Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Birth of Boston

A large part of Boston is built on man-made land. In the 17th Century the citizens of the Shawmut peninsula (which was less than 800 acres of land, began to use landfill and dams to make the city of Boston larger. The city has been reclaiming land from the Boston Harbor ever since.

Negotiating the Shoreline is an interactive story map from the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Library which takes a look at one of the most important maps in Boston Harbor's environmental management. In 1852 the city's engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough was tasked with mapping the city's original shoreline. At the time the city was worried about Boston's main shipping channel silting up. Chesbrough's survey was designed to help the city understand how much of the Harbor had already been lost to land reclamation.

In 1852 Chesbrough estimated that Boston’s Inner Harbor had already lost 1,369 acres of water. Negotiating the Shoreline takes a detailed look at the 1852 map of Boston and Boston Harbor, exploring the city's original shoreline and the areas of the harbor already reclaimed by the mid-Nineteenth Century.


You can discover more about Boston's early development from the Birth of Boston website, which uses the Clough Land Parcel Map to explore the very earliest years of the modern city.

In September 1630 the English colonists in Trimountaine decided to rename their settlement 'Boston', after the English town in Lincolnshire. Just eighteen years later, in 1648, much of the Shawmut peninsula had been parceled out, claimed and settled by different colonial families. You can discover which families lived in Boston in 1648 using the Birth of Boston map created by Northeastern University.

The Birth of Boston is a collaborative project from Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Historical Society. The map uses the historical Clough Land Parcel Map to show Boston's early land parcels and who lived in them. Samuel Chester Clough was a nineteenth-century cartographer, who tried to map the early years of Boston using the data from The Book of Possessions, a nineteenth century catalog of Boston's historic registration records. The 1648 Clough Land Parcel Map plots the land lots of Boston in 1648 and describes who owned them.

The Boston Public Library's Atlascope is another great resource for exploring the historical development of Boston. Atlascope includes nearly 100 vintage maps of Boston, dating back to 1867.

The Boston Public Library's collection of historical maps can help you explore how Boston has changed from the Civil War era right up until the modern day. The Atlascope interface includes options to compare any two vintage (or modern) maps side-by-side. You can also overlay one vintage map on top of another or view the two maps using a 'glass' lens view.

Exploring the Underbelly of Pixlton


There is something weird and foreboding about the town of Pixlton. I'm not sure if it is the suicidal cows or the town's permanent fog which scares me the most. Of one thing I am sure. I wouldn't want to live in Pixlton.

If you are intrigued by these strange goings on then you can explore the town further on the Pixlton interactive map. Pixlton is a digital town inhabited by the Pixls, a small community of pixelart characters living in a pixleart town. The map of Pixlton includes a number of map markers which provide more information about the town and its inhabitants.

The main purpose of the Pixlton interactive map seems to be to encourage uses to buy NFTs for the Pixl characters. The Pixls are digital collectibles which you can trade and sell. I really like the idea of the Pixlton interactive map. I do wonder however about how many people will love it enough to want to buy a digital certificate saying that they own one of the fictional characters who live there.

Every year at least two people have the bright idea of releasing an interactive map on which people can buy virtual real-estate. Earlier this year the Mapbox Blog reported about Earth2.io, which appears to be another one of these maps which allow people to 'own' virtual land. Selling virtual assets has always seemed like a bit of a grift to me. I think that this is how these maps appear to most people, because none of these virtual real-estate maps has ever managed to stick around for long. Pixlton is a fun fictional interactive map and its creator certainly has the right to try to monetize their project.It will be interesting to see if NFTs actually succeed in helping them to achieve that aim.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Hurricane Ida's Forecast Path

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. It is now moving northwards through the state as a Category 1 storm.

The satellite image animation above showing Hurricane Ida hitting Louisiana comes from NOAA's GOES Image Viewer. NOAA's National Hurricane Center features a regularly updated static map showing Hurricane Ida's forecast path. This map includes 12 hourly timestamps showing predicted arrival times along this forecast path.


CNN's Storm Tracker has an interactive forecast map of Hurricane Ida. This map also includes timestamps showing arrival times along the forecast path of the storm. In addition CNN's Storm Tracker features up-to-date data on the storm's current categorization, wind speeds and pressure. The Storm Tracker also maps where there are current tropical storm watches and storm warnings in Louisiana and Alabama.

Hurricane Ida is expected to bring dangerous storm surges, hurricane-force winds and heavy rains. If you need to you can locate your nearest shelters using the Red Cross Shelter Map or by downloading the FEMA App. The FEMA App also provides real-time alerts from the National Weather Service, provides emergency safety tips and disaster preparation tips.

Russia's Building Age Maps

How Old is This House is a fantastic collection of building age maps of Russian Cities. Currently the project includes eight interactive maps which visualize the ages of all buildings in the cities of Moscow, St Petersburg, Kalinngrad, Penza, Voronnezh, Vladimir, Nizhny, Novgorod, Kazan and Yekaterinburg. 

Each individual city map in How Old is This House colors individual building footprints to show when each  building was constructed. Each map also includes a timeline control which allows you to filter the buildings shown on the map by age. This is very useful if you want to discover a city's oldest buildings or want to see all the buildings built during a specific period in history.

