Saturday, December 30, 2023

Real-Time 3D Mapping

Kaiwen Song and Juyong Zhang of the University of Science and Technology of China claim to be "the first to achieve real-time rendering of large-scale scenes" through the use of neural rendering. They have presented their findings to the world in their paper City-on-Web: Real-time Neural Rendering of Large-scale Scenes on the Web (the website of which includes three live demos).

Neural Radiance Fields (NeRF) uses machine learning to generate photo-realistic 3D scenes from 2D images. NeRFs can therefore be used to create 3D models of real-world scenes, render novel views of a scene from any angle, and even generate synthetic 3D scenes for virtual reality applications. One of the problems with using NeRF however is the computation, memory and bandwidth resources needed to create large 3D scenes. Making it particularly difficult to render large scenes in real-time. 

City-on-Web claims to enable the real-time rendering of large 3D scenes by partitioning each scene into "manageable blocks, each with its own Level-of-Detail, ensuring high fidelity, efficient memory management and fast rendering". You can test these claims for yourself on three demo maps of three different scenes. Videoed highlights of each scene are also available if your computer struggles to render the 3D mapped scenes. 

Apparently the actual code for rendering large 3D scenes in real-time is 'coming soon'.

Friday, December 29, 2023


Today we have a huge treat for fans of the popular GeoGuessr game. GeoGuessr is a geography game that takes you on a virtual trip around the world, blindfolded! It uses Google Street View to drop you in a random location somewhere on the planet, and your task is to figure out where you are based on the visual clues that you see around you.

TimeGuessr is a very similar game to GeoGuessr - except in TimeGuessr you are asked to identify the location shown in a photograph rather than the location of a Google Street View panorama. As the name 'TimeGuessr' suggests this game also comes with an additional requirement. Like Geoguessr this game requires you to guess a location by dropping a pin on an interactive map, however in TimeGuessr you are also required to guess the time, or rather the 'date' when the image was captured.

For me the extra dimension of time in TimeGuessr actually makes it more fun to play. Now as well as using the visual clues to try to determine where in the world a photograph was taken you also have to use the same visual clues to work out in what year the picture was captured. 

For example in the photograph in the screenshot above I decided that the badge on the soldier's cap looked distinctly East German. That led me to suspect that the wall behind the soldier might be the Berlin Wall. This therefore gave me a possible location (Berlin) and a date sometime before German reunification. The Berlin Wall was demolished in 1989. Unfortunately I subtracted 8 years from this date. As it turned out the photo was actually captured in the year the wall came down.

If you are a fan of Geoguessr then you will probably also like some of the map based games listed in the Maps Mania post entitled City Guesser.

If you aren't interested in the geo-guessing aspect of TimeGuessr then you might prefer to play Chronophoto, which involves identifying the years that photos were captured, without having to also identify each depicted location.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Subway Specs - Part III

Tokyo's Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest train station. Its is used by over 3.5 million passengers every day. To cope with that amount of traffic the station has to be very big. It has 35 platforms, while another 17 platforms can be accessed through hallways to 5 directly connected stations without traveling outside.

With over 35 platforms and over 200 station exits it can be easy to get lost in Shinjuku Station. If you need a little help finding your way then Shinjuku Station Indoor, an impressive new 3D map of the station (created using three.js), may be of some help.

You may also enjoy Tomoyuki Tanaka's truly impressive blueprint plan of Shinjuku Station.

If you are a fan of 3D plans of train stations then you will probably love the work of Albert Guillaumes Marcer, who is single-handedly mapping the subway stations of the world. So far his Stations and Transfers website features well over 800 3D maps of subway stations in cities all over the globe.

Also See

X-Ray Area Maps - New York architect Candy Chan's 3D plans of New York subway stations

Ian Visits - Transport for London's axonometric diagrams for 120 London Underground stations.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Santa Tracker Maps

Santa has begun work on his busiest day of the year. This year you can follow Santa's journey around the world, as he delivers presents to all the world's children, on both the Google Santa Tracker and the NORAD Santa Tracker. You can also follow Santa this year on the new Mapbox powered Santa Tracker.

The Mapbox Santa Tracker consists of a 3D map encased in a 3D snow-globe (shake the globe to see it snow). During Christmas night you can follow in real-time Santa's journey around the world as he delivers presents to 2 billion children. The Mapbox Santa Tracker includes a Santa display, which shows you how far Santa has traveled, how many presents he has delivered and how many cookies he has eaten.

