Century-Old Maps Reveal Long-Term Abundance of Kelp Beds

Comparing century-old maps of kelp beds in the Pacific Northwest to modern aerial surveys, a University of Chicago professor was able to track the long-term abundance and health of the beds, which in most cases remained remarkably constant: Journal of Ecology article. The kelp bed maps, made from surveys in 1911 and 1912, were the result of U.S. concern about the nation’s potash supply, which in the runup to World War I was largely imported from Germany. The kelp beds were, for some reason, seen as an alternative fertilizer source. That plan never came to fruition, but the maps remained, to be put to use for an entirely different purpose more than a century after they were made. [WMS]

20 Years of Observing Our Living Planet


NASA: “Satellites measured land and ocean life from space as early as the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the launch of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) in 1997 that the space agency began what is now a continuous, global view of both land and ocean life. A new animation captures the entirety of this 20-year record, made possible by multiple satellites, compressing a decades-long view of life on Earth into a captivating few minutes.” Here’s a video about it:

Animations available for download hereGuardian coverage. [Benjamin Hennig]

Google Using Street View Cars to Map Air Pollution


Google is using its Street View cars, now equipped with air-quality sensors, to measure air pollution in California on a block-by-block level.

Earlier this year, we shared the first results of this effort with pollution levels throughout the city of Oakland.

We’re just beginning to understand what’s possible with this hyper-local information and today, we’re starting to share some of our findings for the three California regions we’ve mapped: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California’s Central Valley (the Street View cars drove 100,000 miles, over the course of 4,000 hours to collect this data!) Scientists and air quality specialists can use this information to assist local organizations, governments, and regulators in identifying opportunities to achieve greater air quality improvements and solutions.

Atlas for the End of the World

Hotspots: Conservation Targets. Atlas for the End of the World.

The Atlas for the End of the World collects a series of world maps that measure our planet’s environmental well-being. More specifically, they examine the amount of protected area in our planet’s biological hotspots, especially relative to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2020 conservation targets. Created by landscape architects, the accompanying text (by project lead Richard J. Weller) tends toward the abstruse and verbose, but the maps themselves are quite interesting. (I note that they make extensive use of the Goode homolosine projection, which is refreshing.) [Geo Lounge]

Mapping Great Lakes Pollution

President Trump’s budget proposes eliminating the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That fact is no doubt what’s behind two publications posting maps earlier this month, only a couple of days apart, showing the environmental stresses on the Great Lakes basin.

Canadian Geographic reposted a map from their July/August 2013 issue:

Canadian Geographic

And the Washington Post included the following map in an article on the  proposed elimination of two EPA programs (including the aforementioned Great Lakes Restoration Initiative):

The Washington Post

[CCA/Maps on the Web]

Mapping Arctic Permafrost


NASA Earth Observatory: “The map above, based on data provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, shows the extent of Arctic permafrost. Any rock or soil remaining at or below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more years is considered permafrost.” The map differentiates between continuous, discontinuous, sporadic and isolated permafrost. [NASA Earth]

Lead Exposure Risk Map


Vox’s lead exposure risk map takes a nationwide look at a crisis some might have thought was limited to Flint, Michigan. “The areas where kids are at highest risk of lead exposure—an estimate calculated using government data about the surroundings—are scattered all across the country.” Lead exposure data is hard to come by, so exposure risk is calculated based on Washington State’s methodology, which uses age of housing and poverty as risk factors. [Mapbox]

Mapping Nitrogen Dioxide Pollution

A decade’s worth of data from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard the Aura satellite reveals the change in global nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution from 2005 to 2014: down significantly in some areas, due to stricter emissions controls, but up sharply in others. More at NASA Earth Observatory.

Lake Poopó Dries Up

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Lake Poopó has become the Aral Sea of the Andes. Thanks to drought, water diversion and mining activity, the lake—long, wide, shallow, saline and the second-largest in Bolivia—has basically dried up, as this comparison of 2013 and 2016 Landsat 8 images demonstrates. CBC NewsThe Independent.

Herbal Earth

Herbal Earth
Today NASA released a set of vegetation maps based on data from the Suomi NPP satellite. Flickr photoset, YouTube video. The maps depict a year’s worth of changes in vegetation. “High values of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI, represent dense green functioning vegetation and low NDVI values represent sparse green vegetation or vegetation under stress from limiting conditions, such as drought.” Image credit: NASA/NOAA.