Saturday, September 23, 2017

Shrinking Glaciers Around the World


Since 1850 Switzerland's glaciers have shrunk by around 50%. The World Glacier Monitoring Service say that this process is likely to continue and that 80 to 90 percent of glacier ice mass will be lost by 2100.

Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger has visualized the extent of Switzerland's shrinking glaciers in the last 160 years in So Schmolzen die Schweizer Gletscher in 160 Jahren Weg. In a series of multiple mini maps the paper has mapped the change in size of the country's 38 largest glaciers. These maps show the size of the glaciers in 1850 compared to the size of the glaciers in 2010. Each mini map includes data on the surface area lost in kilometers and as a percentage of the glacier's size in 1850.


Nearly all of North America's glaciers are also in retreat. The rate of retreat has increased rapidly over the last few decades and overall each decade sees greater rates of retreat than the preceding one. The National Park Traveler has released an interactive story map, Glaciers in Alaska's National Parks: Monitoring Change, which examines the loss of Alaska's shrinking glaciers.

The map uses satellite imagery to show the modern reach of each of the featured glaciers. U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps were used to determine the glaciers' extent in the mid-20th century. Orange overlays are used on the map to show this historic extent. This is then compared to the extent of the glaciers in the 21st Century, as calculated from the most recent satellite imagery.


Alaska Ice: Documenting Glaciers on the Move is another Esri Story Map which uses satellite imagery and comparisons of modern & vintage photographs to document Alaska's shrinking glaciers.

The main focus of the map is the U.S. Geological Survey's Repeat Photography initiative. USGS has been comparing modern photographs of Alaskan glaciers with historical photos, both with the same field of view. The photographs are compared to document and understand the changes to glaciers resulting from the changing climate.

The Alaska Ice story map visits 14 glaciers in the U.S. state. Each glacier can be viewed on a satellite map and a modern and historical photograph of each glacier is compared in the map sidebar. Of the 14 mapped Alaskan glaciers only two are still advancing.


Timelapse - aerial imagery of the Mendenhall Glacier in 1991 & 2012

Another interesting way to examine the loss of glaciers is with Google Timelapse. Timelapse allows you to compare aerial imagery over time for any location on Earth. You can therefore enter the name of any glacier into Timelapse and observe the effects of global warming for yourself.

Timelapse provides links to the Shirase Glacier and the Columbia Glacier but you can use the search box to locate any glacier. You can therefore use Timelapse to search for any of North America's or Switzerland's glaciers and observe the highlighted loss of each glacier for yourself, using Timelapse's historical aerial imagery.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Boston Underwater


Climate Ready Boston is an initiative by the City of Boston to help prepare the city for future climate change. As part of this initiative the city has released an interactive map showing the areas of the city most at risk from flooding and extreme heat.

This new Map Explorer features spatial data from Climate Ready Boston. It also includes  population demographic data so that the social impact of climate change on Boston can be better understood. Users can select the flooding, extreme heat and social vulnerability layers which they wish to view on the map from the 'Layers' tab. If you click on the map you can view information about the source data for that location. More information about the data is available under the 'Details' tab.


One reason Boston is at risk from rising sea levels is that much of the city is land reclaimed from the sea. Mapbox has created an interesting visualization of how Boston's footprint has changed through history as more and more landfill projects were undertaken in the city. Coastlines of Boston provides two different historical views of Boston, as it looked in 1788 and 1898, and allows you to compare these views to the map of Boston today.

The Coastlines of Boston map was created by importing vintage maps of Boston into Mapbox Studio and then drawing around the historical coastlines. Once the coastlines were traced they were then saved as a map tileset. You can read more about how Coastlines of Boston map was created on the Mapbox blog.


If you are interested in exploring Boston's changing coastline for yourself on old historical maps then you should check out Mapjunction. Bill Warner's impressive vintage map explorer allows you to compare old vintage maps of Boston side-by-side using an interactive mapping interface.

The vintage maps available seem to date back as far as 1873. When you pan or move the map to a new location the available historical maps for the current map view are automatically loaded into the map layer menu (move the map to New York and you can vintage maps of New York instead). Simply select any two maps from the map layer menus to view them side-by-side.

Ryanair's Cancelled Flights


Here's what 1,848 cancelled flights look like on a map. Ryanair Cancelled Flights is a Carto interactive map showing all the flights cancelled by Ryanair from September 21st to October 28th (except for Oct 24th, the data for which appears to be missing from the map).

Last Saturday low-cost airline Ryanair announced that it would be cancelling between 40 and 50 flights per day until the end of October. It began by cancelling flights with very little notice given to customers. Many passengers, who had already taken outbound flights, were left with no flight home.

You can click on individual flight paths on the interactive map to view the selected flight's origin and destination. You can use Carto's dashboard features to filter the flights on the map by any date range. The date control also show you how many flights have been cancelled by Ryanair on each day until October 28th.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trump's Wall Maps


USA Today flew & drove along the entire 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. During these journeys they mapped every known piece of the existing border fence between the two countries. You can view the locations of this existing border fence and also view the aerial video USA Today shot during their flight along the border on a new interactive map.

