Hurricane Florence: A Link Roundup

Hurricane Florence on 12 September 2018, as seen by NASA’s Terra Satellite.

The Washington Post has maps tracking Hurricane Florence’s forecasted path and its potential impact. Researcher Eira Tansey compiled data from several NOAA sources—hurricane track forecasting, potential storm surge flooding and long-duration hazards—to create this map.

A variety of NASA imagery of the storm is available via this Twitter moment. The eye of the storm can be viewed on Google Earth’s Current Weather Radar layer (Chrome-only).

Direct Relief’s Hurricane Florence Social Vulnerability Dashboard shows the extent to which the population in Florence’s path will be disproportionately affected by the storm. As CityLab’s Nicole Javorksy explains, while coastal areas will be hit hardest, residents there are more affluent; socioeconomic status, age, disability status, car ownership can all determine one’s ability to endure or recover from a storm.

The New York Times maps the environmental hazards in Florence’s path: “ponds of coal ash, Superfund sites, chemical plants—and thousands of industrial hog farms with lagoons filled with pig waste.” All have the potential to cause widespread contamination if flooded.

The Least Popular Ordnance Survey Map

The Guardian reports on the worst-selling Ordnance Survey map, which I suspect will very quickly cease to be the worst-selling map thanks to the news coverage. It’s OS Explorer 440: Glen Cassley and Glen Oykel, a 1:25,000-scale map of a remote region of the Scottish Highlands. (Buy it at Amazon.) The area covered by the map is apparently spectacularly empty, at least as far as humans are concerned, with only “a few dozen houses,” most of which are used for vacation or hunting purposes. In a blog post today, the Ordnance Survey goes into more detail, listing the 10 least popular maps in the U.K.: they’re all in Scotland, so they also give the least popular maps for England and Wales.

If the purpose here is to point to the route less travelled, well and good, but I suspect the effect will be rather like what happens when a travel guide raves about an out-of-the-way, hidden gem of a restaurant.

Map Donated to Hiroshima Museum Is One of the Oldest Known Maps of Japan

A map recently donated to the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of History has been dated to the mid-14th century, making it one of the oldest maps of Japan, The Mainichi reports. “It was previously believed that a map in the ‘Shugaisho’ encyclopedia from 1548 was the oldest known map covering the whole of Japan. While Ninna-ji temple in Kyoto also holds a map of Japan dating to 1305, it does not cover the western part of the country.” The map is on display at the museum until September 24. [Tony Campbell]

More on Equal Earth

Equal Earth projection in colour

The Gall-Peters projection is a second-rate projection with first-rate public relations; cartographers’ responses to the projection that focused on its cartographic shortcomings ended up missing the point. Something different is happening with the Equal Earth projection, which was announced last month as a response to Gall-Peters: an equal-area projection with “eye appeal.” It’s getting media traction: the latest news outlet to take notice is Newsweek. So, finally, there’s an alternative that can be competitive on the PR front, without having to mumble something about all projections being compromises until the eyes glaze over.

It’s turning up in GIS packages, too: in D3, in G.Projector and in proj4. There’s even a t-shirt.

Previously: The Equal Earth Projection; Equal Earth Updates.

The Onion: The Cartographers’ Secret Continent

The Onion: World’s Cartographers Continue Living Secret Life of Luxury on Idyllic, Never Disclosed 8th Continent. “‘Ah, yes—this is the life,’ said topographical researcher Garrett Farthing, chuckling to himself as he delicately put the finishing touches on yet another map showing their current location to be an empty stretch of the Pacific Ocean while being fed grapes by a trained monkey from an ultra-docile species found only on their lush, temperate, 3.5-million-square-mile landmass. […] No non-cartographer should ever sully this place with their uncultured presence.” You just had to blab, Onion. [WMS]

Anti-Semitic Map Vandalism Strikes Mapbox

An incident of map vandalism roiled the Internet last week. Users of several online services, including CitiBike, Foursquare and SnapChat, discovered that New York City had been relabelled “Jewtropolis” on the services’ maps: see coverage at Gizmodo, Mashable and TechCrunch. The problem was quickly traced to Mapbox, which provides maps to these services. Mapbox, understandably upset about the act of vandalism, soon figured out what the hell happened.

The problem was traced to OpenStreetMap, one of Mapbox’s data sources. On August 10 an OSM user renamed a number of New York landmarks, as well as New York itself, after a number of alt-right and neo-Nazi memes. The edits were quickly reverted and the user blocked—on OpenStreetMap. They nevertheless entered the Mapbox review pipeline, where they were, in fact, caught and flagged on the 16th, but a human editor mistakenly okayed the renaming of New York to Jewtropolis. A simple human error, but with a delayed fuse: the edit turned up on Mapbox’s public map two weeks later. When all hell broke loose on the 30th, the map was fixed within a few hours.

