Satellite Imagery of Fort McMurray Wildfire Damage

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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]

Previously: DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery of Fort McMurrayFort McMurray Fire Roundup.

DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery of Fort McMurray

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.

Canada’s Arctic Waters Are ‘Dangerously Unmapped’

Climate change has made the Arctic increasingly open to shipping, and more ships travel the Canadian Arctic every year. But as Claire Eamer argues in Hakai magazine, the lack of mapping makes such voyages a dangerous proposition. “[J]ust because the ice is melting it doesn’t mean the waterways are safe. The federal Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) is responsible for mapping Canada’s waters. So far, they’ve only managed to map roughly 10 percent of Arctic waterways in accordance with international standards.” [CCA]

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.

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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:

(Sources: 3 May, 4 May, 5 May)

3. Smoke from the fire is making it into the United States, and turning up on NOAA imagery:

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.

Canadian Wildfire Maps

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Yesterday wildfires swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta, the population centre of the oil sands industry, forcing the evacuation of nearly all of its more than 60,000 residents. It therefore seems timely to point to the maps produced by the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System. There are static maps of current conditions, fire danger maps providing an index of fire risk and potential damage (see above for today’s), and various forecasts, as well as an interactive version.

Vancouver Archives Digitizing Old Maps

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Guide Map: Vancouver-New Westminster, Burnaby and North Shore Municipalities, 1935. City of Vancouver Archives.

The City of Vancouver Archives: “Thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, we’ve recently completed a project to digitize over 2100 maps and plans and made them available online for you to use and re-use. We’ve tried to digitize these maps with enough resolution to support future types of re-use and processing, including optical character recognition and feature extraction.” A selection is available on Flickr. [WMS]

Map of Canada Changes Depiction of Arctic Sea Ice

Map of Canada

The federal government’s new map of Canada, part of the Atlas of Canada reference series, came out this week. Among the changes between it and its predecessor (which came out in 2006), one in particular is drawing attention. Ivan Semeniuk in the Globe and Mail:

Whereas the older version of the map showed only that part of the sea ice that permanently covered Arctic waters year round at that time, the new edition uses a 30-year median of September sea-ice extent from 1981 through 2010. September sea ice hit a record low in 2012 and is projected to decline further. The change means there is far more ice shown on the 2015 version of the map than on its predecessor.

The changes can be seen below: the 2006 map is on the left, the 2015 map on the right.

Differences in sea ice between 2006 and 2015 maps of Canada

Now as Semeniuk’s piece points out, neither way is wrong. But all maps have a point of view, and it’s naive to think that this change was made in a value-neutral environment: this was the result of a conscious decision. The reason for that decision—that’s what’s interesting.