Should we build a wall? A 2,000-mile search for answers not only maps the existing border fence but also explores some of the problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall between Mexico & the USA. The map shows where the existing fence consists of vehicle barriers, pedestrian fencing, other fencing and where no fencing currently exists.

The beginning of 'Should we build a wall' is in the story map format. This section explores some of the geographical, economical and legal problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall. You can view some of these geographical problems yourself in the USA Today's aerial videos. If you scroll to the bottom of the story map and click on the 'Explore the map' button you can click on the map to view videos of the aerial footage captured during the flight along the border.

'Should we build a wall' is just one part of USA Today's special report The Wall - an in-depth examination of Donald Trump's border wall. In the rest of this examination you can read interviews, listen to podcasts and explore the border in virtual reality.


Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has also been collecting data on the US-Mexico border for a number of years. They have spent a long time mapping the existing border fence using satellite imagery and government PDF maps of the border.

From this data Reveal has discovered that around 700 miles of the 1,954 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border is already fenced. Trump's new wall will therefore need to be at least 1,300 miles long. That's a lot of Chinese steel. You can explore Reveal's work on their The Wall interactive map. The map shows the current fence and shows where it is a 'vehicular' and where it is a 'pedestrian' fence. The map also shows where no fence currently exists.

You can get a good sense of the scale of construction needed to build Trump's new wall in a video from the Intercept. The Intercept downloaded and stitched together 200,000 satellite images to create a huge strip map of the U.S.-Mexican border. You can view this strip map in Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border, a short video which pans along the whole border.


From Donald Trump's 'detailed' construction plans we know that the Trump Wall will be up to 15 meters high, made of concrete and steel (but also possibly fencing) and will be 1,954 miles long. If you are having difficulty envisioning just how far 1,954 miles is then you can use the Berliner Morgenpost's interactive map. The Trump Wall Comparison Map allows you to overlay an outline of Trump's proposed border wall between the USA and Mexico on any location on Earth.

If you want to create your own Trump Wall map then you can get Reveal's data for the US-Mexico border fence on Github. You can read more about how this data was collected and mapped in the Reveal article The Wall: Building a continuous US-Mexico barrier would be a tall order.

Every Building in Great Britain


Last year Emu Analytics released a Building Heights in England interactive map. The map uses data from the Ordnance Survey to color building footprints in all of England by the height of each building.

If you want to create your own building footprint map using Ordnance Survey data for Great Britain then Alasdair Rae can help you. Alasdair has created shapefiles for all of Great Britain's building footprints and made them available on Dropbox. There are six shapefiles in total:
  • All buildings in Wales 
  • All buildings in Scotland 
  • All buildings in the North of England
  • All buildings in the Midlands 
  • All buildings in the South West of England 
  • All buildings in the South East of England
Alisdair created the files to help answer the question of how much of Great Britain is covered by buildings. You can find the answer to that question and the link to the building footprint shapefiles at Buildings of Great Britain.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mexico Earthquake Maps


Yesterday a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico. At the time of writing there have been 216 confirmed deaths from the quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey's interactive map locates the epicenter of the quake near the town of Raboso in Puebla, 76 miles southeast of Mexico City. The USGS's Latest Earthquakes Map includes options to view earthquake activity over the last 24 hours, the last week or the last month. The map also shows plate boundaries. Mapbox's Live Earthquake Tracker is also a nicely designed map of the same USGS data, allowing you to view the location and the size of the most recent seismic activity around the world on a global map.


The New York Times has created a seismic activity map which shows that although Mexico City is 76 miles from the epicenter of yesterday's quake it still experienced intense seismic activity. Mexico City is built on an ancient lake bed. The soft soil under Mexico City is known to be prone to seismic activity. When earthquake waves pass through the soil it vibrates and magnifies the waves.

The result of seismic activity can therefore be catastrophic for Mexico City's buildings. The NYT article includes a map of buildings that have collapsed in the city and lots of photos of the devastation caused. Yesterday's quake occurred on the anniversary of the horrific 1985 earthquake which damaged around 3,000 buildings in the city. It appears yesterday's earthquake has not caused that scale of damage to the city's buildings. After the 1985 quake Mexico City introduced more stringent building codes. Those codes probably saved a lot of lives yesterday.

A Google Map, Edificios Colapsados Sismo 2017 19 Sep, is also documenting the location of collapsed buildings in Mexico City. Buildings on this map are being categorized by the degree of damage caused by the quake.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Non-Clustering Custom Place Labels


Planet of Sound was created by Dorothy to crowd-source the music playlist for an event they held in May of this year. That event is now over but the map still works and is well worth visiting. Not least for its magical non-clustering custom map labels.