You can click on an individual buildings on the map to discover the exact year that it was constructed. Where available you can also view pictures of the building and a brief history. The data for this information comes from a number of sources. As you might imagine there tends to be more information available for buildings of historical importance.  

You can discover many more interactive building age maps using the building age tag on Maps Mania.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Make Your Own Map Posters

Maposaic is a fun interactive tool for creating your own colorful maps. The application is being marketed as a way to create random colorful map mosaics. However Maposaic has a number of settings which can be adjusted that allow you to choose your own colors and map any location in the world.

At the heart of Maposaic are Mapbox's customizable vector map tiles. The Mapbox API allows users to adjust the styling and colors of the underlying map data on the fly. This means that Maposaic can offer a clever tool which allows users to change the map's colors and create their own colorful map designs.

In the settings menu you can enter a location to create a map of your favorite town, city or neighborhood. In the 'Colors' section of the settings menu you can choose 'random' colors or choose your own palette of colors. When you have created a map design that you can like you can then download and save the map as a printable image. You can also upload your map design to the Maposaic gallery of maps.


You can also create your own map posters using Hans Hack's Figureground Posters. Figureground Posters is an easy to use tool for creating map posters using OpenStreetMap data.

To create your poster simply click on the Figureground Posters interactive map to select the location that you want. You can then select a size for the area that you wish to map. Figureground Posters creates circular maps so just choose the radius size that you wish to map (up to 2000 meters). When you are happy with your chosen location and radius size just click 'Make Poster'. Figureground Posters will then create a simple map of your selected area using the building footprint data from OpenStreetMap.

Once you've created your map you can then add a place-name (or any other text to your map). You can also choose between showing your map as black building footprints on a white background or white building footprints on a black background. That's it. You can now download your finished map poster as either a SVG or PNG image. 

Street Patterns is another great tool for making map posters. The tool also uses data from OpenStreetMap to create small circular images consisting of just the street map of your chosen location.

Street Patterns doesn't only help you create your own map posters it also explains the whole process it uses in creating these Street Pattern maps. So while using Street Patterns to create your own map poster you also learn a little about how to use Overpass Turbo and Turf.js.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The 2021 Fall Foliage Map

Although the Fall equinox is not until 22nd September (in the northern hemisphere) the Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage Map has already appeared. The first date on the 2021 Fall Foliage Map (30th August) is in just three days time. 

Every year Smoky Mountain releases their interactive Fall Foliage Map, which plots the annual progress of when and where leaves change their colors across the United States. According to the map some northern states are already beginning to notice a change in the colors of leaves. 

The Fall Foliage Map uses historical weather records from all 48 continental states to predict the arrival of fall at the county level across the contiguous United States. The map includes a date control which allows you to view the leaf color you can expect for any date from the beginning of September through to the end of November.

The Supertunnel Simulator

A direct flight from John F Kennedy Airport in New York to Sydney Airport in Australia would involve flying for a distance of 16,013 km. Although we tend to use the expression 'as the crow flies' as an idiom for the most direct route between two points, a direct flight is hardly ever the shortest distance between two points on Earth. Because the Earth is a globe a tunnel is the shortest way to connect two different locations.

For example if we decided to tunnel through the Earth from New York to Sydney we could cut the distance (over flying) by a quarter. In fact a tunnel from New York to Sydney would be only 12,600 km long. Clearly instead of the current thousands of air routes spanning the globe we should be building supertunnels. 

The Supertunnel Simulator is an interactive globe which allows you to simulate digging a hole through the Earth, to visualize where in the world you would end up if you were to dig in a certain direction. If you enter a location into the Supertunnel Simulator it will draw a line through the globe to that location's antipode, the location which is on the exact opposite side of the Earth.However the Supertunnel Simulator also allows you to change your destination, enabling you to visualize and calculate the distance of a supertunnel to any other location on Earth. 


If you could tunnel straight through the Earth from Christchurch in New Zealand you would eventually emerge in A Coruña, Spain. If you started in Hong Kong you could conceivably burrow your way to La Quiaca in Argentina.

Because around 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by the sea there are not that many populated locations that have populated antipodes. Wikipedia has a useful list of cities with exact (or almost exact) antipodes. It also lists cities within 100 km of having another city as an antipode.

If you want to know what is on the other side of the world from your location you can use the Antipodes Map. Enter your location into the Antipodes Map to discover your exact antipode.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The CCTV World Cup

China has beaten India 6-3 in the final of the CCTV World Cup. China has six cities in the top 10 list of cities with the highest density of CCTV cameras. India only has three cities in the top ten. London is the only city outside of Asia to make the top 10.

Surfshank's Surveillance Cities examines the density of surveillance cameras in cities around the world. By calculating the number of CCTV cameras per km2 in the world's 130 most populous cities Surveillance Cities is able to make direct comparisons between different global cities. The Surfshank article includes an interesting mapped visualization which allows you to directly compare the density of CCTV cameras in any two of the 130 cities. For example the screenshot above shows a comparison of the density of cameras in Los Angeles and London.

The methodology section of Surfshank's analysis of global surveillance cameras is very elusive about where the CCTV camera data actually comes from ('we gathered multiple sources'). I'm also guessing that their maps don't actually show the real locations of CCTV cameras but are randomized in each city based on the total number of CCTV cameras estimated for the city.