The Official NORAD Santa Tracker uses NORAD's geo-synchronous satellites to detect the heat signature of Rudolph's red nose. It is then able to track Santa's sleigh as it delivers presents to children around the world. While following along with Santa's global journey on NORAD's map you can listen to a wonderful selection of Christmas songs.

Google uses GPS (the Gnome Positioning System) to track Santa's sleigh as it travels around the globe on Christmas Eve. They then plot his movements around the world on a real-time Google Map. While following Santa on the Google Santa Tracker you can keep an eye on the sleigh dashboard to see how much time is remaining until Santa arrives at your chimney. This dashboard also keeps track of all the presents Santa has delivered so far and where he will be stopping next in his journey.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Where Might I Live?

There are 3,143 counties in the USA. One of them is probably perfect for you. But which one?

What makes a perfect home can depend on a number of factors. Those factors are likely to be different for every single person. Where Might I Live can find your perfect US home based on your own personal criteria. Tell Where Might I Live what factors are important to you in choosing a home and it will show you the US counties which are best suited to you.

Among the hundreds of criteria which you can use to refine your search for the perfect home on Where Might I Live are walkabilty, levels of public transit, weather conditions, tax rates, and available leisure activities. It is up to you to choose the criteria which are most important to you. Add your 'wishes' to Where Might I Live and a choropleth map highlights the US counties which most clearly match your selected criteria.

If you select one of the counties highlighted on the map as meeting your criteria then an information window will open providing more information about your possible future home. This window provides general information about the selected county and details about how closely it matches your chosen criteria.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Destroying People's Homes in Gaza

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has begun creating interactive 3D models of destroyed homes, hospitals and businesses in order to help convey the devastation that ongoing military conflicts can have on ordinary people's lives. Using photogrammetry the ICRC has managed to create harrowing 3D models of an apartment block in Gaza destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2021, a teaching hospital in Iraq destroyed during the Battle of Mosul, and Al Madina Souk, Aleppo destroyed during the conflict in Syria.

Broken Cities allows people around the world to explore the civilian costs of military conflicts. The ability to explore in detail 3D models of the wreckage caused to people's homes and lives by military attacks provides the sort of shocking insight into the consequences of war that hopefully most readers will never have to encounter first-hand.

As you scroll through the ICRC interactive 3D models narrated audio recordings also contribute to these harrowing insights. In the case of the Gaza apartment block the narration is provided by some of the residents whose homes were destroyed by the Israeli airstrike. In Aleppo market stall owners and customers recount the unbearable loss of a 1,000 year market place. While in Iraq doctors and hospital workers try to explain the effect the hospital's destruction has had on Mosul's healthcare.

You can discover how photogrammetry has also been used in Ukraine to document and record some of the destruction caused by the Russian invasion in Documenting Russian Crimes in Ukraine.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Battle of Hong Kong

On the same morning that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (Sunday, December 7, 19411) they also attacked the British Crown colony of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong garrison (consisting of British, Indian and Canadian units, the Auxiliary Defence Units and Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps) managed to hold out for over two weeks. However on Christmas Day 1941 the colony finally surrendered to the Japanese.

Project’44 has created a number of maps which document the Battle of Hong Kong, with an emphasis on the involvement of the Canadian troops defense of the British colony. The Fall of Hong Kong includes a story map which provides a detailed chronology of the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese.

As you scroll through Project '44's story map you can follow the progress of the battle on an interactive map of Hong Kong. The map sidebar provides a narrated history of the battle, illustrated with photos and videos from the Battle of Hong Kong, while the interactive map automatically pans and zooms to highlight the locations mentioned in the narrated tour.


The Battle of Hong Kong 1941 is another interactive map which recounts the spatial and chronological history of the Japanese capture of Hong Kong in the Second World War. The map is the work of the History Department at the Hong Kong Baptist University. The map itself provides both a spatial and temporal account of the Battle of Hong Kong. The map's timeline contains 51 different time-steps. This timeline allows you to follow the progress of the battle during the eighteen days it took the Japanese to take Hong Kong, showing the changing positions of platoon/squad/individual artillery pieces over the whole course of the Japanese invasion.

The map also includes a 'Faces of War' layer. This map layer provides a number of short biographies on some of the key participants in the Battle of Hong Kong. As a result of the battle over a thousand Allied lives were lost and over a thousand were reported missing. It is believed that casualties on the Japanese side were at least as high. 

