Monitoring the Arctic Heat Wave

Extreme temperatures in Eureka
ESA/Copernicus Sentinel (CC licence)

The European Space Agency has a post about monitoring the Arctic heat wave (mainly, it seems, through the Copernicus program). It’s illustrated by a few startling images from this summer: of Siberia’s wildfires, the record-low levels of Arctic sea ice, and (above) a map showing the land surface temperatures on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut on 11 August, when Eureka, Nunavut—80° N—had a record high of 21.9°C (71.4°F).

Seymour Schwartz, 1928-2020

Seymour I. Schwartz was known to map aficionados as a collector, cartographic historian and author of five books on the history of cartography (The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map, among others1). He donated his collection to the University of Virginia in 2008; a smaller tranche, regional in focus, went to the University of Rochester in 2010.

But maps were his side gig, a hobby his wife got him into to give him something else to do. Schwartz was a renowned surgeon with a long and distinguished career, a professor of medicine and the co-author of what became the standard textbook on surgery. He died Friday at the age of 92. Additional coverage: Associated Press, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Previously: Seymour Schwartz at 90; Seymour Schwartz at 90.

Mapping COVID-19 by European Region

Screenshot

Accessible via the WHO’s European COVID-19 dashboard, the European Region COVID19 Subnational Explorer maps the incidence of COVID-19 in Europe on a cases-per-100,000-population basis, with layers showing the 7-day, 14-day and cumulative numbers. The site notes that national public health authorities use different criteria and the numbers are not necessarily usefully comparable. Even so. [Maps Mania]

Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura
NASA Earth Observatory

Hurricane Laura information and resources, including maps of the observed and forecasted storm track, potential rainfall, storm surge and flooding, and other warning maps, can be found via NOAA’s Laura event page, the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Laura page, and the Esri Disaster Response Program’s Hurricane Hub. [GIS Lounge]

Tracking Amazon Fires

Last year saw an uptick in fire activity in the Amazon basin. This year a new tool has been released that aims to help classify the fires being observed. The Amazon Dashboard classifies each fire as a deforestation fire, a savanna fire, a small clearing and agricultural fire, or an understory forest fire, and tracks whether the fire is in a protected or indigenous territory. NASA Earth Observatory:

The fire analysis tool is already bringing new clarity and insight to the 2020 fire season. In July, Brazil announced a 120-day ban on fires in the Amazon rainforest; it was presented as an effort to limit ecological damage from fires this year. However, the NASA-led fire analysis indicates that there has been a proliferation of fires in key deforestation hotspots in the southern Amazon states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Amazonas.

Previously: Mapping the Amazon Fires.

Smithsonian Magazine Explores the Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

The September issue of Smithsonian Magazine has a very good piece summing up the case of the Carnegie Library rare book and map thefts, coverage of which has made regular appearances here on The Map Room. In 2017 Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library discovered that more than 300 rare books, maps and other items, worth around $8 million, had been stolen from their collection. Library archivist Greg Priore, who had physical access to the items, and bookseller John Schulman, who acted as his fence, were eventually arrested and charged; they pled guilty to a reduced set of charges last January. With everything that’s been happening, I missed their sentencing last June; the Smithsonian piece provides the details: Priore was sentenced to three years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, Schulman to four years of house arrest and 12 years of probation, sentences that some consider unconscionably light.

Previously: 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Arrests Made in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Theft Update; Priore, Schulman Plead Guilty to Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts.

California Wildfires, 2020 Edition

NOAA/ESRL

Wildfire status tracking. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services posts a daily map showing the status of active wildfires in the state. It’s basically a one-page PDF you can print and hand out: decidedly old school and not remotely interactive. The New York Times has a series of maps tracking the various wildfire complexes. See also the Los Angeles Times interactive wildfires map, the address of which will probably work next year too. [Maps Mania/Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs]

Forecasting. NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) atmospheric model includes an experimental smoke forecast. It and other smoke and fire models are available as hourly static images (see above) or via this interactive map. [Maps Mania/UWCIMSS]

Google is adding wildfire boundaries to Search and Maps: it will provide warnings to nearby users and have an impact on driving directions. [Engadget/TechCrunch/The Verge]

Apple Maps Updates in Ireland, Japan and the U.K.