If you want to know the actual locations of CCTV cameras in your neighborhood then you can refer to Surveillance Under Surveillance instead. Surveillance under Surveillance is an interactive map which reveals the location of CCTV cameras around the world. Using the map you can find out where spy cameras are located, what type of cameras they are and what area they observe.

Surveillance under Surveillance seems to have reasonable coverage throughout the world. It uses OpenStreetMap data to show the location of CCTV cameras. This means that if the data isn't very accurate in your area then you can improve the map by adding the location of CCTV cameras to OpenStreetMap.

The map uses different colored icons to show the different types of CCTV cameras. Red icons indicate cameras in public spaces, blue icons indicate cameras located in outside areas and green icons show cameras which are observing an indoor area.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Name that City

Dérive is a map based geography game which requires you to identify a series of city locations based on an unlabelled road map. The name of the game comes from Guy Debord's Theory of the Dérive. A Dérive (Eng: 'drift') is an unplanned journey through a (usually) urban environment. The term is often used interchangeably with 'psychogeography' and often involves randomly exploring a city while assessing how the environment makes you feel (these feelings may be aroused as much by the history of a location and by your own personal memories as by the actual built environment).

In the game you are shown an unlabelled roadmap of a random city. All you have to do is name the city. This can be a little hard, so you are provided with a number of clues. For each city you can discover if it is in the northern or southern hemisphere, whether it is an eastern or western city, which continent it is in and even which country it is in.

There are no points awarded in Dérive. The only thing you can win is the sense of achievement from guessing the city correctly or the disappointment of getting it wrong

If you enjoyed playing Dérive then you might also want to test your geographical knowledge by playing Click that 'hood!

Click that 'hood! is a geography game which tests your knowledge of city neighborhoods. To play Click that 'hood! you first need to select a city or town from the long list of locations available. You are then shown an interactive map of your chosen city. Your task is to correctly identify the location of twenty neighborhoods as quickly as possible by pointing them out on the map.

City-Guesser is another fun map quiz which tests your knowledge of world cities. In City-Guesser you are shown the maps of major cities around the world. All you have to do is name which city is being shown in each map. To ensure that the game isn't ridiculously easy all the place-name labels have been removed from each city map.

If you guess correctly you proceed to the next round. Guess wrong and it is game over. You get points for each correct answer. The game keeps a record of the maximum level you reach (the number of correct answers in one game) and your highest score. Your aim therefore is to beat your own high score and your highest level reached. Or you can try and beat me. So far I've reached level 7

You might also like these other map based games:

Quizzity - point to the named locations on a map of the world.
Map Quiz - a compendium of a number of different map games in one package.

Make Your Own Coloring Maps

The Coloring Book Generator is a clever application which can turn any of the thousands of maps in the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library into a bitonal image, which is perfect for printing and coloring in.

If you go to the Leventhal Map & Education Center's Digital Collections you can search for maps in the library's huge collection of vintage and historical maps. When you find a map which you like you can then just  copy & paste the URL of its Digital Collections webpage into the Coloring Book Generator. It will then turn your map into a bitonal image.

For example you can try copying & pasting this URL - 


to create a coloring map from a 1796 Plan of Boston by John West (pictured above).

The Mapbox Coloring Book

If you or your children are looking for more fun maps to color then you can also print off the Mapbox Coloring Book. The Mapbox Coloring Book (PDF) is a printable collection of blank maps from around the world. The book includes maps from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and North & South America. All you need for this fun task is a printer and some colored pens, pencils or crayons.

If you manage to complete all the maps in the book then the Mapbox Blog has instructions on how you can create your own coloring maps (you just need to create a free Mapbox account if you don't already have one).

If you want some more maps to color in then the UK's Ordnance Survey has created 14 coloring maps of various UK locations - Coloring Maps.  

The New York Public Library has also created its own coloring book. The NYPL's Color Our Collection book includes a number of black & white images from its Digital Collections, which are perfect for coloring-in. The #ColorOurCollections (PDF) even includes a map (District Map Section No. 13) from 1913. The other black & white images which you can color in include animals, Egyptian hieroglyphics and flowers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Age of Humans

Living in the Age of Humans is a series of Story Maps from Esri which explores the impacts of the human race on planet Earth. Human Beings have inhabited the Earth for only 10 million of the planet's 4.5 billion years. In just the last two centuries, since the beginning of the industrial age, the human race has managed to alter the Earth's ecosystem and devastate the planet's climate.

You can view how and where the human race has had an impact on planet Earth on the first story map in Living in the Age of Humans. In the Human Reach Esri explores the inexorable growth of the human population and asks the question "at what point does the human demand on Earth outpace the planet’s ability to support our species?" 

In 1950 there were 2.56 billion people on Earth. In 2021 there were more than 7 billion people.The Human Reach Story Map investigates and visualizes where all these people live on Earth. It explores the historic changes in population density arising from urbanization. Maps show how the world's population is unevenly distributed around the globe, and how future climate change is likely to impact further on this distribution. 

An Earth at Night map helps to show how urban centers burn bright at night and a Networks section uses a series of maps to show how all these urban centers are connected by networks of roads, air routes, shipping routes and telecommunication cables.

Where Does Your Name Come From?

