NASA instrumentation aboard the International Space Station has pinpointed more than 50 methane super-emitters since it was installed in July, including an oilfield in New Mexico, a waste-processing complex in Iran, and massive, previously unidentified plumes associated with oil and gas facilities in Turkmenistan. The instrumentation will be in service for a year and will be tracking airborne dust to help scientists model the potential for airborne dust in different parts of the world "to trap or deflect heat from the sun, thus contributing to warming or cooling of the planet." Identifying methane sources from space, including those in locations that would otherwise be difficult to monitor, was an unexpected side benefit. www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/nasa-instrument-detects-dozens-methane-super-emitters-space-2022-10-26/
If you are tracking U.S. wildfires this season, ArcGIS is providing a free real-time look at U.S. wildfire activity based on open-source data, including thermal satellite imaging: www.arcgis.com/apps/mapviewer/index.html?webmap=df8bcc10430f48878b01c96e907a1fc3#!
Maps are powerful and easily understood vehicles for conveying geographic information. This excellent article from Geographical (UK) looks at the some of the less-obvious issues that data visualization professionals are needing to consider as they prepare maps about the war in Ukraine, from color choices to spatial precision to arrows or no arrows and more. geographical.co.uk/places/mapping/item/4316-mapping-ukraine
Because of the inherent problems trying to convert a 3D planet to a 2D visualization, mapmakers' projections all tend to distort the sizes, shapes, and positions of landmasses in various ways. This website allows users to choose a country and then superimpose it over another area to get a better sense for relative size and how size is frequently distorted as one moves toward the poles: thetruesize.com (Just for kicks, move Russia to the equator, for example.)
When a U.S. submarine ran into an unmapped seamount in the South China Sea two months ago, many wondered how that could happen. It turns out only 19% of the world's sea floor has been mapped. Moreover, the South China Sea is known to have particularly tricky underwater terrain. You can use this mapping tool from the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) to visualize ocean topography: download.gebco.net/ GEBCO is working to produce a complete, publicly available map of the world's oceans by 2030.
Many of the maps in the news in the U.S. at the moment are redistricting maps, as political parties jostle for position after the 2020 Census. This article from The Washington Post highlights three states and three ways of drawing districts in each, resulting in significantly different political outcomes: www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/redistricting-proposals-oregon-indiana-colorado/ As a bonus: this article from MIT Technology Review looks at how mathematicians are trying to fight gerrymandering with algorithms, including some that even citizens can use: www.technologyreview.com/2021/08/12/1031567/mathematicians-algorithms-stop-gerrymandering.
For centuries, cartographers have experimented with new map-making projections to improve usability and reduce the various distortions that come from trying to make the 3D two dimensional. Here's a new candidate, designed by a team of astrophysicists: geographical.co.uk/places/mapping/item/4018-a-new-world-map-projection-minimises-the-inherent-problems-of-flattening-the-globe
If you are looking for a citizen science project, SciStarter lists more than 1500 projects -- from mapathons to naturalist work to transcribing oral histories to psychology research and more -- all sortable by location, topic, and age range. I just sent a link for a citizen science project to my son in Missouri :-) scistarter.org/finder
Some of the first detailed maps of the seafloor were produced by Marie Tharp, a geologist and cartographer who was barred from ocean-mapping voyages because she was a woman. Instead, she stayed ashore and analyzed the data collected. Her iconic maps -- like this one from 1977 www.sciencenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/010521_sn100_earth_spotlight-tharp_inline1-1004x580.jpg -- revolutionized the understanding of ocean topography and were instrumental in tipping the scales toward continental drift theory. (from www.sciencenews.org/article/marie-tharp-maps-plate-tectonics-seafloor-cartography)
In August, the Dallas Housing Authority "was tasked with distributing $4 million to income-eligible renters before Dec. 31 as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. To meet the deadline and ensure the funds would reach the neediest families, DHA staffers customized an existing software program from Zoho Corp. to automate tasks and map the most economically vulnerable neighborhoods in the city." www.wsj.com/articles/dallas-agency-brings-coding-in-house-to-target-covid-19-aid-11601631000
The Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, considered part of Africa, usually derives much of its income from tourism, with its pristine beaches and coral reefs being the big draw. For the last six months, though, tourism has plummeted, and now Mauritius faces what may be a more long-lived threat to its tourism: heavy bunker fuel spilling out of a Japanese tanker that ran aground on a reef off Mauritius's east coast and is beginning to break apart. This map shows the tanker's route heading to Brazil from Singapore through the Strait of Malacca and across the Indian Ocean straight into a coral reef: specials-images.forbesimg.com/imageserve/5f32255b76f5a4d456105eb2/960x0.jpg Mauritius has declared a state of emergency, and residents are trying to stop the oil with homemade booms of hair, straw, tights, plastic bottles, and sugar cane leaves. (The map is from a great Forbes article on how satellite technology is being deployed in this situation: www.forbes.com/sites/nishandegnarain/2020/08/09/how-satellites-traced-the-fateful-journey-of-the-ship-that-led-to--mauritius-worst-oil-spill-disaster/#7db02e345b42.)
