Thursday, December 07, 2023

Is Light Pollution Getting Better?

David J. Lorenz's Light Pollution Atlas 2006, 2016, 2020 includes global light pollution layers for three different years. It also includes a layer which shows where light pollution around the world has become better or worse during 2014-2020.

This 2014-2020 light pollution trend layer shows that light pollution in most of the UK and France and in the eastern U.S. significantly reduced from 2014-2020. This surprised me a little. I live in the UK and anecdotally I haven't noticed street lights being turned off at night or any huge reduction in home lighting. I also don't believe that I can see any more stars at night from my London home, despite the map telling me that the light pollution has been reduced in southern England. 

Intrigued as to why France, the UK and some areas of the U.S. are showing reduced levels of light pollution I asked ChatGPT 'Why has light pollution got better in the France, UK and eastern U.S.?' ChatGPT claims that the main reason for the fall in light pollution is:
Adoption of LED lighting: Many cities and municipalities have been replacing traditional lighting fixtures with energy-efficient LED lights. LED lights can be directed more effectively, resulting in reduced light spillage and wastage. They also typically emit a ‘cooler’ light that is less likely to scatter in the atmosphere, further reducing light pollution.

However most of the respondents on this British Astronomical Association hosted discussion on the Light Pollution Trends map layer seem to believe that light pollution has actually become worse not better in the period measured by the map. Intriguingly a few of the posts on the tread claim that these trends may be more to do with how light pollution is measured than to any real decrease in the actual levels of pollution. 

The light pollution assessments used by the map rely on satellite measurements. In other words they measure light levels from a vantage point looking down on the Earth. Unfortunately amateur astronomers experience light pollution looking in the opposite direction, from the ground up. According to the replies on the BAA chat board it is true that LED lights scatter more in the atmosphere than conventional lights. However this only makes the light less visible for satellites. If anything it actually increases the levels of light pollution for star gazers staring into space from the ground. 

There is one other factor that may have contributed to the measured drop in light pollution in 2014-2020. In the first few months of 2020 countries around the world started imposing Covid lock-downs. A national star count carried out in February 2021 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) revealed a significant drop in light pollution levels across the United Kingdom over the previous year. The CPRE states that the Covid lockdown was the most likely reason for the reduction of light pollution measured in Feb 2021.

It is possible that the reduced industrial and human activity from lock-downs in 2020 did lead to a real fall in light pollution and those results appear in the 2014-2020 light pollution trend map. However if this was true I would expect the map to show light pollution going down around the world rather than in the few pockets that it actually reveals. I guess we will have to wait for a few post-lockdown light pollution measurements to see if the light pollution reductions in France, the UK and the eastern U.S. were just a temporary trend.

The Light Pollution Map is another interactive map which uses satellite measurements to show how people around the world suffer from light pollution. If you want to know what the night sky would like from your home without all this night pollution then you should check out Clear Night Sky.

Clear Night Sky does a very good job at visualizing what urban citizens around the world are missing because of light pollution. In Clear Night Sky the star mapping website Under Lucky Stars has taken 27 night-time photos of cities around the world and 'reimagined' them to show you how they would look if they were free from light pollution. 

On each of these 27 city views you can drag a slider to compare how each city's skyline looks at night (with the effects of light pollution) with how each city would look without the pollution blocking your view of the stars. I think you will agree that all these cities look so much more beautiful when you can actually see the stars shining above them. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

The Origin of Country Names

Did you know that Australia got its name from the Latin australis' meaning 'southern', or that Spain derives its name from a small rodent ('España' coming from 'I-Shpania', meaning "island of hyraxes")?

Thanks to a new interactive map from Le Monde you can now discover the origin of every country's name in the world. If you hover over a country on the map in the article Discover the origin of all the country names you can find out the etymology of that country's name (the article is in French so the etymology is of the French word for each country).

Le Monde is also awarded bonus points for using a Buckminster-Fuller (Dymaxion) projection for its interactive map.

Le Monde's article includes an analysis of the different types of classifications Le Monde has discovered in country names. It has found that country names can be divided into four main categories: country names that derive from a geographical feature (a lake, river etc), those named after a group of people, those named after an individual person (a discoverer, sovereign etc), and countries that are named for their geographical location (east, west, south, north etc)

America falls into the 'individual person' category having derived its name from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Russia is an example of a country that derived its name from a group of people (the Rus). Nigeria is an example of a country named for a geographical feature (the Niger river). China belongs to the smallest category (countries named for their geographical location). The name China means central land ("Zhongguo" (中国) literally translates to 'Middle Kingdom' or 'Central State).

Via: Data Vis Dispatch

Of course Le Monde's etymology of country names mainly uses the French names for each country. If you want an English version then you might like my own Planet Dirt interactive map. 

A few years ago I used Wikipedia's List of Country-Name Etymologies to create this literal atlas of the world (if you have any problems with the translated names on the map you should therefore complain to Wikipedia not me). I do have to admit that the translation of the word 'Earth' to 'Planet Dirt' is all mine. 

Like Le Monde, when I made my map I discovered four main categories or types of country name. The categories I detected however were slightly different in nature. I also spotted that many countries were named for geographical features and for groups of people. However I also decided that there were many countries which had names derived from religion and other countries that took their names from animals.

My four categories were:

Natural Features

Many countries around the world take their name from geographical or topographical features. These include Bahrain (Two Seas), Montserrat (Serrated Mountain), Chad (Lake), Croatia (Mountain People), Netherlands (Lowlands), Iceland (Land of Ice), Haiti (Mountainous Land) and Montenegro (Black Mountain).


We all like to believe that we are God's chosen people. For many countries this goes as far as believing you live in God's chosen country. Among the countries which have some kind of religious related name are Madagascar (Holy Land), Morocco (Land of God), Sri Lanka (Holy Island) Azerbaijan (Protected by Holy Fire), Djibouti (Land of the Moon God) and Uganda (Brothers & Sisters of God).


