Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Live From Space

animated globe showing the position of the ISS next to a live stream of the Earth from the ISS

The 3D ISS Tracker shows the position of the International Space Station above the Earth in real-time. It also shows a stunning live HD view of Earth as seen and broadcast from the ISS. 

The position of the ISS is indicated by the little yellow dot slowly circling the Earth If you zoom out on the globe you can also view the current positions of the sun and moon. The cloud layer shown on the 3D model of the Earth is also shown in near real-time. 

The near real-time cloud layer is created from EUMETSAT data. The cloud layer is updated eight times a day, every three hours. If you want to use the cloud layer it is available from Live Cloud Maps. The 3D globe in the visualization uses Globe.gl, a 3D globe library which uses ThreeJS/WebGL for the 3D rendering.

If you want to spot the ISS for yourself then James Darpinian's See a Satellite Tonight can tell you when the International Space Station is flying over your house. It can also tell you where to look in the night sky so that you don't miss the ISS when it flies over your location.

Share your location with See a Satellite Tonight and you can view an interactive 3D Cesium Earth, showing your current location highlighted on the globe. The globe also shows the position of any satellites passing over your home in the next five days. The map menu (running down the left-hand side) tells you at what time tonight satellites can be viewed while flying over your location. It also allows you to view the locations of all the satellites passing your location over the next five nights.

And the magic doesn't stop there! See a Satellite Tonight also shows the tracks of all visble satellites overlaid on top of a Google Maps Street View panorama of your home. This means that you now know exactly when and where to look in the night sky if you want to see passing satellites with the naked eye.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Weather or Not

Weather or Not's temperature map of the US

Do you dream of the perfect vacation weather? Sunshine on the beach, crisp mountain air, or vibrant fall foliage?  Imagine a tool that helps you find the ideal destination for your desired climate, anywhere in the country and for any month of the year.  This is the promise of Weather or Not, a new interactive map that leverages average weather data to recommend the best time to travel to any location. 

Weather or Not promises to help you discover the best time of the year to travel to different parts of the US if you want to experience your ideal temperature conditions. Enter your ideal temperature range (eg 60-80 Fahrenheit) into Weather or Not and the map will color every US county based on the time of year when you are most likely to encounter your ideal weather conditions in that county.

If you are planning a vacation then you can use the map to find which counties will most likely fall within your perfect temperature range in the month that you wish to travel. Select a month from the drop-down menu and change the view option to 'Yes/No'. The map will then color each US county based on whether it is likely to fall within your ideal temperature range in the month that you wish to travel. 

animated map showing average daily temperatures across the US over the counrse of one year

We all have our own ideas about what the ideal weather conditions actually are. myPefectWeather is another interactive map which can help you find the locations in the United States which most closely match your own preferred temperatures, precipitation levels and /or amount of snowfall.

If you select the 'options' button on the myPerfectWeather map menu you can begin to discover the locations across America which most resemble your ideal climate zone. For example - if you select 'the average high temperature' filter then you can enter your desired range of maximum temperatures. The map will then adjust to visualize the places that most closely match your preferred temperature range. 

You can also filter the map by average daily precipitation, average daily snowfall and comfortable weather days. You can also view a detailed breakdown of the annual weather conditions in any city by using the map's search box.

US map colored to show the number of days in the year that each location is likely to experience temperatures between 40 & 80 degrees

The Goldilocks Zone Finder is an interactive map which can also help you find the location in the United States which has your perfect year-round temperatures. Just tell the map the hottest and coldest temperatures that you are happy to live with it and it will show you a map displaying the number of days per year which fall within your own personal Goldilocks temperature zone, for all locations across the United States.

The Goldilocks Zone Finder was created by Luke Champine who wanted to find a place to live which fell within his own personal temperature preferences. The map uses data from NOAA's 30 Year Climate Normals, which uses 30 years of weather measurements taken across the United States to calculate daily temperature averages. The NOAA Climate Normals also includes averages for precipitation and other climate variables but these are not included on the Goldilocks Zone Finder.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The US Heat Risk Map

map of the USA showing areas with possible extreme heat

A new interactive map has been released to help warn Americans of extreme temperatures. The new HeatRisk map provides a weekly forecast of the lower 48 states showing where temperatures may be high enough to harm people's health.

On the HeatRisk map areas are colored to show the forecast risks of extreme heat, using a color ramp that proceeds from green (little or no risk) to magenta (rare and/or long-duration of extreme heat). If you click on the map you can also view the forecast high and low temperatures for each day of the next week at that location.

You can also access the HeatRisk map on the CDC website. The CDC map includes a search option to get a weekly HeatRisk forecast for your zip-code area. The CDC’s map also includes links to guidelines on preparing for extreme heat and how to stay safe in high temperatures. The CDC's Heat and Health Tracker is another useful resource. This tracker includes a map showing the current rate of emergency department (ED) visits associated with heat-related illness across the US.

If you are affected by extreme temperatures then you might also want to bookmark the US government's National Integrated Heat Health Information System. This agency also provides a map of current heat forecasts as well as an EMS HeatTracker Map (showing where Emergency Medical Services are currently seeing an increase in heat related emergencies).