Justin O’Beirne reports that Apple is now testing its new maps for the United Kingdom and Ireland: the maps are available for a small subset of users. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]

Apple’s maps of Japan have also been updated—like the Look Around updates, this was probably originally intended to coincide with the Olympics—but O’Beirne concludes that the data comes from a third-party provider: the maps have even more detail than Apple’s U.S. maps in some cases, less detail in others.

Mapping the Monuments of St. Louis

How would you map the monuments of St. Louis?
Monument Lab

In the summer of 2019, a research project spearheaded by Monument Lab asked St. Louis residents and visitors to draw personal maps of the city’s monuments and important sites. “Some maps celebrate famous sites like the St. Louis Zoo and the statue of St. Louis himself atop Art Hill in Forest Park. Others point to things that have been removed from the landscape, like the mounds built by native Mississippians,” St. Louis Public Radio reports. “Another shows a street map of downtown St. Louis with notations for ‘incidents of racism, from microaggression to racial violence.’” A total of 750 people contributed maps, which you can see at this Flickr gallery as well as on the project website, which has accompanying data and analysis. [Osher]

Google Adds Colour and Detail to Its Maps

Google

Google has added a splash of colour and detail to its larger-scale map layers, using a “color-mapping algorithmic technique” to assign colours to more natural features like forest cover and deserts. “First, we use computer vision to identify natural features from our satellite imagery, looking specifically at arid, icy, forested, and mountainous regions. We then analyze these features and assign them a range of colors on the HSV color model. For example, a densely covered forest can be classified as dark green, while an area of patchy shrubs could appear as a lighter shade of green.” Meanwhile, cities get more pedestrian data, such as crosswalks and sidewalks. [Engadget, The Verge]

An Illustrative Map of Japan

An Illustrative Map of Japan
David Cook

David Cook has released his Illustrative Map of Japan, a hand-drawn pictorial map showing the principal Japanese islands in classic oblique, pictorial-map style. On Reddit Cook says that it took ten years, on and off, from concept to completion: “Conceptually I started in 2010, but actually drawing this version didn’t start until 2012 when I finally settled on a size and perspective. Tbh I did not work on it continuously all those years. The drawn portion wrapped up in 2017 and I didn’t start coloring it in until 2019.” It’ll be available for sale as a 24-by-36-inch print at some point. [r/MapPorn]

Drought Affects One-Third of the United States

A Third of the U.S. Faces Drought (NASA Earth Observatory)
NASA Earth Observatory

One-third of the United States is currently affected by at least moderate levels of drought, NASA Earth Observatory reports.

The map above shows conditions in the continental U.S. as of August 11, 2020, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor program, a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. The map depicts drought intensity in progressive shades of orange to red and is based on measurements of climate, soil, and water conditions from more than 350 federal, state, and local observers around the country. NASA provides experimental measurements and models to this drought monitoring effort.

According to the Drought Monitor, more than 93 percent of the land area in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico is in some level of drought; 69 percent of Utah is in severe drought, as is 61 percent of Colorado. More than three-fourths of Oregon, Arizona, and Wyoming are also in drought. The effects of “severe” drought include stunted and browning crops, limited pasture yields, dust storms, reduced well water levels, and an increase in the number and severity of wildfires. Most of those areas had no sign of drought in the mid-summer of 2019.

New Approaches to Ethno-Linguistic Maps

Back in 2017, Matthew Cooper wrote a post discussing the problems with language maps and outlined some ways to make better maps of language distributions.

One major issue with most modern maps of languages is that they often consist of just a single point for each language – this is the approach that WALS and glottolog take. This works pretty well for global-scale analyses, but simple points are quite uninformative for region scale studies of languages. Points also have a hard time spatially describing languages that have disjoint distributions, like English, or languages that overlap spatially. […]

One reason that most language geographers go for the one-point-per-language approach is that using a simple point is simple, while mapping languages across regions and areas is very difficult. An expert must decide where exactly one language ends and another begins. The problem with relying on experts, however, is that no expert has uniform experience across an entire region, and thus will have to rely on other accounts of which language is prevalent where. […]

I believe that, thanks to greater computational efficiency offered by modern computers and new datasets available from social media, it is increasingly possible to develop better maps of language distributions using geotagged text data rather than an expert’s opinion. In this blog, I’ll cover two projects I’ve done to map languages—one using data from Twitter in the Philippines, and another using computationally-intensive algorithms to classify toponyms in West Africa.

[Languagehat]