Around the world many countries are named after the people who live there (or who once lived there). In Europe we have England (Land of the Angles), France (Land of the Franks), Belgium (Land of the Belgae) and Switzerland (Land of the Swiss). In Africa we have Mauritania (Land of the Moors), Libya (Land of the Libu) and Senegal (Land of the Zenega). Elsewhere we have India (Land of Indus) and Russia (Land of the Rus).


Animals are also a common source for country names. Of these we have Spain (Island of Rabbits), Nepal (Those Who Domesticate Cattle), Somalia (Cattle Herders), Cameroon (Shrimp), Guadeloupe (Valley of the Wolf), Sierra Leone (Lion Mountain) and Mali (hippopotamus)

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Historical Sanborn Maps of America

From 1866 to 1977 the Sanborn Map Company produced very accurate individual building level maps of U.S. cities and towns. The Sanborn maps provided detailed information about individual city buildings in order to enable fire insurance companies to accurately calculate fire risk. In the 1960s Fire Insurance companies stopped using maps to underwrite fire risk meaning that there was no need to create new Sanborn maps after this time. However the back-catalog of over one hundred years of detailed urban Sanborn maps still provide an invaluable resource for documenting  historical change in the built environment of American towns and cities.

Adam Cox's is a crowd-sourced project to geo-reference and digitize historical Sanborn insurance maps. It is also a great resource for anyone who is interested in exploring the history of American cities through detailed vintage maps. Using registered users can help to digitize the vast collection of vintage insurance maps owned by the Library of Congress. These digitized historical Sanborn maps of cities across the United States can then be explored by anyone on the site's map viewer.

The map viewer allows you to find and view Sanborn maps which have been geo-referenced and made into interactive maps. Select a city on the map viewer and you can view and explore that city's vintage Sanborn insurance maps using an interactive map interface. The historical Sanborn maps are overlaid on top of the modern map of the city, so it is possible to directly compare the historical maps with the modern city layout.

In some cities (for example New Orleans and Alexandria) Sanborn maps from different years are available. It is possible to use the map layer control to select the maps for different years and to use the opacity control to adjust the transparency of the selected vintage maps.


All the historical insurance maps digitized by are sourced from the Library of Congress. The Sanborn maps collection consists of over 50,000 historical atlases. Around 35,000 of them are currently available online.You can explore the LOC's digitized Sanborn maps for yourself on the Library of Congress' Sanborn Maps Collection. Using the Library of Congress Collection you can view each of the digitized Sanborn maps as an interactive online map.

You can also explore the LOC Sanborn Maps Collection using the Sanborn Maps Navigator. This map interface allows you to find and explore Sanborn maps geographically by selecting a location on a map of the United States. Select a location on the Sanborn Maps Navigator map and you can view the Sanborn atlases available for that area. The Sanborn Maps Navigator will also show you a random newspaper image from the selected area taken from the newspaper database of Chronicling America.

Once you have found and selected an individual vintage fire insurance map from the Sanborn Maps Navigator the individual map will open on the Library of Congress' website. This will allow you to explore the map in close detail using the LOC's interactive map viewer.

In the United Kingdom and Canada some fire insurance maps were created by the Charles Goad Ltd company. Unfortunately I don't think there is an extant digital interface to view the Goad maps. The British Library's Fire Insurance Maps and Plans does provide links to static Goad maps (it once used Flash to provide an interactive interface - which now no longer works). Unfortunately the British Library collection of Goad maps is difficult to search for individual maps and you can only view the maps as static images.

If you want to view the Goad maps of Scottish towns then you'll have more luck. The National Library of Scotland has geo-referenced Charles Goad Fire Insurance Plans of Scottish Towns, 1880s-1940s. This means that you can search for vintage fire insurance maps of Scottish towns and cities and view these individual maps using the library's own interactive map viewer.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Global Heating

In 2023 the Earth's global temperature was 1.05°C warmer than normal. This is extremely alarming as we are quickly approaching what many environmental scientists believe will be the tipping point for global heating. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels as a critical threshold. Beyond this point, the risks of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts on the planet and its inhabitants increase significantly. 

You can explore global temperature anomalies across the world since 1880 on the Our Reddening Globe data visualization. This interactive globe shows annual temperature anomalies for every year from 1880 to 2023 at over 1,000 locations around the globe. If you use the globe's date control to explore this century's global annual temperature anomalies you can clearly see that the Earth is rapidly heating. The two accompanying temperature anomaly charts also clearly reveal a pattern of ever increasing temperatures around the world since the 1980s.

The temperature anomalies shown on the globe and charts show the difference between each year's observed temperature and the average temperature over a baseline period of time for each location.

You can explore more global warming and climate change visualizations using the environment tag on Maps Mania.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Sea Level Rise Maps

Darren Wiens' new Sea Level Rise Simulation map shows how rising sea levels might effect coastlines around the world. Using the simulator you can adjust the height of the sea around the world to see what level of global heating will turn your town into the next Atlantis.

Darren's map uses AWS Terrain Tiles with Mapbox GL's raster-value expression to visualize global sea levels. In very simple terms the map layer turns blue based on the elevation level that the user selects using the sea level slide control. In other words the Sea Level Rise Simulation is only a very rough guide as to how different sea level rises might affect your local environment.

One indication that the Sea Level Rise Simulation map is not intended to be used as an authoritative guide to rising sea-levels is the sea level rise control used on the map. The control only allows you to adjust the sea level visualized on the map in 1 meter increments. 