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Six Free Alternatives to GeoGuessr

I am a huge fan of GeoGuessr, but unfortunately without becoming a paid subscriber it is now a very limited game. I don't blame GeoGuessr for developing its subscription model. The Google Maps API isn't cheap and I'm sure Google sends GeoGuesssr huge invoices every month. However that does mean there is a huge potential market for a free Street View game. A market that OpenGuessr now hopes to exploit.

Wikidata Guessr

a photo of the Deutschhaus in Mainz and a small inset world map

Let's start with the hardest challenge! Wikidata Guessr is a fun game which involves trying to identify the locations shown in images randomly selected from the Wikidata knowledge base. 

The only problem with Wikidata Guessr is that identifying the locations depicted in still images can be incredibly difficult. The difficulty level of Wikidata Guessr means that I would personally start with some of the other GeoGuessr games listed on this page, especially if you are a novice GeoGuessr player. 

If you are a GeoGuessr pro then you will probably love the challenge posed by Wikidata Guessr. If you do find Wikidata Guessr challenging then you might find some of the thematic rounds (such as parliament buildings, rollwercoasters or mountains) a little easier to play.


a screenshot of backdrop showing the painting of a town square nest to an map of Europe
Backdrop is probably the best game ever devised in the history of mankind (full disclosure - I developed Backdrop myself, so I may be a little biased).

Backdrop is a map based game which is somewhat similar to the very popular GeoGuessr game. However in Backdrop instead of Google Maps Street View images you have to identify the locations depicted in famous pictures painted by some of history's greatest artists.

In GeoGuessr you can stroll around in Street View to pick-up clues as to the location that you have been dropped in. In Backdrop if you don't immediately recognize the scene depicted in the painting there are only a couple of clues available to you. Usually the title of the painting is a huge clue as to the location that is depicted. If that doesn't help then the name of the gallery where the painting is located might be a clue as to the location shown in the artwork (although it might also be a complete red herring). 

Each game of Backdrop involves identifying the locations of 5 paintings chosen at random. You win points based purely on how close you click to the correct location.

You might also enjoy Backdrop.Tripgeo, a series of GeoGuessr type games that I have developed with Tripgeo. These individual games require you to identify the locations depicted in other types of images, these include vintage photos, postcards, movie stills, satellite images and even holiday snaps. 


screenshot of OpenGuessr showing the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul

Very much like GeoGuessr the new OpenGuessr is an online geography game that uses Google Maps Street View images to drop players in random locations around the world. Players must then use the clues from their surroundings to guess where they are on the map. The closer their guess is to the actual location, the more points they earn. 

The 'open' in OpenGuessr very much refers to being open or free to play. The game itself is not open-source and it doesn't use open-sourced map data or panoramic imagery. In fact like GeoGuessr the new OpenGuessr game uses Google Map's proprietary data and imagery. Which does make me wonder how long OpenGuessr can survive itself before it will have to start charging users to play.


If you are looking for other free alternatives to GeoGuessr then you might also enjoy TimeGuessr. TimeGuessr is another 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. 


screenshot of cityguessr showing a street view of a rainy street in Bristol

GeoGuessr fans should also have no problem understanding how to play Cityguessr. In Cityguessr you are shown a Street View panorama of a random city. All you have to do is identify the city using the visual clues (street signs, street furniture, architectural signs etc) within the Street View images. 

In most cities you can explore a little by using the arrow signs in Street View to move yourself around. However you only have 135 seconds before you have to make a guess. Unfortunately sometimes Cityguessr gives you a user submitted Street View and you are unable to explore - which can make identifying the correct city very difficult. It's still fun to try though and if you do guess right it makes it even more satisfying.

City Guesser

City Guesser is a fun location guessing game, which requires you to identify a location revealed in a video and point to it on an interactive map. 

The game shows you a random video of someone walking around a city or a famous monument. You have to pick up on the visual clues in the video (such as the languages & words used in street signs and the design of the street furniture) to identify where you think the video was shot. Once you have made your guess you just need to click on the location on an interactive map and you are awarded points based on how close you got to the real location. 

There are a number of different games that you can play. You can choose to view videos just from one country - or you can play either a Worldwide or Europe game - featuring videos from across the world or from just within Europe.

The Stunning Beauty of Air Traffic Data

a map of flight paths in and out of Denver Airport

The ADS-B Massive Visualizer allows you to query and visualize the world's air traffic data. Using the visualizer you can query 50 billion flight data records, enabling you to:

  • map the flight paths of different types of aircraft anywhere in the world
  • visualize the flight patterns of military aircraft
  • track police aircraft
  • observe the effect of war on civilian airline flight paths

These are only a few examples of the hundreds of different types of queries that you can make with the ADS-B Massive Visualizer. The map itself comes with a number of predefined queries that hint at the huge number of possible queries that you can make with the visualizer. 

If you want to format your own queries then you will need to refer to the visualizer's GitHub page, specifically the section titled Database and Queries. The project's GitHub page also includes a large number of screenshots of mapped queries made using the visualizer. These screenshots may give you lots of other ideas about how you can query the database.

map showing the flightpaths of helicopters in London

The possible queries seem endless and hugely fascinating. For example this query of helicopter flights over London shows that many helicopter pilots like to follow the river Thames, as far as the Isle of Dogs in the East End where they turn northwards and then follow the River Lea up through the Olympic Park (or vice versa if traveling in the opposite direction.

map of helicopter flight paths in New York City

One reason why helicopters may follow rivers while flying through cities is to avoid all those tall buildings. For example in this query you can see that in New York helicopters avoid the city's massive skyscrapers by following the Hudson and East River.