The impressionist painter Claud Monet was born in Paris, France.The fact that Monet was born in Paris isn't that surprising. A map showing the distribution of people in France with the surname 'Monet' reveals that Paris has the second highest number of Monets of all French departments. The Nord has the most. 

If you are French, or have a French surname, you can explore the distribution of your family name using the Geneamap interactive map. Enter your name into Geneamap and it will show you a heat-map visualizing the distribution of your surname across France. The Geneamap may be of particular use to anyone who is interested in researching their family tree, as it can help to reveal in which area of France a surname may have originally emanated from.

If you want to research the geographical distribution of surnames in other countries then you can use:

You can also explore the global distribution of your family name using Forebears. You can use Forebears to undertake a global search for your surname. If you enter a surname into Forebears it will tell you the meaning of your name and show you a map of the global distribution of your name. Beneath this generated map you can view a list showing the number of incidences of your surname recorded in each country around the world.

Monday, August 23, 2021

50 Years of Landsat

Landsat 9 is scheduled to launch next month. The very first Landsat satellite was launched on 23 July 1972. Since that time Landsat satellites have captured millions of images of the Earth. These images provide an invaluable resource for Earth sciences, helping scientists in disciplines as diverse as agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education.

To celebrate the launch of Landsat 9 and to mark a half century of Earth observation NASA has launched a scrollytelling presentation called Landsat 9 - Continuing 50 Years of Eyes on our Changing Planet. The presentation explores some of the many uses of Landsat satellite imagery. These uses include tracking urban sprawl, studying environmental change and tracking changes in agriculture. The article includes many examples of the images captured by Landsat satellites and how they are being used to track deforestation, glacial retreat and shrinking ice-caps. 

Towards the end of the presentation there is an interesting overview of some of the scientific equipment which will be part of Landsat 9. These include an Operational Land Imager (used to capture imagery and near infrared and shortwave infrared), a Thermal Infrared Sensor (used to monitor the amount of heat emitted by the Earth) and data storage equipment. 

You can explore Landsat historical satellite imagery for yourself using Landsat Lens and Google's Timelapse, both of which allow you to search historical satellite imagery by location and by date. The Earth Observing System's Land Viewer application also allows you to browse and download historical satellite imagery from the Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 satellites.

How Covid-19 Conquered the World

Olivia Jack at the Department of Biology, Humboldt University of Berlin has created an interactive animated map which shows the spread of the coronavirus across the world. The COVID-19 Geographical Animation uses data from Johns Hopkins University to visualize the rise of the epidemic and the continuing waves of cases around the globe.

Animated maps showing the spread of an epidemic over time can help us to learn more about how a virus is transmitted and how it spreads. NBC Covid-19 map also maps the spread of the virus over time, showing how Covid-19 quickly spread from Wuhan to the rest of China, through Asia and out to the rest of the world.

Both these animated maps use Johns Hopkins University's Covid-19 Time Series data, which record daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world. If you want to create your own animated map showing the spread of the coronavirus it might be interesting to add context to the spread of the virus. For example it might be interesting to add information to identify and indicate the first cases reported in different locations and to identify significant clusters (for example the Seattle nursing home which saw the first significant fatalities in the USA).

Hat-tip: weeklyOSM 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Animated Street View Tours

Team Maps is a new easy to use application for creating animated maps of a route. These animated maps could be of a walking route, a drive or a guided tour. The route can include multiple placemarks or points of interest which can visited on the tour. Once you've created your route the playback options allow you to see the route being animated on a Google Map. This animation can include synchronized Street View panoramas (which show a first person view of your created route) or even a synchronized video of the route.

You can get a better idea of what you can create with Team Maps by having a look at the Featured Team Maps. At the moment this section includes n animated tour around Manhattan in New York. If you open this tour and then click on the 'New York Tour' link you can view the tour being animated on the map. As the animated tour of Manhattan progresses on the map the Street View window also moves along, showing you the related panoramic view of New York. 

If you want to create your own animated tour or route then the Team Maps Tutorial would be a good place to start. To create your tour you only need a starting point and a destination. Team Maps will then work out the route for you. If you want you can add waypoints or landmarks to include on the tour. If you don't want Team Maps to automatically work out your optimal route you can use a GPX file, a KML file or a spreadsheet to enter a predefined route instead. 

If you own a GoPro or a dash-cam then Team Maps makes it very easy to create synchronized video maps.Team Maps comes with a number of tutorials. One of these shows you how to create an animated synchronized video map using a YouTube video and a GPX route.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Who Owns the North Sea?

Over the last three years Who Owns England has been diligently trying to map who owns what land in England (and also to a lesser extent in Scotland and Wales). Another really important question, especially considering the current climate crisis, is 'Who owns the sea?'.

Who Owns the North Sea is an interactive map and database documenting the owners of oil and gas licenses in the North Sea. The oil reserves in the North Sea ensure that the UK is the second largest oil and gas producer in Europe. The UK government sells licenses to these fossil fuel assets to the private sector. These licenses grant companies the exclusive rights to extract oil and gas in a defined area.

If you click on any of the red markers on the Who Owns the North Sea interactive map you can view details on all the equity holders of that license. You can also see who is the ultimate parent company. If you click on a parent company's name in the map sidebar then all the licenses owned by that company in the North Sea will be shown in black.