After the Battle the Japanese remained in Hong Kong for three and half years. During that occupation it is estimated that at least 10,000 Hong Kong civilians were executed. Resistance groups of Cantonese and Han Chinese continued fighting until the end of the Japanese occupation. On August 15th, 1945, Japan officially surrendered and on the 30th August the British army returned to Hong Kong. 

The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong lasted for three years and eight months.

1. The invasion of Hong Kong actually began on the 8th of December, however this is due to the effect of the International Dateline, it was in reality on the same actual solar day as the 7th December attack on Pearl Harbor.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Mapping the Alien Invasion

The National UFO Reporting Center has released a new interactive map which allows the human resistance movement, Networked UFO Tracking Squad (NUTS), to track and organize resistance against the ongoing extraterrestrial invasion of Earth.

Thanks to this new global map NUTS has been able to identify hot-spots of alien invasion activity. It is believed that these hot-spots provide a clue as to the alien invading force's key targets on Earth. As you can see from the screenshots above the aliens appear to be concentrating most of their alien incursions on English speaking areas. 

It is noticeable that both Mexico and Spain have been largely ignored by our otherworldly invaders. This has led NUTS Commander-in-Chief Alan Ripley to conclude that the aliens are allergic to tortillas. Chefs at the NUTS HQ in Roswell are currently preparing a giant 100 foot empanada. NUTS then hopes to persuade NASA to launch the empanada into space and somehow smuggle it aboard the alien mother-ship (NUTS are still working on the finer details of this plan). 

The new National UFO Reporting Center map of UFO sighting also reveals that the Netherlands is another hot-spot of alien activity. However rumors that the PVV's Geert Wilders is a human host for the alien hive-mind are clearly misguided.

Also See

The Anomaly Observatory - mapping paranormal activities around the world, such as reports of ghosts, UFOs, unusual creatures, and other strange phenomena

UFO Stalker - a crowdsourced map of self-reported UFO sightings.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Coin Hoards from the Roman Empire

Ancient Rome had significant trade links with India, particularly during the Roman Empire under the rule of Augustus and onwards. The Silk Road and Indian Ocean trade routes facilitated the exchange of goods to Rome from India, including textiles, spices, gems, and other luxury items.

You can find evidence of this trade between the Roman Empire and India on this interactive map of archaeological finds of Roman coins. Oxford University's Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire collects and maps information about found hoards of Roman coinage in use in the Roman Empire between approximately 30 BC and AD 400.

Map of the Roman Empire

The distribution of found Roman coin hoards closely matches the extent of the Roman Empire (shown here using Hans Hack's Point in History map). Outside of the Roman Empire a few coin hoards have been discovered in Eastern and Northern Europe, fairly close to the borders with the Roman Empire. However what stands out on the Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire map are the clusters of coins discovered in India (and to a lesser extent China). 

The large number of coin hoards found in southern India and in particular in modern day Sri Lanka are evidence of the active sea-route trade between India and the Roman Empire (via Egyptian ports and the Red Sea). According to Wikipedia "the southern (sea) route grew to eclipse and then totally supplant the overland trade route", which is probably why such a relatively large number of Roman coin hoards have been discovered in southern India.

Spices traveling from India would take at least three months to travel to Rome. Stanford University's Orbis (Geospatial Network Model of the Ancient World) doesn't allow us to explore routes from southern India to Rome. However we can explore possible routes from Berenice (a port in Egypt on the Red Sea) to Rome. According to Orbis the "Fastest journey from Berenice to Roma in July takes 42.9 days, covering 3846 kilometers". 

To get to Berenice from southern India would take an additional 30-60 days. According to ChatGPT "it is estimated a journey could take roughly one to two months to go from the southern coast of India to the mouth of the Red Sea. From there, goods might be transported overland to the Nile and then carried to Alexandria or other destinations in Egypt".

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Global Birdspotting Map

BirdWeather uses machine learning to detect and map different species of birds around the world. The platform continuously collects sound from active audio stations distributed across the globe and provides what is effectively an automated AI bird spotting map of the world.

Thousands of crowd-sourced audio stations around the world contribute audio data to BirdWeather. Using the BirdNET artificial neural network, a highly sophisticated machine learning algorithm, BirdWeather uses this captured audio data to accurately identify bird calls and songs. From this analysis BirdWeather is then able to automatically map the locations of recorded and identified bird species.