Please let me know in the comments if you find any other interesting queries. You can just grab the URL of the ADS-B Massive Visualizer to share the map of your query with the world.

Via: Quantum of Sollazzo

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

America's Drunkest Counties

chorpleth map of USA showing levels of excessive drinking in each state

America's Booziest and Driest Counties is a choropleth map which shows the percentage of the population in each US county who are excessive drinkers. The map is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which defines excessive drinking as either binge drinking (men 5 drinks in a single session, women 4 drinks in a single session) or heavy drinking (men drinking more than 15 drinks in a week, women drinking 8 drinks in a week).

The map shows that many of the driest counties are also some of the most religious. For example Utah, whose population is over 50% Mormon, is one the direst states on the map. Consequently Utah has some of the most restrictive laws related to the buying and selling of alcohol. Much of the bible belt also seem to have some of the driest counties in the USA.

At the other end of the scale most counties in Wisconsin have a very high percentage of excessive drinkers. The reason for this may be partly cultural and partly due to the state alcohol laws (in Wisconsin people under the legal drinking age may be served, possess, or consume alcohol if they are with a parent, legal guardian, or spouse who is of legal drinking age).

Kentucky and West Virginia both have a large number of very dry counties. I read an interesting theory last week (I can't remember where so unfortunately I can't credit this) that this may be related to the heavy use of opiates in these states (West Virginia has the highest rate of deaths from drug overdose of all states).

The CDC has also mapped out the percentage of excessive drinking by state. The CDC ranks each state based on the percentage of the population who reported binge or heavy drinking. Utah, Kentucky and Alabama respectively top the rankings with the least percentage of heavy drinkers. North Dakota (50), Montana (49) and Iowa (48) have the highest number of excessive drinkers (Wisconsin comes in at 47th).

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Mapping a Global Coral Bleaching Event

an animated GIF of ABC News' globe of global coral bleaching

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the 'world is currently experiencing a global coral bleaching event'. The Earth has experienced 10 consecutive months of global heat records,  and in the last year the average global temperature has exceeded pre-industrial levels by 1.58C. These unprecedented sudden rises in air surface temperatures are having a devastating effect on the world's coral reefs.

When the oceans get too warm, corals expel the algae that live within them. This algae provides the corals with vital nutrients and without this algae the corals turn white or pale and are much more susceptible to disease and death.

Australia's ABC News has mapped out the extent of coral bleaching in coral reefs around the world. A 3D globe in The Great Ocean White-Out visualizes the current level of risk to coral reefs. The map uses the reef bleaching alert scale to show the level of risk to individual coral reefs.  The map shows that coral bleaching is now a global problem and, according to ABC News, "For the first time ever, coral (is) bleaching on both the Atlantic and the Pacific side of Panama at the exact same time".

In NOAA's announcement of a Global Coral Bleaching Event the agency reports that this is the second global bleaching event in just the last ten years. NOAA suggests that this "global event requires global action". Which is in itself extremely worrying as the world's governments seem unwilling to even meet the voluntary emissions targets that they set themselves in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Tiny World Map

Tiny World Map is a map of the whole wide world condensed into a very small file size. It has been designed to be used offline and with low-bandwidth web apps. The whole map is only 300 kB gzipped and apparently it works on even "low-end decade-old phones, with no discernible lag".

The main reason that Tiny World Map is so small is because it isn't much of a map. As far as I can tell Tiny World Map consists almost entirely of a very low resolution country border layer, a layer of country placename labels, and the placename labels of the '10,000 most populous cities'. 

Of course using such course mapping data means that the map is not very accurate - for example if you zoom in on coastlines around the world you will start to notice that many city placename labels are displayed off the coast, suggesting that these cities are located somewhere under water. 

The map uses service workers which means that you don't have to download anything onto your phone in order to use the map when you are offline. You just need to visit Tiny World Map when you have internet access and the map should be cached so that you can then use the map even when you don't have access to an internet connection.

However I am struggling to think of a use-case for Tiny World Map. I can't think of an occasion when I might need a low resolution map which only contains country borders and the labels of the so-called 10,000 most populous cities in the world - even when I'm offline. 

The fact that I can't think of a use case for Tiny World Map doesn't mean that there isn't one. I've never understood the point of what3words and that's now a global multi-million dollar company. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Slim City

For a number of years I've had the idea of creating an incremental game which involves slowly creating a city map by adding different map elements over time. This week I decided to try and put that idea into action. The result is Slim City, an idle game which requires you to click on building footprints on an interactive map to build and create a map of a city neighborhood.

In Slim City the more buildings you own then the more of the city map is completed. Each day you earn rent from all the buildings that you own. So, if you run out of money, you just need to wait until the city clock reaches midnight.

And that's it really. To be honest - as it stands Slim City isn't much of a game. I could improve the game by adding more city management features but I am actually going to stop developing this game for now and maybe later start from scratch on version two of Slim City. 