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program sea levels have risen by just over 8 inches since 1850. Global heating is however accelerating the rate by which sea levels are rising. According to NOAA the U.S. coastline is predicted to rise by "10 - 12 inches (0.25 - 0.30 meters) in the next 30 years". Unfortunately using the Sea Level Rise Simulation map it isn't possible to adjust sea levels in steps smaller than one meter (so the map can't show you the result of a 10 inch rise in sea levels).

Climate Risk's Coastal Risk Map also allows you to view your risk from projected sea level rise and coastal flooding by year, water level, and by elevation.Share your location with the Coastal Risk Map and you can view the potential flood risk for different years and for different levels of predicted sea level rise. 

The Coastal Risk Map includes a warning that the map may include errors and should only be used as a tool "to identify places that may require deeper investigation of risk".

Coastline Paradox uses Google Maps Street View imagery to visualize how rising sea levels are likely to affect locations around the world over the next three hundred years. The map was created by Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho to provide a powerful visualization of likely sea level rises and their effects on global migration.

Using Coastline Paradox it is possible to view the likely effects of rising sea levels at locations around the world for any year between now and 2300. Select one of the global locations marked on the map with a blue dot and a panoramic Street View image will appear. Superimposed on top of this image is a glowing white line which shows the likely future sea level at that location. You can adjust the date for the sea level prediction at any location by using the timeline control above the map.

Friday, December 01, 2023

The Live Music Mapping Project

The combination of the Covid epidemic, inner-city gentrification and austerity has had a hugely negative impact on live music venues and the live music networks of many cities. The Live Music Mapping Project has been launched to help overcome these challenges by creating detailed maps of the local live ecosystem in individual cities. Currently the project has released interactive maps for seven European cities, Birmingham, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Milan, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Newcastle. The project has also released a national live music map for Wales.

Each city's Live Music Map reveals the locations of active local live music venues. The individual music venues in each city are shown using colored markers. The colors of the markers indicate the type of venue (arena, stadium, nightclub, pub etc). The maps also include filters which allow you to see which venues have live music as their main business (eg not pubs and stadiums) and which venues host open-mic nights.

If you click on a music venue's marker on a map you can find its address, phone number and (where available) website link. You can also discover other details about the venue such as the type of venue, its capacity and its opening hours. 

Obviously the Live Music Mapping Project maps can help consumers of live music discover local live music venues in their cities. They are also incredibly useful for music artists and promoters in discovering and booking venues in which to perform.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Most Popular Music in Your Town

SZA's Kill Bill was the most listened to song in New York and San Francisco this year. In Denver and New Orleans the most listened to song was Morgan Wallen's Last Night. While Eslabon Armado y Peso Pluma's Ella Baila Sola was the most popular tune in Los Angeles, Houston and San Diego.

Spotify has released a new interactive map which reveals the most listened to songs in cities around the world. Wrapped Mapped has been released by Spotify as part of its annual data round-up of what music people have been listening to in the past year.

Every December Spotify provides all its users with a personalized summary of their listening habits over the previous year. This 'Wrapped' summary provides a fun and engaging way for Spotify users to see which artists, songs and genres they have been listening to, as well as how many minutes they have actually spent listening to music during the year. Wrapped is typically released in early December, and users can share their Wrapped results with friends and social media.

This year's Wrapped includes an interactive map which reveals the local streaming trends during 2023 in locations across the world. Click on a city on the Wrapped Mapped interactive globe and you can view a top 5 list of the songs which were most streamed in that city over the past 12 months. If you have a Spotify account you can even click on the links to listen to each of the listed songs.

London, Paris & Berlin Metro Memory Games

I think I've started a new mapping trend. At the beginning of October I released my TubeQuiz map. Since then I have spotted three other new map games which also require players to name all the stations on the London Underground network. 

The latest incarnation of a London Underground station memory game is I Know The Tube. I Know The Tube follows the now well known format of a map memory game, in that players simply have to remember the names of tube stations on the London Underground map. Type in a correct station name and its label will be added to the map and you will earn one point.

The unique selling point of I Know the Tube, and where it differs from the other London Tube station naming games, is that it actually uses Harry Beck's schematic map style for the underground map. This fact alone would make this my favorite incarnation of all the London tube map memory games. Except the game doesn't use localStorage to keep a record of your scores. 

The absence of localStorage means that if you close the browser you will have to start on 0 points when you return to the game at a later date. This is quite a set-back because the I Know the Tube game actually includes all 11 main tube lines, the London Overground, DLR, Emirates Air Line, Tramlink and TFL Rail lines. It therefore has 454 individual stations for players to name. That is quite a lot for one sitting! 

Kailan Banks cloned the Glitch page of my original TubeQuiz to create his own version of the game. TubeGuessr made a couple of very neat improvements to my original game. It added localStorage, (which allows a player's guesses and score to persist between sessions) and also added support for a number of spelling variations and typos. The localStorage idea was so good that I went back and added that to my own version of the game.

There is also a fourth London Underground station naming game which you can play. The London Tube Memory Game isn't a direct copy of my original game (in fact it appears to be have been coded from scratch) but the object of the game remains the same, in that you are required to name all the stations on the London Underground.

The London Tube Memory Game has also made a number of useful improvements on my original game. The best of these improvements is that the London Tube Memory Game lists all the stations already named in the map sidebar. The London Tube Memory Game scoring system also shows you how many stations on each individual tube line you have named so far and how many more stations on that line you still have to name. I think both of these improvements make the game a lot easier and more fun to play.

For the last two weeks I've been thinking of creating similar games for the New York and San Francisco transit networks but haven't had the time to start those yet. If you want to create those games yourself then you can clone my TubeQuiz game on Glitch. Once you've cloned the game all you then really need to do is change the data in the places.js file to show the names and locations of stations on the transport network you wish to use for your game.

Of course nothing is really new in map games. I can't really claim to have started this trend. My TubeQuiz game was itself inspired by Chris Arvin's SF-Street-Names game. So if anyone should be credited with starting a new mapping trend it really should be Chris Arvin.