You can explore the results of the machine learning analysis of the audio data provided by thousands of audio stations on the BirdWeather interactive map. This map allows users to explore bird activity by location, species, and by date. Users of the map can also listen to recorded bird calls and songs, and watch live cam streams of selected nesting sites.

If you own a Raspberry PI and a USB Microphone or Sound Card you can also contribute to BirdWeather. Install BirdNET-Pi and you will be able to record and automatically identify bird songs and submit your results to the BirdWeather map.

Active 'twitchers' may also be interested in the eBird interactive map. eBird collects and documents data on bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends. It has detailed information on more than 1,000 bird species around the world. 

Select a species of bird on the eBird Status and Trends webpage and you can view an interactive map which shows the natural habitat of the selected bird. If you select the 'Weekly' option you can actually watch an animated map showing the species' relative abundance for every week of the year. This allows you to observe the migratory journeys undertaken by the selected species of bird over the course of the year.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

How Well Do You Know New York's Subway?

Following the huge success of his London Tube Memory Game Benjamin Tran Dinh released a New York subway version of the game, called the New York City Subway Memory Game.

Benjamin's game requires you to name all 472 New York City subway stations. The game is therefore more of a marathon than a sprint and I suspect will take you at least a few hours to complete. If you don't have that much time to spare for guessing the name of NYC subway stations then you might prefer to play NYC Guessr instead.

NYC Guessr is a fun, and very short, game which requires you to identify the locations of New York City subway stations on a subway map. The game's Github page describes NYC Guessr as 'GeoGuessr for Subway Systems', which might give you some idea of the game-play involved. 

In truth NYC Guessr is very simple to play. All you have to do is point to the locations of five NYC City subway stations on the provided map. In each of the five rounds you are awarded points based on how close your answer is to the correct location of the named station. Your combined score for all five rounds is shown at the top of the game.

The NYC Guessr Github page mentions a Boston version of the game. There is no link to that game but a folder named 'Fix boston globe embed' led me to suspect that the Boston Globe might be featuring the game, and a quick web search returned the Globe's Play MBTAGuessr. Unfortunately the Globe's game is pay-walled but a little intuitive thinking led me to, which provides direct (non-pay-walled) access to the game.

Friday, December 15, 2023

The Mapped History of the London Tube

In the 19th century, London was a city grappling with rapid population growth. The idea of an underground railway was conceived as a solution to the city's ever-growing traffic congestion. and to help improve travel efficiency.

In 1863, the world's first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, opened its doors. Powered by steam locomotives, the Metropolitan Railway connected Paddington and Farringdon, providing a lifeline for commuters and transforming the way Londoners moved through the city. 

My interactive map, the 19th Century Tube, tells the story of the building of the world's first underground railway in London during the second half of the 19th Century. Press the map's 'play' button and you can follow the construction of the London tube year-by-year from 1860 to the end of the 19th Century. You can also click on any of the underground station markers on the map to learn more about when each station was opened and which London Underground lines that they currently serve. 

I think this may have been the first interactive map I've made without the help of Stack Overflow. Instead, as an experiment, when I needed help I referred to Google's Bard AI. For example I asked Bard to provide the JavaScript and CSS style for the map's slide control. Bard's code works perfectly (although I'm not entirely sure about its design choices and may update how the slide control looks at some point in the future).

If you are interested in exploring the code of 19th Century Tube, or if you want to re-use the code to create your own historical transit map then you can clone 19th Century Tube on its Glitch Page.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Historical Movie Map

Some of the greatest movies of all time are based on real historical events. Ever since the invention of cinema in the late 19th Century history has proven to be an endless source of inspiration for directors and writers of films. From ancient epics to more contemporary dramas, the past has provided filmmakers with a wealth of stories to tell, characters to explore, and historical settings to recreate.

The Historical Database is a new interactive map that shows the settings of some of the most well known historical movies. The map includes a number of filters which are very handy if you are interested in discovering historical movies about a particular place in the world or from specific historical eras. For example if you use the date slide control you can filter the map to only show movies set within a particular period of time. The map also includes a control to filter the movies on the map by IMDb ratings.

Of course many historical movies don't allow historical accuracy to interfere with the making of a good story, and it is not unknown for writers, directors and studios of historical movies to play fast and loose with the truth. This might be why the Historical Database includes a control to filter the movies shown on the map by historical accuracy. For example if you set a low bar for historical accuracy and filter the map to only show movies with an 'historical accuracy' rating of 3 or less then the map shows you markers for the movies 'Braveheart' and 'Pirates of the Carribean'.