There are a couple of reasons for starting a new version of the game. The first is that at the moment the game has to make lots of calls to the Overpass API to fetch the map data. This really isn't a good idea. My idea now is to instead download all the OpenStreetMap data for a small 200 meter x 200 meter area. I can then re-purpose that data in any way that I require to enable players to slowly add features to a city neighborhood map during a game - without having to make lots of calls to the Overpass API.

The second reason that I'm going to start from scratch on SlimCity 2.0 is that I now have a better idea for some fun city management elements that can be added to the game. I think that these ideas will work better if I start over from the beginning and bake in these features from the very start of development.

Friday, April 19, 2024

⅓ of Rafah’s Buildings Destroyed

satellite imagery of Rafah showing damaged buildings and tents

Bloomberg has analysed satellite imagery of the Palestinian city of Rafah and determined that Israel has damaged or destroyed about 32% of the region's buildings.

In How the Israel-Hamas War has Reshaped Rafah in Gaza Bloomberg presents a satellite image of the Palestinian city. As you scroll through the article a layer is superimposed on top of this satellite view to show buildings which have been damaged (in orange) and tents or other new structures (in yellow). As you scroll south across the region it is impossible to not be shocked by the devastating destruction of the region by the Israeli attacks.

The Bloomberg analysis used machine learning to compare two satellite images of the region - one image captured in November of last year and a more recent satellite image captured at the end of March. The machine learning model was trained to look for tents and for new structures. In the article Bloomberg also reports that 'Across the entire Gaza Strip, about 56% of buildings have been damaged'.

a close-up satelitte view of a Gaza neighborhood colored almost completely red

The Guardian has also used satellite imagery and open-source evidence to map the mass destruction of buildings and land in Gaza. In January the newspaper published a story-map How war destroyed Gaza’s neighbourhoods, which guides you through satellite imagery of three neighborhoods in Gaza (Beit Hanoun, al-Zahra and Khan Younis) documenting the destruction of civilian infrastructure by Israel.

The destroyed buildings in the satellite imagery in The Guardian's map are colored red. However, as the map automatically pans over Gaza, it quickly becomes apparent that it would have been easier for The Guardian to color in the undestroyed buildings as there is very little civilian infrastructure left in the three neighborhoods.

As well as the satellite imagery of Israel's destruction of civilian infrastructure the map is illustrated with video evidence of the Israeli attacks. This destruction of civilian infrastructure by Israel includes bombed schools, mosques, hospitals and people's homes. So far 1.9 million people have been forced to leave their homes in Gaza and, according to The Guardian, the scale of destruction carried out by Israel has "led some experts to describe what is happening in Gaza as 'domicide', ... widespread, deliberate destruction ... preventing the return of displaced people." 

a satellite view of Gaza with lots of damaged buildings colored red

In November a researcher at UCL's CASA released an interactive mapping tool to 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 damaged 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.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The American Home Values Map

a dot density mao of the USA showing home vaues

Home Values in America is a dot density map showing the self-reported value of homes across the whole United States.The map shows home values across the United States using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018-2022  American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS  is a large-scale survey that gathers information about the American population every year.

The colored dots on the map show the self-reported values of owner-occupied homes. These values are self-reported by ACS respondents when asked the question "how much do you think this house and lot, apartment, or mobile home (and lot, if owned) would sell for if it were for sale?" The dots on the map don't reflect the actual locations of respondents. Each dot is mapped randomly within its census block location.

The map legend shows the values of each color of dot on the map. This legend is interactive which means that you can turn on or off different values on the map, allowing you to explore the density of the most expensive or cheapest homes in a city or any combination of the mapped home values.

You can learn more about the methodology behind the making of the map on the project's GitHub page.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The 2024 Cicadapocalypse

a cicada brood map showing in which year cicada broods will emerge in the USA

2024 is set to see the emergence of two large periodical cicada broods. Both Brood XIX (13-year cicada) and Brood XIII (17-year cicada), are expected to emerge together in 2024 for the first time since 1803. This double emergence has been nicknamed a "cicada-geddon" by some.

Periodical cicadas are native to eastern North America. They spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on tree root fluids. Depending on the species, they live either 13 or 17 years underground before emerging as adults. As adults periodical cicadas emerge in massive groups called broods. Nearly all the individuals in a brood emerge above ground within a few weeks of each other.

Axios has created a mapped timeline to visualize in which year and where in the USA each of the 13-year cicada and 17-year will emerge and in which year there will be a double emergence. In this visualization a map of the eastern USA is encompassed by two time wheels (a 13-year and 17-year time wheel). Select a year on this map and the two time wheels rotate to show you which broods (if any) will emerge that year.

The Axios article Is 2024 the Cicadapocalypse or a Cicadapalooza? also includes an interactive map which allows you to enter a city in the eastern USA to see in which years the city will experience a cicada brood emergence. 

map showing past sightings of cicada broods
According to the University Of Connecticut's overview of the 2024 Periodical Cicada Emergence, although both Brood XIX and Brood XIII will emerge in 2024 they will "not overlap to any significant extent." 

The university has mapped out past positive presence records of both Brood XIX and Brood XIII. On this map positive presence records of Brood XIII are represented by images of upwards facing cicadas and positive presence records of Brood XIX are represented by images of downwards facing cicadas. The map allows you to see where the two broods have emerged in previous years.

The university also says that even if both broods do emerge in the same area there probably won't be a higher density of cicadas than if only one brood emerged, because "Competition for resources (e.g., food, space, or ovipisition sites) is expected to impose an upper limit on cicada densities".