Update - The developer of the London Tube Memory Game has been very busy and has actually created a whole Metro Memory website, which features similar games for Paris, New York, Berlin and a number of other major global cities.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Locking Up Louisiana

The state of Louisiana likes putting its citizens in jail. Nearly 1 in every 100 Louisiana residents are locked up in a state prison or local jail. The reasons for Louisiana's high incarceration rates are simple. It isn't because Louisiana is full of criminals. It is because of racism and the profits to be made from enforced slave labor.

I arrived at this conclusion after reading the Vera Institute of Justice's project Louisiana Locked Up: A Problem in Every Parish. Not that Vera ever expressly cites racism in its report - but the implications are very clear from the data. Vera's data driven investigation of Louisiana's incarceration problems uses a story-map format to investigate the rates, results and causes of why this southern state imprisons so many of its residents. 

The report includes many maps, including maps which show the incarceration rates in each of the state's parishes. According to the map "the prison admission rate is greater than the national average in 92 percent of parishes and more than twice the national average in 63 percent of parishes." 

One very damning map layer juxtaposes the location of the state's prisons and jails with the location of historical plantations. According to Vera: 

"The state’s largest jails and prisons are situated squarely on the same land where Black people were enslaved to sustain the state’s agricultural industry. These facilities now use the forced labor of incarcerated people (who are disproportionally Black) to sustain the “corrections” industry."

In 2018 The Pudding used 150 years of census and incarceration data to explore the legacy of slavery on modern incarceration rates in the United States. The Pudding's The Shape of Slavery allows you to view the 1860 distribution of slaves in the Southern States alongside present day incarceration rates in each state.

America likes to put people behind bars. The NAACP reports that 21% of the entire world's prison population is living in American jails. This propensity to lock up its citizens affects African Americans more than most other Americans. The NAACP says that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of white Americans.

There is a geographical factor at play in these incarceration rates. The Prison Policy Initiative states that "the South has consistently had a higher rate of incarceration than the other regions of the United States". The Pudding decided to explore if there was any connection between the high rate of incarceration in Southern states and the legacy of slavery. By mapping 150 years of census and incarceration data they wanted to see if historic incarceration rates differ between the former slave states and the non-slave states of the North.

They do. The Pudding concludes that "we still see the shadow of the undeniable, institutionalized, strategic racism of the 100 years after the Civil War".

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Live Amtrak Train Map is a live interactive map which shows the real-time locations of passenger trains in the U.S. and Canada. 

The map uses colored markers to show the near real-time positions of trains from a number of different train companies in North America. The arrow on the markers show a train's direction of travel and the colors indicate the transit operators of individual trains. If you click on a marker on the map you can discover the selected train's name, which stations it is traveling to & from, and its current speed.

The map includes Amtrak trains in the U.S., VIA Rail Trains in Canada and the locations of trains from a number of other transit providers. Unfortunately the map is missing a number of regional train operators. Reading the comments on this Hacker News thread it appears that the map's creator is actively working on adding the live train location feeds for a number of these missing transit operators.


The Amtrak/VIA Live Map also shows the live position of Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada trains. It uses live data from Amtrak's Track-A-Train service and VIA's status service to estimate the real-time location of U.S. and Canadian trains and their current running status.

The location of individual trains is shown on the map with colored numbers. The colors on this map indicate the on-time performance of the train at the last station. In other words a train's color on the map provides a guide to how late a train is running. If you click on a train on the map then you can view how many minutes (if any) it is running late and its current estimated speed.

The map sidebar shows a selected train's complete schedule, including all the stations on its route. This schedule shows how many minutes late (if any) the train departed each and every station already visited and how many minutes late it is expected to arrive at all remaining stations on its route.

You can also track trains in real-time on the official Amtrak Track Your Train Map. Enter a train number, or name into Amtrak's map and you can view its progress in real-time. Click on a train's marker on the map and you can view its current speed, its estimated time of arrival at its next station and how minutes early or late it is running.

If you enjoy live real-time transit maps then you might also enjoy:

If you are a fan of live real-time maps of train networks then you might also like:

geOps - animated maps of over 700 transit systems around the world
Train Map - a live map of the Belgium rail network
Swiss Railways Network - the original real-time map of Swiss trains
Mini Tokyo 3D - a live real-time map of Tokyo's public transit system (in 3D)
Zugverfolgung - real-time train tracking in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands
Signalbox - a live train map of the UK

You will also find many more live transit maps by checking out the real-time tag on Maps Mania.

The World as 1000 People

If the world's population was proportionally represented as 1,000 people then 591 of those people would live in Asia, 185 would live in Africa, 91 in Europe, 75 would live in North America, 55 in South America and the remaining 5 people would live in Oceania. 

The Visual Capitalist has mapped The World's Population as 1,000 People. On the map each marker (shaped as a human figure) represents just over 8 million people. For example the USA's population of 339,996,563 is represented as 42 markers. The most populated country in the world is India with 1,428,627,663 people (represented as 178 on the map). Neighboring China is the second most populated country with 1,425,671,352 people (represented as 177).

The map uses population estimates from the United Nations Population Division.
You can also explore where people live around the world on the Pudding's Human Terrain interactive map. This map shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. The taller a pyramid block on The Pudding map then the more people live there. 

The data for the Human Terrain map comes from the Global Human Settlement Layer. This data from the European Commission looks at the population living within 1 km² areas, 'regardless of administrative boundaries'. 

The use of population pyramids is a well used and visually dramatic way to show population density. For example The Pudding's map is very similar to a WebGL powered map created by Topi Tjukanov to show the density of Europe's population.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The World's Largest Snow Dome

This morning I discovered MapTheClouds, which features a whole host of impressive interactive map visuals. I'm sure a lot of the maps featured on MapTheClouds are very useful but as ever I'm drawn to the fun, experimental maps, to the maps that apparently serve no other purpose than they were fun to create and are even more fun to play with.