In recent years the major oil and gas companies (such as Exxon Mobil, BP, and Shell) have been divesting their holdings in the North Sea. Private equity-backed and state-owned companies have begun to move in and control more and more fossil-fuel licenses in the North Sea. 

As we hopefully begin to move to a more carbon free future the ability to control and regulate the license holders in the North Sea will become increasingly important. While the big oil and gas companies have appalling records in terms of protecting the environment and halting climate change the new private equity and state-owned companies may prove even worse. Many environmentalists are worried that these private-equity companies and companies controlled by undemocratic countries may prove even harder to hold accountable and regulate.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Driving Directions for Birds

If you are planning a long car journey then it is important that you take frequent breaks. The UK's Highway Code recommends taking a break of at least 15 minutes every two hours when driving. Probably the most relaxing way to break a long car journey is by doing a little bird-spotting. Which is where BirdTrippin comes in.

BirdTrippin is a route planning map which can not only show you how to get from A to B it can also recommend bird spotting opportunities along your route. Enter a starting point and a destination into BirdTrippin and it will add recent bird sightings which are near your route. You can then click on any of the bird markers shown on the map and BirdTrippin will automatically update your route to take in your chosen bird spotting opportunities.

The birds populating the BirdTrippin map appear to be retrieved using the eBird API. The eBird API allows developers to retrieve a list of recent interesting bird sightings (up to 30 days ago) of birds seen in a country, state, county, or location. This suggests that the birds shown on the map are ones that have been spotted in the last few weeks. Which means that you presumably won't be directed to view a migratory bird when it is out of season. eBird collects bird sightings from around the world - so BirdTrippin should work in most countries.

The Map of Female Composers

How many female composers can you name? I'm guessing that you can't name many. 

For example, have you heard of Clara Josephine Schumann? Clara Schumann was one of the most distinguished pianists of the 19th century. She was also a prolific composer. If you haven't heard of Clara then you might have heard of her husband Robert Schumann. 

If you haven't heard of Clara then you probably also haven't heard of Maria Anna Mozart. As a child in the 18th Century Maria toured Europe playing the harpsichord. Maria usually had top-billing, but was often accompanied by her younger brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Unfortunately Maria's parents forced her to stop playing when she was 15 and these days her memory is largely eclipsed by that of her brother.

Spanish music teacher Sakira Ventura can help you discover many more accomplished female composers. Her Creators of the History of Music interactive map features more than 500 female composers from around the world. If you click on the picture of a composer on the map you can read a short biography and click through to their Wikipedia page and to examples of their music (where available). The map also features a Spotify playlist compiled by Sakira which features music from many of the composers featured on the interactive map.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Great Balls of Fire

NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has published an interactive map which shows the impact energy of all the meteors detected by government sensors between 1988 and 2021. Each fireball event is shown on the map by its marker's size and color.

The Fireballs Reported by US Government Sensors map allows you to explore the impact energy and the date & time of each recorded fireball event. The large fireballs shown on the map were detected by government sensors such as the lightning sensors on GOES weather satellites. When a meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere some of its kinetic energy is converted into radiated energy. This optical flash is what we can see from Earth. This flash is also able to be detected by the lightning sensors on weather satellites. The size of the optical flash also allows us to calculate the fireball's kinetic energy and the original size of the object before it entered our atmosphere. 

The big red dot over Russia on the map is an asteroid spotted over Chelyabinsk in February 2013. This asteroid was calculated to have originally been 20 meters across. The map only shows the largest fireball events, involving asteroids measuring at least one meter across. As well as publishing this interactive map CNEOS has also published the data on these fireball events, including the date and time of each event, the radiated energy, the calculated total impact energy and the latitude and longitude of each fireball event. If you want you can download this data in CSV format and make your own fireball map.

NASA’s also maintains a network of all-sky meteor cameras. The NASA All-sky Fireball Network consists of 17 cameras in the United States.You can view the locations of fireballs recorded by the All-sky Fireball Network on the NASA Skyfall Database

The blues arrows on the NASA Skyfall Database map show the 'Chicken Little Trajectory' of each spotted fireball over the United States. If you click on one of these blue arrows you can learn more about the indicated  fireball event, including information on the fireball's trajectory & speed, the number of eye witnesses, and the date and time of the event.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What Two Numbers

Yesterday Mapbox announced that they were integrating the controversial global addressing system What3Words with their Mapbox Dash navigation system.This immediately led to a lot of people on Twitter to question why Mapbox don't just use the latitude and longitude geographic coordinate system. You know the coordinate system which Mapbox uses in its own mapping APIs. 

The latitude and longitude system has the benefit of using two numbers instead of three words. It also has the advantage of being able to provide geographic accuracy to the molecular level - as explained in this xkcd strip. It is also completely free to use and universally accepted and understood.

Yesterday, completely incidentally, Vladimir Agafonkin released an Observable notebook which visualizes the accuracy of the latitude and longitude geographic coordinate system when using increasing numbers of decimal places. His Latitude and Longitude Precision visualization overlays a red square on top of a map to show the area of the world that a latitude and longitude number points to.

Using two numbers to 4 decimal places you get an address with roughly the same accuracy as what3words. However if you add more numbers to your latitude and longitude address you can get even greater accuracy. Use two numbers to 6 decimal places and you can point to any location on Earth that is about ten centimeters square in size. What's more if you cut and paste a latitude and longitude into the search box of any interactive map it will instantly show you the location with that latitude and longitude address.