Monday, April 15, 2024

Backdrop - the Ultimate Challenge

a creenshot of Backdrop showing a map and landscape painting of a church in Warsaw

Backdrop is a map based game which is somewhat similar to the very popular GeoGuessr game. However in Backdrop instead of Google Maps Street View images you have to identify the locations depicted in famous paintings by some of history's greatest artists.

In GeoGuessr you can stroll around in Street View to pick-up clues as to the location that you have been dropped in. In Backdrop if you don't immediately recognize the scene depicted in the painting there are only a couple of clues available to you. Usually the title of the painting is a huge clue as to the location that is depicted. If that doesn't help then the name of the gallery might be a clue as to the location shown in the artwork (although it might also be a complete red herring). 

Currently there are around 200 paintings from around the world in the Backdrop database. Each game of Backdrop involves identifying the locations of 5 paintings chosen at random. You win points based purely on how close you click to the correct location.


A couple of months ago I gave Tripgeo a preview of Backdrop and he pointed out that the game could work equally well with any type of image. He volunteered to create an editor that could be used to create a Backdrop game with any uploaded images. The result is Backdrop.Tripgeo, a series of GeoGuessr type games, using paintings, vintage photos, postcards, movie stills and holiday snaps.

The Backdrop editor developed by Tripgeo means that it is very easy and quick to create individual Backdrop games. If you have some images that you think might make a good game get in contact and we might be able to help you turn them into your very own Backdrop map game.

Spikkin Scots

The Shetland Dialect map allows you to listen to examples of the Shetland Dialect spoken across the Shetland Isles. The Shetland Isles are the northernmost region of the United Kingdom, Shetland, positioned between Orkney, the Faroe Islands, and Norway. 

Due to the isolated geography of the Shetland Isles the Shetland dialect (also called Shetlandic or auld Shetland) has continued to retain a degree of autonomy from other Scottish dialects. If you click on the green speaker icons on the Shetland Dialect map you can listen to a short sound clip of a Shetlander speaking in their local dialect.

Unfortunately the sound recordings are not accompanied by transcripts. This is a shame.  It would be very useful to be able to see some of these examples of Shetlandic vocabulary and grammatical forms written down. However if you do struggle with any individual words then you can always refer to the Shetland Dialect's Shetland Dictionary, which also includes sound recordings of individual Shetlandic words

The Scottish newspaper the Press and Journal has published a series of articles about the Scots language. This series includes a Spikkin Scots interactive map which features a number of sound recordings of people speaking Scots across the whole of Scotland. 

The newspaper estimates that there are currently around 1.5 million Scots speakers in Scotland. Scots is classed as a vulnerable language by Unesco. 

The Scots language has many dialects. You can explore and listen to these dialects on the Press and Journal's interactive map. The map includes 14 different sound recordings of people speaking Scots in different parts of Scotland (and one Scots speaker in Ulster). 

The map features at least 13 distinct dialects of Scots. Each of the sound recordings provides an example of a person speaking who actually lives and works in the mapped location.

Links to the other articles in the Press and Journal's Scots language series are provided beneath the map, at the end of the accompanying article.

The Scots Syntax Atlas is another interactive map which includes recordings of the Scottish dialects spoken in the different areas of Scotland. The map includes sound recordings of Scottish syntax recorded in all parts of the country, allowing you to explore where and how different types of Scottish syntax are spoken in different areas of Scotland. 

To create the map the researchers visited 145 communities in Scotland interviewing local people and recording their answers. In these interviews the researchers were particularly interested in the syntax of local dialects and in the ways that sentences are constructed in the different areas of Scotland. 

If you click on the markers on the map you can listen to interesting examples of Scottish syntax which were recorded in different parts of the country. You can also discover where these different types of Scottish syntax are spoken by selecting the 'who says what where' button. This option shows you where different types of syntax are spoken in Scotland. The 'stories behind the examples' button provides more detailed grammatical explanations of the recorded examples of Scottish syntax and information on how Scottish syntax differs from  'standard' English.

GeoGuessr for Art

screenshot of the game Backdrop, showing a map and a painting of the Houses of Parliament

Calling all art sleuths and geography buffs! There's a new game in town that will test your knowledge of both the artistic and the actual world. Buckle up, because Backdrop is here to take you on a virtual journey through the works of the world's most famous artists.

Inspired by the wildly popular GeoGuessr, Backdrop throws you into the heart of stunning landscapes and iconic cityscapes, all captured within renowned works of art. But instead of streets and buildings, you'll be navigating brushstrokes and artistic composition.

Here's how it works:

  • Study a famous painting
  • Pinpoint the location depicted in the artwork by clicking on an interactive map.

It is that simple. Think you can recognize the rolling hills of Tuscany from a snippet of a Renaissance masterpiece? Or perhaps the bustling Parisian streets in the background of a Monet? Backdrop will put your location recognition skills to the test, all while challenging you to identify the locations shown in famous works of art.

However Backdrop is not just restricted to famous works of art. The game also works with all other types of images. Therefore as well as identifying the locations depicted in famous works of art you can play Backdrop rounds which involve identifying the locations in some of the world's earliest photographs, the scenes captured in vintage postcards, in pixelated Street View images, in famous movie scenes and in some of my own personal photos of London. 