Here are a few links to my personal favorites, but check out MapTheClouds yourself, as this is only a small selection of a far larger collection of interactive maps:

Snow Globe

Click on any location in the world on this map and you can encase it in a gigantic snow dome. 

Why? Who cares ... do you really need a reason to entrap the whole of Manhattan in the world's biggest snow dome?

Maybe you don't want to live entrapped inside a gigantic dome. But I bet you'd love to be surrounded by thousands of hot air balloons floating upwards into the heavens. Click on your home town on this map and you can discover what it looks like to be surrounded by the world's largest number of aeronauts.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if you could compare a globe of present day Earth side-by-side with a globe of Pangaea? Me neither but I'm very glad that I can.

This interactive map shows two rotating interactive globes. One should look familiar to you, as it is the Earth as it looks today from space. The other globe however shows you what the world looked like around 300-200 million years ago, when North America, Africa, South America, and Europe all existed as a single continent called Pangaea.

When the world seems to be largely a grey, monotone and dull place you need to open up this map, which allows you to peer through a magical portal to catch a glimpse of the wonderful and colorful world inhabited by the Finns and Danes.

If you like these maps then do visit MapTheClouds which has many, many more excellent examples of fun map projects.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Global Sentiment Towards Israel & Palestine

The interactive map Israel-Palestine Media Bias visualizes the results of a sentiment analysis of mostly English language media and social media websites to determine whether they have a predominately Israeli or Palestinian bias.

Using the map you can explore the Israel/Palestine sentiment bias expressed by the media in individual countries, on different platforms and by the percentage of a country's population being Muslim.

On the map individual countries are colored to reflect the extent the analysis detected pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli sentiments in that country's media and social media. Blue countries are those with a pro-Israeli sentiment and red indicates a pro-Palestinian sentiment score.

I think the map is a really interesting attempt to explore global sentiments to Israel and Palestine in media and social media. However it is important to be aware that it was created with the help of the Israeli Civilian Intelligence Center, which is made up of Israel's Aman (military intelligence), Mossad (overseas intelligence) and Shabak (internal security). Agencies which themselves presumably have very pro-Israeli sentiments.

The creator of the map acknowledged in a Reddit comment that the visualization should be titled 'Media Sentiment' rather than 'Media Bias'. The use of a negative '-' to indicate a pro-Palestine sentiment score and positive scores to indicate pro-Israel sentiment is also I think particularly ill considered.

Also See

Gaza Damage Proxy Map - assessing the damage to buildings in Gaza

Mapping the Massacres - a comprehensive map of all the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th October.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

America is a Jigsaw

If you want a little Thanksgiving fun today then you should play TripGeo's State Locator game. State Locator is an interactive map of the United States. A map which you have to assemble yourself based on the shapes of the individual states and a few image clues.

At the beginning of the game you are presented with a random state. Your job is to place this state onto a blank map of the United States. When you start the game the only clues you have as to where to place a state are markers showing the largest towns and cities in the U.S., the shape of the state and the background images shown on the state.

The game presents you with a number of choices (in the form of question marks) where you can place each state. You just need to select the correct location on the map for each 50 states in turn. You are rewarded one point for each state that you correctly place on the map. Complete the map and you will receive 50 points. However the game also keeps tabs on how many mistakes you make. The aim of the game is to get 50 points with the fewest number of errors.

My best score so far is 75 errors (my excuse is that I'm not American).

You might also enjoy my own US States Quiz. In my game you are required to name all of the 50 states before you are allowed to eat your Thanksgiving dinner. Enter the name of a U.S. state and the state will be colored green on the map. 

Don't worry if you can't name all 50 states in one sitting. The game will remember your score and which states you have already named, so you can close the game and return to complete the game at a later time. Just press the 'start over' button if you wish to clear the map and start afresh.

One objective of the US States Quiz is to beat the characters of Friends. In the episode 'The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs' four of the characters try to name all of the US states. Monica manages to name 36 states ("nobody cares about the Dakotas"). Rachel gets 48. Joey somehow manages to name 56. Chandler then challenges Ross to name all 50 states before he can eat his Thanksgiving dinner. Initially Ross names 46 states. Many hungry hours of struggle later he manages to name all 50 states and then starts eating his dinner. Only for Chandler to point out that he has actually named Delaware twice!

If you enjoy naming US States then you should also enjoy Find the State. In this game you are asked to locate on a map each of the 50 US states in turn. As well as having to identify all 50 states part of the objective in this game is to build winning streaks. Identify a wrong state and your streak returns to zero.

If you need some help locating a state then it is worth reading the state's description in the map sidebar, which usually provides some clues as to the state's geographical location within America.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Where Your Food Comes From

When you begin to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner you may wonder about where all that food comes from. Well a new interactive map from CU Boulder and The Plotline, can help show you where. The Food Twin shows you where food is grown and consumed in America and how crops travel from producers to consumers.

Click on your county on the map and you will see colored dots flowing into your county from other counties around the United States. The colors of the dots represent different food groups (grain, nuts, vegetables, fruits and tubers). Each dot represents a set number of calories from that food group. If you switch to the 'producer' view on the map you can see in which other counties food produced in your county is consumed.

It is important to note that the Food Twin is a simulated model of food production and consumption. The model is based on satellite data and survey statistics "to generate an estimate of the types of crops that are grown in different regions across the United States". The consumption of different food groups is estimated based on consumer surveys. The routes between producers and consumers of food is modeled using 'possible shipment routes between all counties". 

You can read more about the production, consumption and transportation models used by the map in this blog post. The map is however a model and your Thanksgiving green beans and candied yams may not actually have been grown in the counties indicated by the Food Twin.