The Manga Map

Steve Attewell's Manga Map is a Mapbox powered interactive 3D map which has a cartoon like cel-shaded effect.

Cel shading gives an image a flatter look by using limited shading colors and by not using a shade gradient or tints and shades. A cel shading effect is often used to mimic a comic style and to create a paper-like texture. From what I understand Steve's map creates a cel-shading effect not through Mapbox Studio styling but by applying an SVG filter to the map DIV container and by using a background image to create a halftone print effect. The cel-shading technique used is adapted from this impressive cel-shaded filter on video demo

Steve has been having a lot of fun over the last couple of years applying visual effects to interactive maps. You may remember Steve Attewell from such maps as the Camera Lens Effect, the 3D Stereoscopic Anaglyph and Crossview Map, the Stippler Art Effect and the Terrain Elevation Viewer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Mapping the Unknown

There are many ways that cartographers can cover up or hide their lack of geographical knowledge. Traditionally cartographers have just hidden their ignorance by making shit up. Lots of pre-modern maps include references to imaginary locations. For example Hanns Rüst's Mappa Mundi (c1480) includes a mountain labelled, "Caspian Mountains gog and magog", which purports to show the location of the descendants of Noah's son Japheth. Gerard Mercator's map of the Arctic Septentrionalium Terrarum shows a huge magnetic black rock at the North Pole. Matthew Paris' medieval Map of Britain includes a label showing 'the city of Merlin'.

To be fair even the earliest cartographers didn't really just make things up. They did what modern cartographers do and mapped the world based on their contemporary understanding of the world. In Europe the geographical knowledge of medieval cartographers was often based on the Bible, prevailing myths and classical scholars such as Ptolomy, Herodotus and Pliny the Elder. It is perhaps not surprising then that their maps of the world sometimes included a few inaccuracies.

The tradition of drawing mythical creatures on maps or using warning labels such as 'Here be dragons' or 'Here be lions' may in part have been an attempt to show the potential dangers of territories which were unknown or unexplored. To be even more clear that an area has yet to be mapped cartographers have also often used explicit labels such as 'terra incognita' (unknown land) and 'mare incognitum' (unknown sea).

This week, thanks to the Public Domain Review, I discovered another way of mapping the unknown. In Clouds of Unknowing: Edward Quin’s Historical Atlas (1830) the Public Domain Review explores the use of clouds by Edward Quin in his Historical Atlas. In Quin's maps rolling clouds are used to hide parts of the world which were yet to be mapped at different periods of European history. 

You can explore Quin's maps in detail on the David Rumsey Map Collection website. Anyone who has ever played a video game has probably seen examples of a 'fog of war' being used on a game map to hide areas of a game world which have yet to explored. Edward Quin uses clouds in a very similar way. His 'clouds of history' map the extent of the known world during different historical periods by hiding the rest of the world behind broiling black clouds. 

Quin was an English historian of the early 19th Century and his history of the world is therefore written from the point of view of a European Christian. His earliest map is from 3999 BC and shows the Garden of Eden (which he located somewhere south of Mount Ararat). Outside of the Garden of Eden, the rest of the world is hidden by cloud. 

As you read on and progress through Quin's history of the world his maps show larger and larger areas of the Middle East and then Europe (as the descendants of Adam & Eve begin to spread out into the rest of the world after the Fall of Man). For example the map above shows the known world during the 'Roman Empire In the Augustan Age' (around 1 AD).

The Globalization of the Premier League

The image above compares the birthplaces of all the Arsenal football players of the 1980's with the birthplaces of all the Arsenal players of the 2010's. It is very noticeable that in the 1980's the majority of Arsenal players were born in the UK or Ireland. The only Arsenal players born outside the UK or Ireland in the whole of the 1980's were Vladimir Petrović (Serbia) and Sigurður Jónsson (Iceland). In the 2010's more Arsenal players were born outside the UK than were born in the UK.

All other English Premier League clubs show a similar pattern. In the 1980's the majority of players in the then English First Division were born in the UK. In fact many players were born very close to the clubs that they played for.

Probably the biggest factor in making the EPL more cosmopolitan was the rebranding of the First Division into the English Premier League and the subsequent influx of television money which resulted from that rebrand. 

I've made three visualizations comparing the birthplaces of EPL players in the 1980's with those of the 2010's, for Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. You can easily make your own maps using Wikidata. 

Here is the Wikidata Query for mapping the birthplaces of Manchester United players. You can use this query for mapping the birthplaces of any sports club. You just need to edit the query to point to the team of your choice. You can do this by editing the Wikidata ID number for the team in line five of the query -

BIND ( wd:Q18656 AS ?team )

Where 'Q18656' is the Wikidata ID number for Manchester United.

For example here is a map showing the birthplaces of all Miami Dolphins players.


Hat-tip: Chris Groves

Monday, August 16, 2021

Mapping the Advance of the Taliban

The Taliban has taken control of the presidential palace in Kabul and the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has left the country. Despite President Biden's claims that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not inevitable it has taken the insurgents only a matter of weeks to take control of the country after this summer's withdrawal of American troops.