And more rounds will be coming soon ... (such as images of famous cat explorers). There are also plans a foot to maybe open up Backdrop so that registered users can create their own games from their own photos.

You can also play Backdrop - the Ultimate Challenge. This is very similar to the Art Attack game on Backdrop but actually selects random paintings from around 200 different works of art.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The AI Music Map

Over the last few days my Twitter feed has been lit up by people sharing the songs that they have created on Udio. For the one or two cave dwellers out there who have only just installed spelunking wi-fi, Udio is an AI-powered music generation tool which allows users to create songs from a text prompt. The tool allows you to create tunes with customized lyrics, vocal styles, and musical genres.

Because I happen to follow a lot of cartographers and geographers many of the AI songs I have seen on Twitter have a map theme. However Darren Wiens has to get a special mention for creating the first Udio-map mash-up. His Longitunes interactive globe allows you to click on lines of longitude around the world to listen to an AI-generated song about that specific pole-to-pole segment of the Earth.

Of course using music as a navigational aide isn't new. Long before maps and compasses were invented the indigenous people of Australia were able to navigate using the songlines of the Gods. Songlines, or dreaming tracks, are the creation myths of Indigenous Australians. They are the paths that the creator-beings took across the world while naming and creating the features of the land. 

These songlines crisscross Australia and, if you know the songline, you can follow the routes that the creator-beings took across the country. By singing the songlines indigenous people can actually navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior. You can learn more about songlines from different parts of Australia on ABC's Singing the Country into Life, which explores the songlines of a number of indigenous groups across the whole of Australia.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The 2024 Submarine Cable Map

the 2024 submarine cable map presented as a globe

Every year the telecommunications company Telegeography releases a new, updated version of its Submarine Cable map. This map shows all the undersea telecommunication cables which carry data around the world.The 2024 Submarine Cable Map is now available. 

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

This year's version of Telegeography's undersea cable map plots 529 cable systems and 1,444 landing stations. The 2024 Submarine Cable map is available as a free download or you can purchase a wall map for $250. In previous years Telegeography has often experimented with different vintage map styles. This year's edition is much more straightforward (which is probably the most sensible design choice). 

One interesting cartographic choice in this year's edition of the map is the positioning of some of the inset maps on top of the massive Russian landmass. These inset maps provide a close-up view of country landing stations and the cable systems which they serve around the world. Normally you might expect inset maps to be positioned in the ocean, and in the corners of a map. However because the major focus of a submarine cable map is the oceans and coastlines it makes sense to position inset maps inland (although the central prominence of the Egypt hub makes little geographical sense and may owe more to the fact that the map is sponsored by Telecom Egypt). 

You can explore Telegeography's Submarine Cable Maps for previous years just by changing the year in the map's URL. For example, one of my favorite Telegeography maps can be found at http://submarine-cable-map-2015.telegeography.com/. This 2015 map was inspired by medieval and renaissance cartography and features a vintage map style containing sea monsters, cartouches and border illustrations.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Mapping Conflicts Around the World

In 2024 the specter of military conflicts haunts the world. Israel is engaged in conflict in Gaza, Russia continues its illegal invasion of Ukraine and the Syrian civil war is now in its thirteenth year. It should be a matter of extreme shame that there are so many organizations who feel the need to publish interactive maps dedicated to tracking the progress of military action around the globe.
map of armed conflicts around the world

The Geneva Academy's The Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Map monitors and plots armed conflicts around the globe. The map currently shows the locations of  more than 110 armed conflicts, including the military occupation of Palestine by Israel and the occupation of parts of Ukraine by Russia.

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) online portal has been mapped armed conflicts around the world since 2007. The map currently shows that at least "55 states and more than 70 armed non-State actors" are presently involved in armed conflicts. 

If you click on the yellow country markers on the map you can discover which conflicts the selected country is currently involved in. For example if you click on the United States the map reveals that the US is presently involved in "airstrikes in Iraq and Syria" and is "also undertaking strikes against Islamist militants in Somalia, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen."

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) the intensity of conflicts around the world increased last year with the number of people dying in these conflicts increasing by 14% year-on-year.

The IISS is an international research institute (or think tank) focused on global security, political risk, and military conflict. The IISS Conflict Trends Map plots the fall and rise of conflicts around the world based on the result of the institute's annual Armed Conflict Survey. The interactive conflict trends map plots five main criteria: troop deployments, violent events, fatalities, the number of internally displaced persons and the number of refugees.

The map also includes a timeline control which allows you to track conflicts in countries around the world over time. Press the play button on this timeline and you can view an animated choropleth layer visualizing the progress of global conflicts for the years 2014-2023.
The Center for Preventative Action's Global Conflict Tracker is another interactive map which tracks conflicts around the world. The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) is a think tank based in Washington, D.C., affiliated with the Council on Foreign Relations. It has a specific focus on conflicts which affect 'U.S. interests'.

The Global Conflict Tracker allows you to filter the conflicts shown on the map by status (worsening, unchanging or improving). The map can also be filtered to show conflicts which have a 'critical', 'significant' or 'limited' impact on the United States. If you click on any of the conflicts shown on the map you are taken to the CPA's page on the conflict, which includes background information, a summary of concerns and news of any recent developments. 