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently, and unexpectedly, issued notice that satellite imagery of Israel and the Occupied Territories will no longer be blurred out. This article from Foreign Policy looks at the background of the policy change and its implications for human rights, archaeology, science, technology, civil society, and more.
"For the past two decades, there has been a general—and mostly unchallenged—understanding that satellite imagery is restricted over Israel and the Palestinian and Syrian territories it occupies. This was due to a 1996 U.S. regulation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA) which has limited the quality and availability of high-resolution satellite imagery produced by U.S. companies covering Israel (and by implicit extension, the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Golan Heights). The result is that publicly available imagery on platforms such as Google Earth has been deliberately coarse and blurred. On June 25, following two years of sustained pressure from academia and civil society, the 97-word KBA was unexpectedly reformed, making higher-resolution satellite imagery legally accessible and readily available to all. ... Israel, driven by a desire for Cold War secrecy, lobbied Congress for stricter regulation, which led to the passing of the KBA: the U.S. government’s only censorship of imagery of any part of the world. The legislation, implemented under the guise of protecting Israel’s national security, was actually more an act of censorship. After all, high-resolution satellite imagery allows researchers to understand, identify, and document landscape changes. ... For 24 years, the legislation obfuscated the damaging effects of the Israeli occupation by literally hiding them from view. The censorship over Israel and the occupied territories has had negative archeological, geographical, and humanitarian implications. Arguably the most glaring of these has been its effects on monitoring the decades long Israeli occupation—including documenting home demolitions, territorial disputes, and settlement growth. Lower-resolution imagery has forestalled efforts to challenge and verify human rights violations, especially in hard-to-reach areas such as the Gaza Strip...."
The U.S. is updating the way elevation is measured -- old techniques date back to before GPS, supercomputers, and sophisticated gravity measurements -- and the impact will be changes, mostly decreases, in stated elevations across the U.S. Because inaccuracies in the current measurement system accumulate as one moves diagonally from Florida to Alaska, south Florida may actually gain in stated elevation whereas parts of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest are likely to lose five or six (or more) feet. The country's tallest mountains will be shorter, and some neighborhoods will almost certainly be designated to lie in floodplains, requiring special insurance. This map from The New York Times shows anticipated impacts of the new geodetic system to be rolled out in 2022 or 2023. (from www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/science/maps-elevation-geodetic-survey.html)
A health-care company marketing "smart thermometers" can predict disease outbreaks weeks ahead of time by aggregating and mapping the data. After all, people start taking their temperatures before they ever show up sick in their doctors' offices. At present Kinsa Health is showing a high level of anomalous fever readings in Florida, suggesting a surge of flu-like illnesses may be imminent. healthweather.us/
As students in my geography classes learn, maps change not only across time but also across place: a map produced in one country might not show political borders in the same way a map produced in another country with different ideas about those borders does. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then, that Google Maps is showing different maps to different users, based on the location of the user. This article includes images of Google's differing maps of Kashmir, Western Sahara, and Ukraine, for example. www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/14/google-maps-political-borders/
Australia has been in the news recently due to its intense heat and wildfires. This map, from Meteoblue which shows global high temperatures for today, helps illustrate why.
One branch of forensic cartography uses an understanding of historical geography to date maps (and artifacts found with maps). This flowchart, while partly humorous, contains much good information to help you date older maps: xkcd.com/1688/large/
The coming shift from 4G to 5G cellular network technology often makes the news. Much less has been said about the move from 2-D satellite mapping to 3-D lidar mapping. This article from Geographical (UK) provides a peek at lidar.
