California Wildfires: Mapping the Bigger Picture

100 Years of Wildfire (John Nelson)Two maps:

John Nelson’s 100 Years of Wildfire is a static map showing a century of California wildfires, simplified into zones of 100 square miles. The map measures the cumulative burn area for each zone over that entire time: this can exceed 100 or even 200 percent if large fires are frequent enough, or the whole damn area burns down more than once.

The California Fire Observatory combines longer-term data about forest cover with up-to-date information about wildfire hotspots and wind speed. “We map the drivers of wildfire hazard across the state—including forest structure, weather, topography & infrastructure—from space. […] By providing these data for free we hope to support the development of data-driven land management strategies that increase wildfire resilience—for forests and communities—enabling people and nature to thrive.” [Maps Mania]

Mapping Climate Risk in the United States

The New York Times (screenshot)

Climate change isn’t just one thing: rising temperatures, or sea level rise. It’s also changes to rainfall, increased risk of wildfires, more powerful hurricanes. The extent to which any of these are threats depends on where you live: North Dakota doesn’t have much to worry about rising sea levels, but it should think about drought. That’s what this interactive map from the New York Times attempts to measure: the climate risks to the United States on a county-by-county basis.

Previously: How Climate Change Will Transform the United States.

How Climate Change Will Transform the United States

ProPublica map

ProPublica has released a series of climate maps showing the impact of warming temperatures, rising seas and changes in rainfall on the United States. “Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.”

Mapping the California Heat Wave

NASA Earth Observatory: California Heatwave 2020
NASA Earth Observatory (Joshua Stevens)

NASA Earth Observatory: “The map above shows air temperatures across the United States on September 6, 2020, when much of the Southwest roasted in a dramatic heatwave. The map was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and represents temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. The darkest red areas are where the model shows temperatures surpassing 113°F (45°C).” Heat waves in southern California have become “more frequent, intense, and longer-lasting,” the article goes on to say.

More on the Western U.S. Wildfires

NASA Earth Observatory

NASA Earth Observatory has had several stories on the western U.S. wildfires, gathered here. This story summarizes the situation; satellite images of the smoke generated by the fires can be seen here, here and here.

Marena Brinkhurst of Mapbox has a comprehensive list of open data sources relating to the wildfires, smoke, and air quality.

Mark Altaweel at GIS Lounge looks at how GIS is being used to map wildfires, smoke and air pollution.

Previously: California Wildfires, 2020 Edition.

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).

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.

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]

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.

Australia’s Bushfires and Misleading Maps

Whenever there’s a major news event, there will be an outbreak of fake, misattributed or misleading images that purport to be about that event. That goes for maps as well.

Take the serious situation with Australia’s bushfires at the moment. Social media is jammed with maps showing practically the whole damn continent on fire, or superimposed on another continent to let people there know just how big Australia is (and also on fire). It’s a profoundly serious situation, and as NASA’s Joshua Stevens points out, it’s possible to present an accurate map that shows its seriousness without resorting to hyperbole.

The trouble is, social media thrives on hyperbole, because it thrives on “engagement”—which means outrage and anger and, as Joshua Emmons notes, as we get inured to a certain level of outrage, even more outrage is needed just to get noticed.

Which brings me to this thing, which is showing up all over the social web:

Anthony Hearsey, Creative Imaging.

Continue reading “Australia’s Bushfires and Misleading Maps”

Tom Patterson’s Map of Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound
Tom Patterson

Tom Patterson’s projects are always worthy of note. His latest is a wall map of Alaska’s Prince William Sound—a physical relief map that, Tom warns, will very soon be out of date:

Prince William Sound turned out being the most laborious map that I have ever made. The culprit: climate change. Although much of the data that went into making the map was of recent vintage, glaciers in the region have melted noticeably these last few years.

Updating physical features—glaciers, coastlines, rivers, and lakes—from recent satellite images took up ninety percent of my time. Nevertheless, the completed map is only a snapshot in time. Columbia Glacier, for example, lost another one kilometer of its length during the summer of 2019. Much of what the map depicts will be out-of-date again before too long.

It can be downloaded, printed (it’s 44 × 36 inches) and modified free of charge.