The ACLED Conflict Severity Index (from the The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project) uses four different indicators to assess and rank the complexity and severity of conflicts in countries across the world. Based on violence measured in countries around the globe in 2022 the Index identified 46 countries and territories which were experiencing severe levels of conflict. 

You can explore Conflict Severity Index rankings for individual countries and the 46 countries identified with severe levels of conflict on ACLED's interactive map (based on 2022 conflicts). The map includes a choropleth layer which shows the number of incidents of political violence in each country. In 2022 political violence was seen in nearly every country and in many countries the incidents and number of incidents were considered severe by the ACLED. The ACLED has yet to publish it 2023 report.

Canada's Hidden Subterranean Rivers

map of Toronto's hidden rivers transitioning into an overhead video

Canadian cities, like many cities around the world, have a history of hiding waterways underground. As cities grow rivers can become obstacles to the movement of people, can be seen as wasted real-estate, and historically (when cities had poor sanitation) they often became open sewers. For these reasons cities often culvert and divert rivers underground.

In Discover Where Ancient Rivers Flow CBC has mapped out the hidden subterranean waterways of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. These maps are used to take the reader on a tour of each city's underground rivers. These story-map tours are filled with some wonderful transitions between the map and  overhead drone captured imagery. For example in the screenshot above CBC seamlessly transitions between the map and an overhead video of a multi-lane highway.

There is a growing movement in many cities around the world to "daylight" urban rivers, to return them to the surface. This can improve water quality, create recreational spaces, and reconnect people with nature in the city. CBC explores the argument that resurfacing urban waterways can help cities deal with "heat islands, flooding, pollution, and (the) loss of ecosystem diversity". 

If you live in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver you might want to scroll to the end of Discover Where Ancient Rivers Flow where you can explore for yourself the locations of each city's underground hidden rivers on an interactive map.

Via: Datawrapper

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

15 Minute US Cities

map of Los Angeles showing 15 minute neighborhoods

The idea of the 15 Minute City is that urban living is much more enjoyable and sustainable when all our essential needs are close by. These essential needs include such things as grocery stores, health care facilities, cultural attractions, transit stops, educational facilities and leisure activities. Individuals living in a 15 Minute neighborhood should be able to access all these essential health, educational, retail and leisure needs within a short fifteen minute walk or bike ride.

Last week Nat Henry released a new interactive map which allows users to discover walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly neighborhoods across the United States. Close allows users to select the amenities & destinations which are important to them and then it creates a US travel-time map based on walking, biking and public transit travel times to those destinations. Which means you can quickly find your ideal 15 minute neighborhoods in towns and cities across the US.

If you are moving home in the near future you can use Close to help identify the best places for you to live based on your own personal life choices. Using the Destinations menu you can select from 35 different amenities and destinations which are important to you. These include destinations such as shops, parks, schools, bars, transit stations, health care etc. 

You can then select a travel-time mode for each of your selected destinations (walking, biking, and walk & transit). When you have finished adding destinations Close will produce an ishochrone map which shows the travel time to the furthest of those amenities. The areas marked blue on this map are the areas where your essential needs will be met without you having to travel long distances.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Live from the Sundhnúkur Eruption

Live webcam view of volcanic activity in Iceland

The Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland has been experiencing a period of heightened volcanic activity since December 2023. This follows an increase in seismic activity that began in late 2019. The most recent eruption started on March 16th in Sundhnúkur near the town of Grindavík.

You can view a live webcam of volcanic activity in Sundhnúkur on Live from Iceland.  This webcam shows a live feed of the eruption near Sundhnúkargigar, north of Grindavik from Mt Þorbjörn.  

animated map showing the increase in seismic activity in Sundhnúkur starting in December 2023

vafri.is/quake is an interactive map of near real-time seismic activity in Iceland. The map uses data from the Icelandic Meteorological Office in order to plot live and historical earthquake data across the country. 

The map's GPS Viewer plots data from GPS stations. GPS stations can monitor seismic activity by recording how far the position of a station is displaced by a seismic event. In the screenshot of the GPS Viewer map above you can see the sudden increase in seismic activity in Sundhnúkur starting in late 2023 and continuing to the present date. 

The arrows on the map visualize the direction and scale of movement recorded by the GPS stations. The yellow and green arrows clearly show the magma dike of the volcanic eruptions in Sundhnúkur pushing land to the northwest (yellow) and southeast (green) of the dike. The blue timeline control allows you to view the GPS displacement data by date.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

The D-Day Memorial Map

map of WWII war memorials in Normandy, France

KilRoyTrip is an interactive map of World War II memorials in Normandy. It provides a fantastic guide to anyone visiting the region who is interested in the D-Day landings and the liberation of France.

The Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day Tuesday, 6 June 1944 was the largest seaborne invasion in history. On D-Day the Allied forces from the United States, Britain, Canada, and other countries began the liberation of France, and the rest of Western Europe, eventually leading to the end of the war.

Over 4,000 Allied soldiers died on D-Day alone. Total casualties, including wounded, are believed to be over 10,000. The KilroyTrip map provides an exhaustive guide to the memorials of these brave men who died in World War II in the Normandy region. These memorials include museums, cemeteries and war memorials. 