If you want to know more about the geography of your Thanksgiving meal then you should explore Esri's Mapping the Thanksgiving Harvest. This interactive map shows where your turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, pumpkins and pecans were reared or grown.

Around 46 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving. A large proportion of those turkeys come from Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Indiana. There is a very big chance that your sweet potatoes come from North Carolina, which grows more than half of all America's sweet potato crop.

What you actually eat for your traditional Thanksgiving meal will also be influenced by geography. For example if you live in the north or west then you will probably have cranberry sauce with your turkey; while those who live in the southern states will mostly be enjoying sweet potato casserole. Nearly everyone will be eating turkey - but how you prepare your turkey can also be shaped by where you live. If your turkey is smoked, roasted or fried probably depends on whether you live in the mid-west, the east coast or California.

If you want to know more about how where you live shapes your Thanksgiving menu then you should refer to the LA Times. The newspaper has used data from Google to determine the Thanksgiving foods searched for in different regions of the United States. You can read the results of their analysis in What will be on your Thanksgiving plate? It depends on where you’ll be. The article even includes a little tool which can show you the Thanksgiving foods that are most searched for in every state.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

America's Changing Plant Hardiness Zones

Around half of Americans have been moved into a new plant hardiness zone. If you check out the USDA's new Plant Hardiness Zone Map you have a very good chance of discovering that your home is now in a new hardiness zone.

In recent years, like many gardeners, I've discovered that I can successfully sow plants a few weeks before their recommended earliest dates and that I can continue harvesting some vegetables much later than I have been able to in previous decades. Global heating has also meant that I have begun to experiment with plants which aren't usually recommended for my hardiness zone.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture I am not alone in experiencing a change in my growing seasons. Last week the USDA updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the first time in more than a decade. On the new map average temperatures are around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than on the 2012 map. This means that many gardeners are now in a new plant hardiness zone.

Plant hardiness zones are used to guide gardeners and horticulturists on the appropriate flowers and vegetables to grow where they live. The zones help gardeners understand which plants will flourish in their specific climatic conditions. They also help to guide gardeners about when they should sow and harvest different plants.

The USDA says that because the new Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based on recent changes in weather data it can't be used as evidence of global heating, which is usually measured over a longer period of time. However I don't think many people doubt that because of climate change gardeners in the United States can expect to see plant hardiness zones moving even further northwards in the coming decades.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Alternatives to Google Maps Street View

Panoramax is an open-source photo-mapping platform that allows users to share and exploit street level photography. It is a free alternative to proprietary services, such as Google Maps Street View, providing a freely available resource for sharing and mapping field photos. The Panoramax platform allows anyone to capture street level photographs and contribute them to the Panoramax database and interactive map. This imagery is then freely accessible and reusable by all.

Panoramax claims that "All photos (are) easily accessible and reusable without an account: via the website or a standard API (STAC format)". If you click on the 'share' button on the map you can also embed a Panoramax map and street level imagery on a website as an iframe.

Mapillary is another crowd-sourced platform for sharing and exploring street-level imagery. The platform allows users to upload and share images of streets, roads, and other public spaces from around the world. These images are then stitched together to create a continuous street-level view of the world. Mapillary is similar to Google Street View, but it used crowd-sourced images and anyone can contribute to it.

Mapillary was acquired by Meta in 2020 but was founded in 2013. Due to its ten year head start on Panoramax, Mapillary currently has far more imagery available on its platform. I'm guessing, however, that Mapillary's ownership by Facebook may be a disincentive to some users, who may be disinclined to share their street level imagery with Meta. To those users Panoramax may prove to be a welcome new addition to the world of crowd-sourced Street View.

KartaView (previously known as OpenStreetCam) is another platform which can be used for collecting, viewing and sharing street level imagery around the world. Thousands of people around the world currently use KartaView to map street level photographs using the KartaView apps for Android and iOS.

You can explore all the uploaded street level imagery on the KartaView interactive map. Where imagery is available roads are colored blue on the map. You just need to click on a blue road to view the available imagery for that location. KartaView's street level imagery is free to use under an open-source license.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Introducing the Sunderland Collection

The Sunderland Collection of antique maps has been digitized in full and can now be explored in detail on the new virtual platform Oculi Mundi (Eyes of the World).

The Sunderland Collection was started by Dr Neil Sunderland in the 1990s. The collection now consists of around 130 vintage globes, maps and atlases which date back to as early as the 13th century. The new Oculi Mundi platform takes a very visual (some might even say annoying) approach to presenting and exploring the Sunderland Collection. In 'explore' mode you are forced to scroll through a 3d scrolling virtual gallery choosing maps to explore in closer detail from their floating screenshots. Personally I prefer the 'research' mode which allows you to explore the Sunderland map collection in chronological order. 

If you select a map in either the explore or research modes you can then explore the selected digitized map in close detail, exploring the map by panning and zooming in and out. Each map also includes 'gallery notes' which provides information on the selected map with details about when it was drawn and the name of the cartographer.

The chronological 'research' mode of the Sunderland Collection actually presents a neat visual view of the history of cartography, encompassing examples of early T & O maps, Ptolemaic maps, and medieval Mappa Mundi. At the moment the Oculi Mundi is seriously missing a 'search' option, which would allow users to more easily search the collection by individual cartographer or map. However the stories section of Oculi Mundi does provide some great guided tours of some of the vintage maps in the collection and a neat introduction to the historical development of map projections over time.

The David Rumsey Documentary

If you are a fan of antique vintage maps then you won't want to miss A Stranger Quest. Directed by Italian filmmaker Andrea Gatopoulos A Stranger Quest explores the passions of David Rumsey and his famous map collection. The file will premier at the Torino Film Festival on November 30 and will be released in 2024. The David Rumsey Map Collection has one of the largest online collections of digitized vintage maps.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Mapping Damage in Gaza

A researcher at UCL's CASA has released a new interactive mapping tool which can help researchers and news agencies "estimate the number of damaged buildings and the pre-war population in a given area within the Gaza Strip". The Gaza Damage Proxy Map is based on an earlier tool which was developed to estimate damage caused by Russia in Ukraine.