The Planet of Sound map allows you to tag any location in the world with a song and a memory. If you don't want to add a song you can just browse the map to explore what songs other people associate with different places across the globe.

The map doesn't include any real place-name labels. In fact the only labels on this map are the song titles people have added to the map. What is particularly impressive is how the map avoids clustering and overlapping these custom labels. This is not a simple thing to achieve.

If you want to add your own non-clustering & non-overlapping labels to a map then you can should have a look at James Milner's Labelgun for reducing label clutter. The GitHub for Labelgun includes examples of the library being used with Leaflet, Esri and OpenLayers. If you check out these examples you can see how Labelgun works to avoid custom labels clustering and overlapping as you zoom in and out on the map.

Vintage Maps of Japan


The Japanese Historical Maps Collection of the East Asian Library has worked with the David Rumsey Map collection to digitize around 2,300 early Japanese maps. The Japanese Historical Maps collection allows you to explore all of these digitized historical maps from Japan as zoomable images.

If you want you can explore some of these vintage maps in more detail on Google Maps. The Japan Historical GIS page has eight maps from the collection, dating back to 1694, which you view on top of Google Maps.

The University of British Columbia has a huge collection of maps and guidebooks from the Japanese Tokugawa period (1600-1867). Their Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era includes digitized versions of the maps which can be explored online.

The National Archives of Japan also own a large number of rare vintage maps of Japan. In particular they have digitized the Genroku Kuni Ezu (national land maps). Around the turn of the Eighteenth Century the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered maps to be made of the whole of the Japan. You can explore these maps on the National Archives Classic Maps website.


Gunma GIS Geek has used the Leaflet mapping platform to create interactive maps from a couple of famous Japanese pilgrimage mandalas. Pilgrimage mandalas are paintings which provide a panoramic view of temple and shrine sites.

The first map on Temple Pilgrimage Mandala is of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This 16th–17th century hanging scroll depicts the Nachi Shrine on the Kii Peninsula in Japan. The painting presents the journey of two pilgrims (the couple clothed in white) as they enter the scene (bottom right) and take a circuitous route through the temple complex to the Nachi shrine.


You can learn more about some of the over 50 buildings depicted in the painting at the Embodying Compassion website. Embodying Compassion includes an interactive version of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This interactive version of the mandala features a number of markers which allow you to learn more about the buildings, temples and statues depicted in the mandala.


If you want to explore vintage maps of Tokyo then a good place to start is with the Past and Present Map, which uses some beautiful vintage maps to illustrate how Tokyo has developed since the Nineteenth Century.

The application lets you explore ten historical maps ranging in date from 1896 to 2005. The dual map control places the historical map side-by-side with a Google Map. Pan and zoom the historical map and the Google Map will also move to ensure that both maps are always showing the same view.

Monday, September 18, 2017

School Safety Snapshot


Zendrive has rated the road safety around 75,000 schools nationwide. Using mobile phone data from car drivers Zendrive has measured the levels of dangerous driving around schools across the United States. You can find out the Zendrive ratings for dangerous driving around your local schools on the Zendrive School Safety Snapshot interactive map.

The map uses three different administrative levels to show ratings for states, counties and individual schools. When zoomed out on the map you can view the ratings for each state (California and Florida have the worst ratings). If you click on a state on the map you can drill down to view the ratings in each county. If you the click on a county you can view the ratings for all the individual schools.

The interactive map is well designed and it is very easy to navigate down to view the ratings for individual schools. I'm not entirely convinced about Zendrive's data and methodology. They claim that their model "predicts future collisions six times more accurately than leaders of the industry". If you are worried about dangerous driving around your local school then it might be worth checking the traffic accident records of the local roads for yourself.


For example you could look at Mapping Ten Years of Fatal Traffic Accidents, an interactive map showing every single fatal traffic accident in the United States from 2004 to 2013.

When zoomed out this map shows a heatmap of fatal traffic accidents across the whole country. When you zoom in on the map markers appear showing the location of each individual fatal accident. This means that you can zoom in on any city or town in the USA to view a detailed map of where accidents occurred locally.

When you zoom in on the map option controls also appear which allow you to filter the accidents shown by contributing factors (alcohol, speeding and driver distraction). The markers are also colored on the map to show who was killed in each accident (driver, passenger, pedestrian etc).

Mapping Marine Protected Areas


Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are areas of oceans where human activity is restricted for conservation purposes. 6.35% of the world's seas are now covered by MPAs. That is a ten-fold increase in the area of our oceans designated as MPAs in the first seventeen years of this century.

You can view which areas of the world's oceans have MPA status on Protected Planet's Marine Protected Areas interactive map. The map shows the location of MPAs around the globe and provides information about the status of each MPA. If you select an MPA on the map you can click-through to read more about its designation and the name of its management authority.

The Protected Planet also maintains a database of all the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas. The World Database on Protected Areas includes an interactive map showing both marine & terrestrial protected areas around the globe.