If you share your location with KilRoyTrip the map will show you the locations of your closest WWII memorials. Click on a marker and you will be taken to the selected memorial's dedicated place in the KilRoyTrip database. Each memorial entry in the database includes a description of the memorial, photographs of the memorial and links to other nearby memorials.

If you are interested in learning more about D-Day then you might also want to explore these vintage military maps from the D Day operation:

World War II Military Situation Maps - This Library of Congress collection of American military D-Day maps provides a day-by-day account of Allied and Axis troop positions from D-Day until the end of the war. The maps start on 6th June 1944, with the D-Day invasion, and then provide a daily picture of the military campaign in Western Europe.

US BIGOT maps - The University of Texas Libraries has two secret BIGOT Maps of Omaha Beach (East & West). BIGOT was a code-word for Operation Overlord and the BIGOT list included the names of all the personnel who had been cleared to know details of Operation Overlord.

Friday, April 05, 2024

The US Foreign Assistance Map

animated world map showing US foreign assistance to individual countries from 1948-2024

The US government's Foreign Assistance website provides detailed information and data on U.S. foreign assistance programs. The website serves as a central platform for transparency and accountability in U.S. foreign aid efforts. It also provides a fascinating insight into the shifting geo-political ambitions of the United States over the last 75 years.

The Foreign Assistance Dashboard reveals the amount of foreign assistance provided by the US to countries around the world by year. The size of the circular markers on the map indicate the amount of money provided by the US to each country in the displayed year. Click on a country on the map and you can view a detailed breakdown of the funding programs provided by the US in that selected year.

The Foreign Assistance Trends map provides a really interesting overview of the changing geo-political priorities of the United States over time. In the early 1950's the majority of US foreign assistance was being provided to European countries, presumably to help them rebuild after WWII. For example in 1953 the US provided $4.2B in foreign assistance to the UK, $4.6B to Italy, $5.3B to France and $2.3B to Germany.

During the 1960's US foreign assistance was directed away from Europe and towards South-East Asia. In 1967 $8.3B in foreign assistance was provided to Vietnam, $3.1B to Korea and $780M in Taiwan ( n.b. the U.S. military presence in Vietnam peaked in April 1969).

Since the late 1970's Israel has increasingly become by far the largest recipient of US foreign assistance. As a result of the Afghan War (2001 to 2021) Afghanistan temporarily became the largest recipient of US foreign assistance between 2008 and 2020. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 Ukraine has become the largest recipient of US foreign assistance.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

The Drug Map of Europe

Cocaine use has been increasing rapidly in Europe over the last seven years. Europeans are also taking more MDMA and ketamine. Every year the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) undertakes an annual wastewater drug survey in order to evaluate trends in the consumption of 'recreational' drugs. By analyzing residues of different recreational drugs in sewage the EMCDDA are able to detect trends in the drug-taking habits of residents in cities across Europe. 

Using the interactive map in the 2023 Wastewater analysis and drugs - a European multi-city study you can explore for yourself the levels of cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA and ketamine detected in around 90 European towns and cities. According to the EMCDDA report "cocaine use remains highest in western and southern European cities". The highest levels of amphetamine use are in cities in the north and east of Europe. The highest levels of cannabis use were detected in Czechia, Spain, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

According to the EMCDDA cannabis is Europe's most commonly used illicit drug. The EMCDDA has been analyzing dug levels in wastewater since 2011 so it is also able to detect trends in drug use over time. For example in 2023 20 cities out of 51 saw an increase in cannabis in wastewater samples compared to 2022, and 15 cities saw a decrease. Cocaine use in Europe has seen a steady increase since 2016. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Playing Placename Detective

The British Placenames Mapper is an interactive map which allows you to search for patterns in British placenames. The map uses 'regular expressions' to find defined text patterns within placenames. These text patterns could be prefixes used at the beginning of a name (eg 'Great' or 'Little'), suffixes used at the end of a name (eg 'ford' or 'mouth'), or even patterns that occur anywhere within a placename.
map showing the distribution of Viking placenames in Britain
The map is a fantastic resource for anyone who is interested in British toponyms or even in general British history. For example the map can be used to explore how foreign invasions have helped to shape modern Britain. This map of Roman placenames ending in 'caster', 'cester' or 'chester' (all of which mean 'fort') reveals the lasting influence of the Roman invasion of Britain almost 2000 years after the Romans first arrived. 

The influence of the Viking invasion can also be explored on the British Placenames Mapper. This map showing the locations of Norse placenames, ending in 'by' (village or settlement), 'thorpe' (a hamlet or village) or 'thwaite' (a clearing or meadow within a forest or wooded area). The map shows clear evidence of where the Vikings successfully invaded, with the distribution of these placenames closely matching the Danelaw, the area of the UK which was once ruled by the Vikings. 

Placename Patterns Using Regular Expressions is another interactive mapping tool for exploring the distribution of different patterns in placenames. This map can currently plot the distribution of placenames in a number of different countries (the United States, the British Isles, France, Germany, Romania, Canada, and Japan).

The 'about' section of the map provides two interesting examples of how Placename Patterns Using Regular Expressions can be used. One example shows the link between German placenames and altitude. The other example visualizes the distribution of places in France whose names end in 'ac' (the -ac placename in France comes from the Gaulish language - so towns ending in '-ac' are most likely to predate the Roman invasion of France).