The Gaza Damage Proxy Map colors individual buildings in the Gaza Strip to indicate the probability that the building has suffered damage since October 10, 2023. If you use the map's drawing tool you can highlight an area of the Gaza Strip on the map. The Gaza Damage tool will then automatically estimate the number of damaged buildings in the highlighted area and the estimated affected population. The percentage of the buildings damaged in the area is also calculated for you. If you select individual buildings on the map you can view information on the date of the damage and view a link to the source media for the damage report.

The Gaza Damage Proxy map uses Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery captured by satellites to detect damaged buildings. By measuring the change in the intensity of these radar waves since before the Israeli attacks on Gaza it is possible to estimate the probability that individual buildings have been damaged. Damage points from the UN Satellite Office (UNOSAT) have also been used to validate the accuracy of the damage detection algorithm used by the map. The map itself also includes an optional layer which adds geo-located footage of strikes and destruction in Gaza as triangular map markers.

You can learn more about the methodology used to estimate building damage in Gaza in the Bellingcat article, A New Tool Allows Researchers to Track Damage in Gaza. The Ukraine Damage Assessment Map allows you to carry out similar analysis of the estimated building damage caused by Russia in Ukraine.

Also See

Mapping the Massacres - a comprehensive map of all the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th October.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Rise & Fall of National Rail Networks

The Berliner-Morgenpost has visualized the rise and fall of the German rail network from its rapid growth in the 19th Century right up to its 21st Century post-privatization contraction. The German Rail Network from 1835 Until Today uses an interactive map to show all the active rail lines in Germany for every single year from 1835 until 2022.

On December the 7th 1835 a six-kilometer rail line from Nuremberg to Fürth was opened. On which a steam locomotive, the Adler, would carry passengers at the dizzying speed of 28 kph. Things then sped-up rather quickly and by 1870 Germany had constructed around 14,000 kilometers of railway lines. In fact the German railway became so large that in the 1920s the nationalized German rail company, the Deutsche Reichsbahn was the largest employer in the world.

In West Germany the national rail network began to suffer from the 1950s as a consequence of the rise in car ownership. However the biggest contraction in the German rail network began in the 1990s. After the reunification of Germany the newly privatized rail lines in the former East Germany were forced to close unprofitable lines and stations. The result is that the German rail network now has around 39,900 km of lines, down from the 52,900 km of rail-lines it had from 1940-1970.

Irish Railway Stations 1834-2000 is a simple interactive map which plots every active Irish train station in operation for every year from 1834 to 2000. By scrolling through all 166 years on the map you get a great overview of the rise and fall of the railway in Ireland since 1834.

The first railway line opened in Ireland was the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR), which ran between Westland Row in Dublin and Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), a distance of 10 km (6 mi). It was opened on 17 December 1834. In 1839 a second railway line, the Ulster Railway, opened between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Lisburn. 

If you use the map's timeline to progress through the years from 1834 you can see how the railway spread across Ireland, largely emanating out from the initial lines built in Dublin and Belfast. For almost a century after 1834 the railway in Ireland continued to grow, reaching out to all parts of the island of Ireland. 

When you reach the late 1930's on the map you can begin to see railway stations disappearing off the map. The Great Depression and the rise of the motor car obviously had an effect of freight and passenger traffic resulting in the closure of a number of stations. In the 1950s and 1960s you can begin to see the closure of many branch lines on the map. This significant reduction in the rail network in Ireland means that even in the 21st Century the Irish rail network consists of only around 1,698 miles, or around half of the 3,480 miles of line that existed in the early 20th Century.

In August 1847 a railway line was opened connecting the Swiss cities of Baden and Zurich. 175 years later Switzerland's rail network is over 5,000 kilometers long. Back in 2022 the Swiss broadcaster SRF celebrated the 175th anniversary of the country's railway network by creating a Journey Through the History of Swiss Railways.  

SRF's history of the Swiss railway includes a map which shows the opening of new railway lines by year of construction. This map is accompanied by a graph which shows the length (in km) of railway lines opened in each year. From the animation of this map above you can see that the golden era of the Swiss railway was in its first one hundred years. Since the 1920s further extensions to the railway in Switzerland have been fairly sporadic. 

If you are interested in the history of your city's transit network then you should have a look at Citylines. Citylines is a collaborative platform which is busy mapping the public transit systems of the world. Using Citylines you can explore interactive maps visualizing the local transit systems of hundreds of cities around the globe. You can also use Citylines to explore how each city's public transport network has grown and contracted over time. 

Each city's transit system map includes a date control, which allows you to view the extent of the local transit network for any year in history. Press the play button on the map and you can view an animated map showing how the city's transit system has developed through history. 

All the data used on Citylines is open sourced under the Open Database License (ODbL). This means that if you want to create your own city public transit map then you can download the data for your map from Citylines (in json or CSV formats).

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Wednesday Night is Game Night

Following the huge runaway success of Benjamin Tran Dinh's the London Tube Memory Game (which bears an uncanny resemblance to my own London TubeQuiz) it is not that surprising that a number of other map memory games have now suddenly appeared on the scene. 

US States Quiz

My own US States Quiz is similar to the London Tube Memory Game. The only real difference is that instead of having to name London tube stations in this US States Quiz you are required to name all of the 50 separate states which together form the United States. Don't worry if you can't name them all in one sitting as the game will remember your score and which states you have already named.

London Boroughs Quiz

I have also created the London Boroughs Quiz, in which you have to name all the London boroughs. There are 33 London boroughs to name in total. Naming all 33 is very tough. Even though I wrote the game I struggled to name 25 London boroughs while playing the game this morning.

