and copied on Glitch.

Friday, May 07, 2021

How Your Neighbors Voted

America is a politically divided country. This divide is perhaps most apparent in where we live. Most Americans live in neighborhoods populated by people with very similar political views. You can find out if you live in a political bubble in the New York Times' Do You Live in a Political Bubble.

Enter your address into the NYT's interactive data visualization and you can view a dot map showing how your thousand closest neighbors voted in the the 2020 American election. Continue scrolling and the visualization will tell you the percentage of your neighbors who voted for the least popular party. 

You may or may not live in a political bubble but many American's do live in neighborhoods which are very partisan in their politics. As you continue scrolling through the NYT's Do You Live in a Political Bubble you are shown maps of the most Democratic (Bay Area) and Republican (Gillette, Wyo) areas in the country. According to the NYT about one in five Republicans, and two in five Democrats live in neighborhoods where over 75% of their neighbors share their political affiliation.


This isn't the first time that the New York Times has examined the political divide in the United States using data from the 2020 election. In A Close-Up Picture of Partisan Segregation, Among 180 Million Voters the NYT used a series of static maps to show where voters support the Republican and Democratic parties in major U.S. cities. These maps reveal how Democrats and Republicans live separated from each other, often in completely separate neighborhoods. The NYT analysis shows that even in neighborhoods with both Republican and Democratic supporters people still tend to live closer to people who vote the same way as them.