The New York Times has used a small multiples map visualization to show how the Taliban has quickly taken control of Afghanistan since May 3rd. The chronological mapping in 20 Years of Defense, Erased by the Taliban in a Few Months (which I have truncated in the above screenshot to show only the first and last three maps of the series) reveal how, as U.S. forces began withdrawing from the country at the beginning of May, Taliban forces have been able to swiftly gain control of rural districts and takeover provincial capitals. 

Showing the advance of the Taliban over time in this way is a very effective visualization of how quickly government forces in Afghanistan have lost control of the country. After 20 years of an American military presence in the country Afghanistan will now return to the cruelest excesses of sharia law. During the 1996 to 2001 Taliban government women were banned from schools and from working. Punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were used against those who were found guilty of breaking religious laws. There are already reports that women in the provinces now being run by the Taliban have been stopped form attending schools and universities and can not leave their homes unless they are escorted by a man.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The New Racial Dot Map of America

On Thursday the Census Bureau released the first detailed data from the 2020 U.S. census. In 2020 Census Statistics - Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity the Census Bureau has published data from last year's census on population changes and on the racial and ethnic demographics of the United States.

CNN has used the newly released 2020 census data to create a racial dot of America. The interactive map in Race and ethnicity across the nation uses colored dots to visualize the population density and racial mix of every neighborhood in the country. Each colored dot on CNN's map represents 150 people from a particular race or ethnic group. The data is mapped to the census tract level and the locations of the dots are randomized within each tract.

If you want to compare how the racial diversity of your neighborhood or city has changed since the 2010 census then you can compare CNN's dot map with the University of Virginia's Racial Dot Map, which was created after the 2010 census. One change that you might be able to spot is the growth in the Hispanic population. Nearly every county in America has seen a growth in the Hispanic population in the last ten years. If you are interested in viewing where America's different racial and ethnic groups saw the biggest rise and fall in populations then you might like the maps in the Washington Posts' Mapping America's Racial Population Shifts Over the Last Decade. The Post's article includes maps for each of the major racial and ethnic groups showing where their populations have grown or fallen since the 2010 census.

Friday, August 13, 2021

America's Growing Racial Diversity

The Census Bureau has released the first detailed data from the 2020 U.S. census. The data in 2020 Census Statistics - Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity reveals which areas of the United States have seen a rise or fall in population since 2010 and how the racial diversity of local populations has changed in the last ten years.

Population Change

Overall the United States population grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020. However despite that growth 52% of all counties in the whole country experienced a population decrease since the 2010 Census. Rural counties experienced the largest population decreases while metro areas mostly experienced population growth. Overall metro areas grew by 9% from 2010 to 2020. Metro areas in the south and west of the country saw some of the largest growth. The Villages, FL, which grew from 93,000 people to 130,000 people, was the fastest growing metro area in the country. 

You can explore which counties experienced population growth and which counties shrank in population on the Census Bureau's 2020 Population and Housing State Data interactive map. If you select a county on this map you can compare its 2010 and 2020 populations and view the percentage change in the local population over those ten years. 

Growing Diversity

In the 2020 census the White population remained the largest race or ethnicity group. However the United States is becoming more racially diverse. The White alone population, while still the largest group, has decreased in size by by 8.6% since 2010. The Two or More Races population (also referred to as the Multiracial population) grew by 276% since 2010. The Hispanic or Latino population grew by 23% overall. This compares to a growth of 4.3% for the non-Hispanic or Latino population.

The Washington Post in Mapping America's Racial Population Shifts Over the Last Decade has mapped out where different racial groups have grown the most in the last ten years. This map uses different colored population spikes to show the relative growth of different ethnicity groups across the United States.

The Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing racial/ethnicity groups. Nearly every county in America saw a growth in the Hispanic population in the last ten years. However half of the U.S. Hispanic population still live in the four states bordering Mexico (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas).

The Asian and Pacific Islander population actually saw the fastest growth rate of all racial/ethnicity groups, although from a much smaller 2010 population. Counties along the West and Northeast coasts saw the largest rises in the Asian and Pacific Islander population.

The Black population remained relatively the same as a percentage of the total U.S. population. In the last three decades the Black population has been around 12 percent of the total U.S. population. However Black Americans did show the biggest shift from rural to suburban and urban areas. Rural counties overall saw a 6% drop in the Black population, while urban and suburban counties outside of the biggest metro areas saw an 11% increase in the Black population.

The 2020 census saw the first ever population decrease in the number of people who self-define as non-Hispanic White. The population decreased by 5.1 million. White Americans decreased in over three-quarters of counties. The Northeast and the Midwest saw some of the largest decreases. Around 4 in 10 people identified as non-White in the 2020 census. This number is expected to grow by the time of the 2030 census.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Mapping Wildfire Evacuation Risk

2021 is set to become yet another record breaking year for the number and intensity of wildfires in the United States. As this week's worrying IPCC report on climate change shows the threat from wildfires is likely to increase even further in the very near future. In order to help residents in Oregon and Washington the US Forest Service has released a new interactive map which provides wildfire evacuation vulnerability rankings for 696 rural communities in the two states.

The Wildfire Evacuation Risk for Pacific Northwest Communities interactive map ranks rural villages and towns based on how easy they are to evacuate to escape advancing wildfires. Communities on the map are colored based on the level of wildfire evacuation risk, with the darkest colored communities having the highest risk. If you click on a rural community's marker on the map you can discover its overall wildfire evacuation risk ranking and also 6 individual rankings for the road network vulnerability and the community's vulnerability to wildfire.