This one is strictly for the residents of the English city of Nottingham personally I can't name a single tram station in Nottingham). However if you are a resident of Nottingham then you will have a lot of fun trying to name all 50 stations on the city's tram network. This game doesn't appear to use localStorage so you will lose your score when you close or refresh the browser window.

Following the huge success of his London tube game it is no surprise that Benjamin Tran Dinh himself has been busy creating versions of the game for other cities. These include the Washington DC Metro Memory Game in which you have to name all the metro stations in the US capital.

If that wasn't enough Benjamin has also created metro memory games for, New York, Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Vienna. I'm sure Benjamin is working on more - links to these will be added to his Metro Memory home page when complete.

If you enjoy naming US States then you should enjoy Find the State. In this game you are asked to name each of the 50 US states in turn. As well as having to name all 50 states part of the objective in this game is to build winning streaks. Identify a wrong state and your streak returns to zero.

All of these games (bar Find the State) were actually inspired by Chris Arvin's original map memory game Name San Francisco Streets. In this game you are required to name all the streets of San Francisco. If you have never been to San Francisco my tip is to remember that Americans do like to use numbers when naming their city streets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Ten Years of Global Marine Traffic

The Global Marine Traffic Density Service (GMTDS) map visualizes global marine traffic over the last ten years. The map is designed to support a number of uses, including monitoring fishing activity, monitoring port activity, and environmental and economic activity monitoring.

The GMTDS Map has processed hundreds of billions of AIS signals from over ten years of marine traffic around the world to create this global map of marine traffic density. Using the map you can access and explore over ten years of marine traffic around the world.

Marine traffic density is shown on the map as hours per square kilometer, revealing how many hours in total ships have spent in each square kilometer. You can use the map's time slider to filter the data by month and use the playback controls to animate global marine traffic over time.

You can filter the type of marine traffic shown on the map using the map sidebar. These filter controls include options to select the 'ship type' shown on the map. The ship type option includes cargo vessels, fishing vessels, tankers and even ice breakers.You can also filter the map by draft, which records how far below the water line a vessel's hull normally sits. This is an important consideration for marine navigation, for example for vessels traversing through ship canals and locks. The 'loitering' filter allows you to view where vessels have spent more than six hours in a single cell (square kilometer). 

Also See

MarineTraffic - uses AIS data to create a live real-time map of global ship traffic

VesselFinder - another real-time map of global shipping traffic

Monday, November 13, 2023

Standing on Top of the World

If you want an uninterrupted view towards the horizon in all directions then you need to stand on top of a mountain. But not just any mountain. What you need is an 'on top of the world' mountain. 

On Top of the World Mountains

An "on top of the world" mountain, also known as an OTOTW mountain, is a mountain that is so high that no other mountains can be seen above the horizon from its summit. There are over 6,000 OTOTW mountains in the world, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. The highest OTOTW mountain is Mount Everest, which is 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet) tall.Other notable OTOTW mountains include K2, Lhotse, Makalu, and Manaslu.

Pinnacle Points

A 'pinnacle point' is a point on the Earth's surface from which no higher point can be seen in any direction. This means that if you were to stand at a pinnacle point, you would have an unobstructed view of the horizon in all directions. If a summit is not an OTOTW then it can't be a pinnacle point either. Therefore pinnacle points are a subset of OTOTWs.

If you want to feel like you are standing at the top of the world then you can find your nearest pinnacle point on the Pinnacle Points interactive map. This map shows the points on Earth from which no higher point can be seen in any direction. The pinnacle points are shown on the map using colored markers based on each point's elevation.

Jut Scores

If you prefer looking up at impressive mountains rather than staring wistfully towards the horizon from on high then you want the PeakJut map instead. According to PeakJut the impressiveness of individual mountains is based on two factors, height and steepness. PeakJut has therefore invented the Jut Score, which ranks mountains based on how sharply a mountain rises above its surroundings, factoring in both height and steepness.

Share your location with PeakJut and it will show you the most impressive looking mountains closest to you, based on their Jut rankings. If you click on one of the suggested mountains you can view its location on an interactive map. This map highlights the selected mountain's peak and its base (or most impressive viewpoint). You are also given some important data, such as the mountain's elevation and 'Jut'.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Spanish Wealth Divide

El Diario has released an interactive map which shows how much people earn across the whole of Spain. The map starkly reveals not only the huge income inequality between northern and southern Spain but also the inequality between many urban and rural communities. 

The map in Rich Neighborhood, Poor Neighborhood uses data from the National Statistics Institute to show the average gross income per household (i.e. before taxes). The data is derived from 2021 personal income tax returns. In the screenshot of the map above you can see that there is a clear income divide between southern Spain and the north of the country (particularly the north-east). 

Back in 2019 El Pais created a similar interactive map to visualize the average income of every neighborhood in Spain. This 2019 map also uses data from the National Institute of Statistics, using tax returns from 2017. 

El Pais' Map of Spanish Incomes, Street by Street also revealed a stark contrast between northern and southern Spain. However the less granular data used in this map means it is not as good at showing the local income inequalities in individual towns and cities as the new El Diario map.

The new map reveals that many southern Spanish cities include many neighborhoods in which the residents are in the top 10% of Spanish earners. However these rich city centers are surrounded by much poorer neighborhoods. According to El Diario the "historic centers of the cities have the highest incomes, which decrease as we move further away until we reach the peripheral neighborhoods".

The El Diario map includes an option to compare the 2021 data with the income returns from 2020. It is therefore possible to see which neighborhoods are becoming richer and which are becoming poorer. In fact if you hover over a neighborhood on the map you can view information on the average family income, how the neighborhood compares to the national average, and by what percent local average income levels have risen or fallen since 2020.