If you want to explore more movies set in specific locations then you can refer to the Film Map of the World. The Film Map of the World shows the 10 most Wikipedia'ed films which are set in every country in the world. On the map the ten biggest cities in each country are labelled to show one of the ten most popular movies which were set in that nation.

You can use the map to find the name of popular films made in the largest cities around the world. Some films are set in more than one location so the film name may appear in more than one country or city on the map. The top ten films in each country were determined by the average daily number of views of the film's entry on Wikipedia between 2015 and 2019.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Racial Profiling in Redlining Maps

The University of Richmond has released a large update to its amazing Mapping Inequality project. This update includes introductions to the redlining maps produced for around 80 cities, written by scholars and historians and the addition of around 100 new cities to the project.

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal black homeowners were discriminated against by redlining maps. These maps identified areas with significant black populations as risky for mortgage support. Black homeowners living in these areas were unlikely to be successful when trying to refinance home mortgages through the government sponsored Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC). The Mapping Inequality project allows you to explore the HOLC redlining maps for yourself and discover how your neighborhood was classified by the government in the 1930s.

The project's latest update also includes a new search function for the neighborhood descriptions made on Redlining maps by agents. These descriptions reveal the extraordinary racial prejudices of some of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation agents responsible for classifying which neighborhoods were desirable for lending purposes and which were too risky for mortgage support.

For example in Phoenix, Arizona area D5 is described by the HOLC agent as having "suffered no encroachment by Negroes, Mexicans, etc.". In area C6 in Montgomery, Alabama the HOLC agent notes that "If proposed negro development fostered by Catholic Church materializes, future trend of residential desirability will be downward." In response to the mere possibility of future black residents the agent classified the neighborhood as type C - "Definitely Declining".

You can use the new neighborhood descriptions search facility to search for individual terms used by HOLC agents in their notes. For example you can search where the agents used the words Negro, Mexicans, Orientals, foreigners etc. Searching for these individual words quickly reveals the type of negative and prejudicial language that the agents use for describing the non-white residents of neighborhoods. 

Non-white people are usually described as 'infiltrating' or 'encroaching' on areas. With the result that these areas were then less likely to receive financial services. An example of this can be seen in Oakland, California. In area C2 in Oakland the HOLC agent states "Infiltration of Negroes and Orientals possibility". He therefore classifies this neighborhood as also type C - "Definitely Declining". 

Over and over again the neighborhood descriptions on the HOLC's Redlining maps see the 'infiltration' or 'encroachment' of non-white residents as being detrimental to neighborhoods. Area C3 in Topeka is described by the HOLC agent as "among the best sections of the city". However despite being one of the 'best' areas of the city it is "blighted because of the presence of negroes". The agent therefore classifies one of the city's "best sections" as "Definitely Declining".

To the HOLC agents it doesn't matter if non-white residents are actually bringing new wealth into a neighborhood. Even the possibility of new rich non-white residents is described by HOLC agents using negative terms. For example the notes for area C6 in Oakland remark on the "Infiltration of wealthy Orientals and Oriental store keepers". The result of new wealthy 'Oriental' residents moving into the area means that the neighborhood was deemed as 'Definitely Declining' by the HOLC.

At the other end of the HOLC classification scale the notes for type A - 'Best' and type B - 'Still Desirable' areas often record that a neighborhood "Prohibits Asiatics and Negroes" or "that there are no Negroes or Asiatics allowed in the city limits". The existence of racial covenants is seen as distinctly positive by the HOLC and obviously played a big part in many areas being deemed desirable. Therefore the residents of these neighborhoods were seen as worthy of receiving government aid. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Night Train to Europe

Last night at 8.18pm the night train to Paris left Berlin Central Station. It was the first Berlin-Paris night train in over 9 years. The new Nightjet service between the German and French capitals is yet more evidence of the resurgence of overnight rail travel in Europe. 

At the beginning of the 21st Century night train services in Europe were being closed at an alarming rate, thanks largely to the competition from budget air travel. Thankfully European governments and travelers have been keen to support greener modes of travel and there has been a concerted effort to re-open night-rail connections between a number of European cities. 

If you fancy catching a romantic sleeper train then you can refer to the Good Morning Europe, Night Train Map to discover which night train routes are currently in operation across Europe. Büro des Präsidenten's interactive map is based on their own renowned night train poster of Europe. Major cities on this map are marked with numbered night train routes. If you hover over these numbers on the interactive map then the selected route is highlighted on the map, allowing you to quickly see where you can travel to in Europe by sleeper train from that city.