"A self-driving car needs to know where it’s going. But if that car is going to not only transport its passengers from A-to-B, but also get them there alive, it needs to know a lot more. It needs to be able to locate every object around it – be it a lamppost, pothole or a wayward child – and it needs to make sense of that vast quantity of data in order to navigate. In short, it needs an incredibly detailed, 3D map. The maps we use every day aren’t yet up to the job. The most popular digital maps are largely stitched together from satellite imagery (GPS) and aerial photography, supplemented by people driving around in cars snapping photos. While this is ideal for most individuals going about their business, GPS is only accurate to about five metres and that’s nowhere near good enough to keep that driverless car out of trouble. ...
"Of all the tools utilised by these living maps, lidar is one of the most hyped. ... A lidar instrument fires rapid pulses of light at a surface and measures the time they take to return to the source. In doing so it can calculate the distance between itself and the object, building up a ‘map’ of the surface it is measuring that’s usually accurate to 15 cm vertically and 40cm horizontally. Lidar can help create slope and sunlight exposure maps of fields, enabling farmers to identify specific areas that need water or fertiliser; it can penetrate water in order to map the depth of rivers; it can even create images of particulate matter to build maps of pollution. ...
"In May, [the UK’s national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey] announced the launch of trials to create a series of high-precision maps of lampposts, manholes, traffic lights and other objects on British roads. The trials will be conducted in partnership with an Intel-owned company called Mobileye and the maps are created by fitting-out vehicles with Mobileye’s 360-degree cameras. ... The idea is that cars owned by delivery groups, utility companies and members of the public will install Mobileye cameras, constantly gathering vast amounts of data as they go about their normal business. ... Northumbrian Water was the first to sign-up to the project; the maps can help utility companies identify and monitor the condition of above-ground and underground assets, though this is really only the beginning. ... With so much imagery and data being collected, what about data protection?"
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed the Science on a Sphere projection software for interactive 3D museum displays in 2004. Now, NOAA has released a free app to bring the same information, drawn from 140+ datasets and including real-time information, to bring geographic animations to the small screen. Users can track storms, monitor ocean temperature, check cropland, watch air traffic, map earthquakes, and much, much more. SOS Explorer or SOSx is available for iOS and Android. sos.noaa.gov/sos-explorer/about-sos-explorer/
For those accustomed to looking at some variant of the standard Mercator projection map (with the equator in the middle, the Americas to the left and Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia to the right), this "vertical world map" from China will look radically different, with an emphasis on the Arctic and Asia. bigthink.com/strange-maps/future-world-map
"More than 80 percent of the world’s oceans are currently unmapped, but a $7 million prize pool to explore the deep sea hopes to change that. The Ocean Discovery XPrize was [recently] awarded to teams using uncrewed deep-sea vehicles to map the ocean floor and trace chemical signals underwater. The goal is to develop a comprehensive atlas by 2030. ... A comprehensive map of the world’s oceans may uncover new species and materials, and find old shipwrecks, says Jyotika Virmani, XPrize’s Ocean Discovery director. 'The deep sea is the world’s largest museum, and we don’t have access to it right now,' she says. Exploring is made notoriously difficult by extreme conditions such as darkness, high pressure, and cold.
"A $1 million bonus prize was also up for grabs for entrants to develop a vessel that could detect a chemical signal – a marine-safe coloured dye – and autonomously track it back to its source. The winning team was Ocean Quest, made up of high school students from San Jose, USA, although their vessel couldn’t sniff out signal back to the source within the allowed timeframe. Virmani says the technology could be used to track fish populations or invasive species. It could also be used in search and rescue missions, such as after planes crash into the ocean."
"Researchers at a Washington-based think tank have noticed that a funny thing happens whenever Russian President Vladimir Putin gets close to a harbor: The GPS of the ships moored there go haywire, placing them many miles away on the runways of nearby airports. According to a new report by security experts with the group C4ADS, the phenomenon suggests that Putin travels with a mobile GPS spoofing device and, more broadly, that Russia is manipulating global navigation systems on a scale far greater than previously understood." foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/03/russia-is-tricking-gps-to-protect-putin
There are 59 national parks in the U.S. (and one more each in American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands). This map, which is essentially a Voronoi diagram, partitions the U.S. based on proximity to one of these national parks. The location of the parks themselves is shown with a small "+."
Looking for a free, easy-to-use tool to make your own online maps? Try mapchart.net/world.html
Despite being developed in the mid-1500s and having significant, known distortions, the Mercator projection continues to be used on popular maps, its familiar grid made easy for navigation. This map compares the landmasses from a Mercator map (in light blue) with their actual relative size (in darker blue).
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