A new exhibition at the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center: Regions and Seasons: Mapping Climate Through History. “In this exhibition, you will discover how ‘Venti’ were wind personas who directed ancient ships and ‘Horae’ were goddesses of the seasons who dictated natural order during the 15th-17th centuries, how Enlightenment scientists started to collect and map weather data, and how 19th century geographers reflecting the golden age of thematic cartography created innovative techniques to represent vast amounts of statistical data and developed complex maps furthering our understanding of climatic regions.” Runs through August 27; also online.
At All Over the Map, Betsy Mason posts 11 Ways to See How Climate Change Is Imperilling the Arctic, a collection of maps and infographics depicting several different indicators of global warming, including sea ice extent, atmospheric temperatures, growing season, polar bear populations, as well as projected shipping routes for an ice-free Arctic Ocean.
Meanwhile, NASA Earth Observatory points—while it still can—to a study mapping the extent of existing and potential thermokarst (thawed permafrost) landscapes. On the Earth Observatory maps (see North America, above), “[t]he different colors reflect the types of landscapes—wetlands, lakes, hillslopes, etc.—where thermokarst is likely to be found today and where it is most likely to form in the future.”
While the map shows the historical probability that a snow depth of at least one inch will be observed on December 25, the actual conditions in any year may vary widely from these because the weather patterns present will determine the snow on the ground or snowfall on Christmas day. These probabilities are useful as a guide only to show where snow on the ground is more likely.
While the subject may seem whimsical, it’s based on 1981-2010 Climate Normals data; this paper details into the methodology involved. (It also answers a question that climatologists and meterologists get a lot.)
NASA Earth Observatory: “In November, the sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.52 million square miles)—the lowest November extent in the satellite record. The yellow line shows the median extent from 1981 to 2010, and gives an idea of how conditions this November strayed from the norm.” Also shows sea ice extent for previous years dating back to 1978. Hudson Bay was icebound in November not that long ago.
Previously: Mapping Arctic Sea Ice.
Something’s going on in the Arctic. As the Washington Post reported last month, the Arctic Ocean was far, far warmer than normal—about 20 degrees Celsius higher than average. (Meanwhile, the air over Sibera is at record cold levels.) According to the Post, the higher temperatures are the result of record low amounts of thinning sea ice, as well as warm air being brought north by an increasingly errant jet stream.
NASA has been tracking sea ice levels and thickness by looking at the age of the ice in the sea ice cap. The video above shows “how Arctic sea ice has been growing and shrinking, spinning, melting in place, and drifting out of the Arctic for the past three decades. The age of the ice is represented in shades of blue-gray to white, with the brightest whites representing the oldest ice.”
The ESA reports that their CryoSat satellite “has found that the Arctic has one of the lowest volumes of sea ice of any November, matching record lows in 2011 and 2012.” The animated GIF below shows the change in November sea ice from 2011 to 2016, as observed by CryoSat.
Several Yukon communities are built on permafrost. In the context of climate change, that’s something of a problem. CBC News reports on a six-year research project that has produced hazard maps of seven Yukon communities; the maps evaluate the risk to future development from permafrost melting, flooding and ground instability. [CCA]
Start with the National Hurricane Center, which has lots of different maps of Hurricane Matthew’s predicted path, weather warnings, rainfall potential and so forth. See also maps from Weather Underground.
Google’s Crisis Map includes evacuation resources—Red Cross shelters, evacuation routes, traffic data—in addition to storm track and precipitation information.
A new digital elevation model of Alaska was released earlier this month. The result of a presidential directive to improve elevation maps of Alaska as a tool “to help to help communities understand and manage” the risks of climate change, the ArcticDEM project is a collaboration between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of Minnesota, among others. The unclassified data gives two-metre (or better) resolution across the state. Lower-resolution DEMs for the entire Arctic will follow next year.
Digital elevation data for Alaska had previously been poor; the National Geographic article leads with the point that Mars has better topographic maps than Alaska does. Most digital elevation data is collected by airplane—an impractical method in the far north; the ArcticDEM is based on stereo imagery from DigitalGlobe satellites. (As a comparison, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission’s DEM resolution is 30 metres for the U.S., 90 metres elsewhere.)
After the cut, a comparison of digital elevation models pre- and post-ArcticDEM, using Anchorage, Alaska.
NASA Earth Observatory: “Days of intense rainfall in August 2016 led to widespread flooding in southern Louisiana, as rivers swelled high above their banks and many crested at record-high levels. […] The animation above shows satellite-based measurements of the rainfall as it accumulated over the southern United States. Specifically, it shows rainfall totals every three hours over the span of 72 hours from August 12-14, 2016. These rainfall totals are regional, remotely sensed estimates, and local amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.”
NASA: “NASA researchers have helped produce the first map showing what parts of the bottom of the massive Greenland Ice Sheet are thawed— key information in better predicting how the ice sheet will react to a warming climate.”
Cartographer John Nelson, whose relatively new but infrequently updated map blog is Adventures in Mapping, recently posted the above map to Twitter: it shows the intensity and variability of drought in the United States over the past five years. It’s not necessarily an easy map to read at first glance, but it’s striking to look at nonetheless.
Google Earth Blog has a roundup of the available satellite imagery of the Fort McMurray wildfire.
Satellite imagery from the Pléiades-1A satellite showing the extent of wildfire damage caused to Fort McMurray, Alberta can be viewed through a web-based mapping application released by the government of Alberta. (Doesn’t work in Safari for Mac; works fine in Chrome.) [CBC News]
DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery of the Fort McMurray wildfire, which uses “short wave infrared imagery (SWIR) to ‘cut’ through the smoke and identify the active footprint and burning hotspots” and reveals where buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, can be viewed at Gizmodo and on DigitalGlobe’s own blog.
Previously: Fort McMurray Fire Roundup.
Here are some links to maps and satellite imagery of the wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta this week.
1. The fire is fuelled in part by abnormally high temperatures: 32°C (90°F) was reported earlier this week. The above temperature anomaly map, based on MODIS data from NASA’s Terra satellite, demonstrates how unusual these temperatures are: “The map above shows land surface temperature from April 26 to May 3, 2016, compared to the 2000–2010 average for the same one-week period. Red areas were hotter than the long-term average; blue areas were below average.”
2. NASA’s Earth Observatory is also assembling a collection of Landsat satellite images of the fire:
3. Smoke from the fire is making it into the United States, and turning up on NOAA imagery:
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) May 6, 2016
Look at the smoke from the Fort McMurray fire, it's traveled all the way to the gulf coast! pic.twitter.com/uEQigSCjqN
— Jim Cantore (@JimCantore) May 6, 2016
4. Maclean’s and CBC News have tried to depict the size of the fire by superimposing it on other cities in Canada and elsewhere in the world; so has Kyrstyn Morochuk, whose maps have been reposted by the Huffington Post. I’m not sure who came up with it first.
Previously: Canadian Wildfire Maps.