Vandalism of online maps isn’t a new thing: in 2015 Google ran into trouble when a series of juvenile map edits exposed the shortcomings of the Map Maker program’s moderation system and led to a temporary suspension of Map Maker (it closed for good in 2017) and an apology from Google. Anything involving user contributions needs a moderation system, and OpenStreetMap and Mapbox both have them. But moderation systems can and do still fail from time to time. (That’s a take on this incident that isn’t on Bill Morris’s list.)

ClickHole: 700 Dots on a Map


It’s from 2014, but in the context of dumb viral maps it’s eternally relevant. ClickHoleThe Onion’s clickbait parody: We Put 700 Red Dots on a Map.

The dots don’t represent anything in particular, nor is their number and placement indicative of any kind of data. But when you’re looking at them, all spread out on a map of the United States like that—it’s hard not to be a little blown away.

Seven hundred of them. Seven hundred dots. That’s more than 500 dots—well on the way to 1,000. That could represent 700 people, or crime scenes, or cities. Or something that happens in this country every 20 seconds. These dots could potentially be anything—they’re red dots, so they could definitely mean something bad.

Whatever they might be, there’s no unseeing these dots.


The Harvard Map Collection at 200

The Harvard Map Collection is celebrating its 200th anniversary. There’s an exhibition, Follow the Map: The Harvard Map Collection at 200, which runs through October 26 at Harvard’s Pusey Library, as well as a symposium, Follow the Map: Reflecting on 200 Years of the Harvard Map Collection, which takes place October 25 and 26; Susan Schulten will be delivering the keynote. [WMS]

Update: Here’s the exhibition catalogue.

A Hungarian Globe Puzzle

Sometimes called a Rubik’s globe, though Rubik had nothing to do with it, this Hungarian-made globe puzzle from the 1980s, known variously as the Földgöm, Globus Gömb or Varázs Gömb, sometimes shows up on the lists of collectibles dealers. Consisting of a plastic core and tin surface pieces, the puzzle operates on two axes; the eight corners do not move. Jaap’s Puzzle Page has details on its origins and how to solve it, and also shows a couple of non-geographical globe puzzle variants. Here’s a short blog post from the Retro Game Museum (in Hungarian). And here’s an unboxing video from someone who bought a globe (bundled with a Rubik’s cube) on eBay. [Harvard Map Collection]

New Ottawa Transit Map Goes Diagrammatic

OC Transpo

Last week OC Transpo, the City of Ottawa’s transit service, unveiled a new network map (PDF) that shows the transit routes that will be in effect after the new LRT opens, which is (at the moment) scheduled to take place in November. From a cartographic perspective, what’s interesting is that OC Transpo’s new map adopts a diagrammatic, non-geographical design after years of their maps simply overlaying transit lines over a city map (see, for example, the latest, pre-LRT transit map, PDF). The approach allows the map to enlarge the more densely served core and inner suburbs and shrink the larger, but less service-dense outer suburbs—which is exactly what diagrammatic transit maps of sprawling cities are good for.

Studying How and Why Maps Go Viral

Geographer Anthony Robinson is studying the phenomenon of viral maps—maps that are widely disseminated on social media, many of which are terrible: superficial, inaccurate or deliberately misleading. One burst of virality occurred in November 2016, when there was an eruption of maps, some silly, others dead serious, showing the outcome of the U.S. presidential election “if only x voted” (where x was women, or people of colour, or some other demographic). This episode is apparently one of the subjects of Robinson’s paper in Cartography and Geographic Information Science, in which he sketches out a framework for evaluating viral maps’ design and the ways they spread. The paper is behind a paywall, but here’s a news article about it from Penn State, where Robinson works.

Previously: When Maps Lie; How to Circulate a Fake Election Map; What If Only … Voted?; Bad Internet Maps: ‘A Social Media Plague’.

The Woman Who Gets Lost Every Day

Developmental topographic disorientation is a neurological disorder that prevents people from making cognitive maps. People suffering from DTD literally get lost in familiar surroundings: their home, to and from work. As someone who literally cannot get lost, I have a hard time imagining what that could possibly be like. Enter The Woman Who Gets Lost Every Day, a short film about Sharon Roseman, a woman with DTD who shares how she experiences and navigates the world in her own words. [The Atlantic]

There have been a number of news articles on DTD since the Walrus article I told you about in 2011. See, for example, this 2015 article in The Atlantic.

Gatineau Park Recommends Paper Maps

Gatineau Park (National Capital Commission)

Relying on your smartphone’s maps can be risky in places where cellular service is patchy. That goes for Gatineau Park, where, despite the fact that its southeast corner is surrounded by the city of Gatineau, Quebec (across the river from Ottawa), staff still recommend people use paper maps, CBC News reports. It’s a big park, after all, and not all of it is in the city. But it’s not just about dead zones and dead batteries: out of date trail information and lack of trail difficulty are also problems. None of these problems, mind you, are unfixable (except, you know, dead batteries).

The paper maps in question include general summer and winter maps, along with trail maps for summer and winter activities (all links to PDF files). They’re not total luddites: here’s an interactive map.