Rivers through time

Hindered Settling has a nice post showing changes in Peru’s Ucayali River over time. It was created by animating a series of Landsat images which were captured from 1985 through 2013. The proliferation of aerial photography and satellite imagery has made visualizing changes relatively easy. Older studies are more difficult because of the rarity of aerial data.

I was fortunate to find black and white plates for Harris County when I was working on my dissertation. I had to scan the images and georeference them myself before I could use them in my study of long-term urban growth. Without these, I would have been stuck with only two points in time, both of which occurred after the early ’80s. Being from 1945, the older plates provided a crucial reference point which helped validate my methodology for quantifying anthropomorphic change.

That’s what makes the Fisk plates so amazing to me. Fisk used survey methods to establish the ancient river bed locations for the lower Mississippi River. The results are still astounding 72 years later. This is cartography at its finest! Who says you need GIS to make excellent maps?

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Mapping Noise

Chatty is a nifty piece of work where the researchers attempted to characterize an area’s sound. They did this by looking for geotagged photos which also have tags describing the contents. The content tags were used as a proxy for the types of sounds a person might hear at that location. For example, a picture tagged with #leaves might sound more like a natural setting than one tagged #construction.


From there, the authors associated sounds with emotions. By tying the photos to a street layer, they created a map of soundscapes with emotions one might feel when visiting that place. Neat.

Chatty Maps

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Ebola Leaps to the U.S.

Although Ebola is only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids, modern transportation has made it easy for disease to be spread worldwide. While mostly contained in South Africa, Ebola has made the leap across the Atlantic into the heart of the U.S., Texas.

The New York Times reports that the patient made the trip from Liberia through Brussels and Washington, finally landing in Dallas. When he entered the infectious stage, he had contact with medical personnel and multiple family members, including several children. The children have been asked to stay home until they are shown to be free of infection, but some parents at the local schools are taking the precautions by keeping their children home until the crisis has passed.

Spatial sciences can provide insight into epidemiological studies such as the spread of Ebola, but we need to use them with caution. As Mika JP Rytkönen wrote in his article, Not All Maps Are Equal: Gis and Spatial Analysis In Epidemiologymaps can be misleading. While visually compelling, understanding spatial distributions requires an understanding (and thorough testing) of the underlying statistics, especially when the environmental conditions play a significant role in the spread of disease.

This does not dismiss the fact that modern mobility simplifies the spread of disease-causing vectors. It does, however, caution us against panic. We should keep in mind that Ebola has now come to an inhospitable environment where advanced treatment has led to the recovery of several patients brought to the U.S. Admittedly, there is a greater chance of exposure in this case due to the children involved (kids are great at spreading disease), but it looks like officials are being proactive and are working to make the schools safe.

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“Favorite” Foods by State

The Cooking Channel made a gaffe yesterday when posting a very tasty-looking map depicting the “favorite” foods for each state. It seems they need a refresher geography course. See if you can spot the error:


They claim to have polled their fans to figure out which food best represents each state. Having lived in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, I think their results were skewed by a vocal minority. I think Texas is right – brisket, whether cooked wet (with BBQ sauce) or dry (with a dry-rub) duly represents the state. Oklahoma is probably correct, but their recipe is definitely wrong. I’ve never seen fried okra served whole. I never ate fried catfish while living in Arkansas. Maybe it’s popular in some other part of the state. I would think Jambalaya would better represent Louisiana than shrimp gumbo. The folks here can’t even agree to a common style for gumbo with tomato-based dominating north of I-10 and roux-based in the south. Why I-10? It runs east-west across the state and divides the state like the Mason-Dixon line divides the North and the South.

You won’t find this version of the map on their site any longer. Someone must have heard the outrage and pulled it down. By the way, if you haven’t figured out the error – take a close look at the labels for Kansas and Nebraska….

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GasBuddy, Your Guide to Nationwide Gas Prices

GasBuddy publishes a nifty map overlay for Google Maps which shows relative gas prices nationwide. It isn’t friendly to color-blind readers, but it does show some interesting trends.

GasbuddyMatt Hardigree over at Jalopnik put together a nice post about why the prices might be distributed this way. Take a look:





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What fuel is used to make electricity in your state?

Rani Molla at The Wall Street Journal used data from the Energy Information Administration to build a nifty map showing the fuel source used to generate electricity in every state.


EIA projects that generation with natural gas will increase about 1.3% per year through 2040.




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Hurricane Mapping (the old-fashioned way)

This map shows how hurricanes impact States where nearly 57% of the U.S. population (2010) lives. Some of the damage hurricanes cause is direct and easy to see – wind and flood damage are fairly obvious. Other damage may not be so clear. From economic damage caused by business interruption and population relocation to road damage from heavy equipment used during immediate and long-term recovery efforts, the impact of a hurricane may be felt for decades. 

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The World According to Terrorists

Datahacker used the Global Terrorism Database to map out the locations of various attacks worldwide.

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New NASA Images Highlight U.S. Air Quality Improvement | NASA

New NASA Images Highlight U.S. Air Quality Improvement | NASA.

Images? These are maps! 


NASA has been monitoring atmospheric chemistry with the Aura spacecraft for the last 10 years. The animated GIF above shows the change in Nitrogen Dioxide over time. NO2 is formed from fuel burned at high temperatures and is an indicator of atmospheric pollution. One of the nifty features of this data is how it captured. To keep a consistent angle of sunlight (changes in which can affect atmospheric measurements), Aura is placed in a sun-synchronous orbit. This orbit passes over the poles (roughly) and crosses the area of interest at the same time, every time. 


You can see more over at their website: http://aura.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html

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Get to Know a Projection: The Space-Oblique Mercator | Science Blogs | WIRED

Every map of the Earth (or any spherical body, for that matter) is a balance between preserving distance, shape, or direction. While most maps are built from information captured on the ground, the proliferation of aerial and space-based platforms introduces a new set of problems – primarily the movement of those platforms and distortions introduced by their sensors during data capture. 

This article introduces John Snyder, the man responsible for the Space-Oblique Projection – the first projection for converting LandSat data into a mappable form.

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