All the rankings used on the map are based on how well the town's surrounding road network provides the potential to quickly & safely evacuate, and an assessment of the fire hazard from the surrounding environment. The road network is ranked based on factors such as the the number of paved roads and the variety of road directions providing egress. The fire hazard is ranked based on burn probability and the mean fire-line intensity.

The Geography of Facebook Friends

The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung has been busy mapping out where people's Facebook's friends live. The interactive maps in How friendships on Facebook are redrawing the Swiss borders allow you to see the geographical connections made on Facebook in each of Switzerland's 26 cantons. 

Enter the name of a canton into NZZ's map and you can view a choropleth visualization of where people in that canton have the most Facebook friends. For example the people in Zurich mostly have friends in the neighboring cantons, but also a lot of Zurich residents have Facebook friends in Portugal and southern Italy.

Where people have connections on Facebook is often related to where they grew up. They often have lots of connections to family members and childhood friends. Therefore NZZ's map can be read partly as an analogue of a migration map. The third biggest immigrant community in Switzerland is Portuguese. Therefore Portugal appears on a lot of the individual canton maps of Facebook friends.A lot of Swiss immigrants also come from the neighboring countries of Germany and Italy, so these two countries also feature on many of the individual canton maps. Internal migration in Switzerland is made most often to neighboring or nearby cantons. Therefore most of the canton maps show that the most Facebook connections are to neighboring cantons.


Three years ago the New York Times made a very similar interactive map, showing where people in the USA have connections on Facebook. The How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America? interactive map visualizes the connections people have on Facebook and comes to the conclusion that we are much more likely to know people who live near us than those who live a long way away.

Hover over a county on the NYT map and you can immediately see a choropleth view showing the likelihood of people in other US counties being connected on Facebook to any of the selected county's residents. The speed of the map is impressive. If you move your mouse around the map you can instantly see how this close zone of friendship on Facebook plays out across the whole of the United States.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The San Francisco Covid Burglary Map

Here/Say Media has been inspired by claims that burglary is on the rise in San Francisco to map out the change in the number of burglaries in San Francisco since the start of the Covid epidemic. Here / Say's Interactive Map of SF COVID Burglaries shows which census tracts have seen a rise in burglaries and which tracts have seen a fall (comparing the period March 16 2020 to June 1 2021 with Jan 1 2019 to March 15 2020).

The map reveals that the experience has been very different in different San Francisco neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods, such as Sunset, Richmond & Marina, have seen large increases in the number of burglaries. Conversely other neighborhoods, particularly in the south east of the city, have seen a decrease in the number of burglaries during the Covid epidemic. 

Here / Say's accompanying article San Francisco’s Uneven Burglary Spikes by Neighborhood points out that overall crime is down in San Francisco. In particular car break-ins have fallen, possibly as a result of the fall in tourists. Burglaries have however increased by 56% overall in San Francisco. This may be one reason why many San Franciscans have the mistaken impression that crime has increased in the city.

Urban Sprawl in America

This century urban sprawl has already contributed to the equivalent of 5 new Delawares in the United States. The Washington Post has analyzed data from the U.S. Geological Survey to discover where fracking, retirement communities and new industrial development has led to urban scrawl in many American cities.

An interactive map in Where America’s developed areas are growing uses two different colors to show which areas of American towns and cities have been developed since 2001 and which areas were developed before that date. The map allows you to easily discover which areas of a city are newly developed land since 2001. If you enter your zip-code into the Post's interactive map you can see all the newly developed areas of your neighborhood and city highlighted in purple on the map.

19 of the top 25 fastest developing counties by percentage are in Texas. This development is being driven by the housing market and the demand for cheaper housing. Because cities on the coast have become more and more expensive industries and people have been drawn to the relatively cheaper South and West. The fracking boom has also led to rapid development in some areas, such as North Dakota and West Texas. Elsewhere an aging population has seen urban sprawl in retirement communities such as those in the state of Florida.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The IPCC Climate Apocalypse Maps

map showing global mean temperature change since 1850 

Yesterday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its landmark report into climate change. The warnings in the report couldn't be more stark. Climate scientists say that we are about to witness increasingly extreme heatwaves, large scale flooding events and more severe droughts. According to the report we are likely to pass the catastrophic milestone of 1.5 degrees centigrade in global heating in a little over thirteen years from now. Then things are likely to get a lot worse a lot more quickly.

You can view visualizations of the IPCC's devastating climate projections on a new interactive map. The IPCC WGI Interactive Atlas provides a number of projections of how the climate will change in our near future. Using the map you can view a number of climate, oceanic and socio-economic variables and visualize how these variables will change over the rest of this century under four different climate change scenarios. 

According to the report humanity is at a dangerous tipping point but the IPCC believe that the climate can still be saved - if we are prepared to take immediate and dramatic action. We need to cut global emissions in half by 2030. We then need to reach net zero by the middle of this century. If we do this then we may stop and even possible reverse global heating. 

In response to the report a few global leaders expressed concern, a few leaders said that somebody should do something about it and then every single one of them carried on as normal, burning the planet to the ground.