Unfortunately the Berlin-Paris night train is so new that this route has not yet been added to the map. It also doesn't seem to have been added to Night Trains' Night-Train Map. Night Train's map is essentially a static image with panning and zooming options. This means that the map can be a little hard to navigate. If you want to see which night train services run from a city it might actually be easier to just select the city from the menu above the Night-Train map.

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Carbon Bomb Map

A 'Carbon bomb' is a large-scale fossil fuel extraction project that has the potential to release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby significantly contributing to climate change. These massively environmentally damaging projects usually involve the exploitation of oil reserves, coal mines, or natural gas fields.

There are currently 425 fossil fuel extraction projects around the world that will generate more than one gigatonne of CO₂ (1 GtCO₂) during their operation. According to Carbon for Good these 425 carbon bombs will together release over twice the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂ ) that humanity can release into the atmosphere while still having a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The CarbonBombs interactive map shows the locations of the 425 current carbon bomb projects, owned by fossil fuel companies around the world. The size of each carbon bomb's marker on the map is determined by the amount of GtCO₂ (gigatonnes of carbon dioxide) the project will generate during its operation.
The footprintMap is another interactive map of carbon emissions, however this map visualizes the CO₂ footprint of individual countries around the world. Using the map you can discover the per capita CO₂ output of each country and see which countries contribute the most and least to global heating. 

According to this map Singapore has the highest per capita CO₂ footprint of any country. The United States has the 9th highest per capita CO₂ footprint of the 118 countries featured on the map. Malawi, Uganda and Rwanda (respectively) have the lowest per capita CO₂ footprint of the 118 countries mapped. 

The carbon data for the map comes from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2022 and the Global Carbon Budget 2022. The population and GDP data used on the map is derived from the Worldbank.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Discover Your Neighborhood Tree Score

The Woodland Trust has released a new interactive map which reveals the amount of tree canopy cover available in thousands of UK neighborhoods. Using the map you can discover the 'tree equity score' of Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA) in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you click on your neighborhood on the Tree Equity Score UK map you can discover its 'tree equity score', the current percentage of tree canopy cover, and the local levels of air pollution. The 'tree equity score' uses a range of factors to calculate "how well the benefits of trees are reaching communities living on low incomes and others disproportionately impacted by extreme heat, pollution and other environmental hazards." In other words it provides an overview of where investment in tree canopy cover is most acute. 

The score provides a single measure from 0-100 for each LSOA. The lower the tree equity score then the greater the need for investment.

The Woodland Trust's Tree Equity Score map was made in partnership with American Forests and is similar to the US Tree Equity Score map. In both the UK and the US the number of trees and the amount of tree cover is often very closely tied to the distribution of income and race. Trees are usually very sparse in low income areas. On the other hand neighborhoods with lots of trees and tree cover are very often the most expensive areas in which to live.

A lack of trees and tree cover in cities is one of the biggest causes of urban heat islands. Urban heat islands are areas of towns and cities which can become unbearably hot, especially on days with extreme heat. These areas can often become 10-20 degrees warmer than other areas in the very same city. Urban heat islands tend to occur in areas with the densest built environments and with very little tree canopy cover. Using the tree equity score maps it is possible to quickly determine the neighborhoods most in need of increased tree canopy cover.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Making Animated Map GIFs

This morning I have been having a lot of fun playing with Darren Wien's new Fly To tool for making animated map GIF's. Using the new Fly To wizard you can easily make your own map fly-thru animations simply by pointing to a starting and ending location on an interactive map. The tool is a great way to create map fly-thru GIFs to illustrate news stories or to enhance blog or social media posts.

The tool includes a number of options. For example you can select whether you want 3D terrain, 3D buildings or whether you want to use a satellite or street map. After you have selected your map layer and set your stating and ending points you just need to click on the 'Start Animation' button and 'Fly To' will create you animated map scene.

If you are happy with the animated fly-thru that you have created you can download the results as a series of image PNGs or alternatively you can make a screen-recording of your animation. You can then use your favorite GIF tool to turn the results into an animated map GIF.

To make the GIF of Mount Fuji (shown at the top of this post) I uploaded the PNG images (downloaded from Fly To) to Ezgif and let it do all the animation work for me. For the other GIFs in this post I actually took screen recordings of the Fly To animations and used Ezgif's Video to GIF wizard to create the completed GIFs.

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.