An odd story out of California, reported on by Vice’s Chloe Xiang, from earlier this month. Ryan Crownholm’s website, MySitePlan.com, sells residential and commercial site plans. California’s Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists has fined him $1,000 for practising land surveying without a licence and ordered him to shut down the site. He’s fighting the citation in court with the assistance of the libertarian Institute for Justice: see their page on the complaint. Their argument is that California surveying laws are vague enough that a literal interpretation would make any map drawn in California, no matter how informal or non-authoritative, illegal.
It’s unlikely to say the least that the Board intends to ban Google Maps or every California-based instance of GIS. This is an edge case. Crownholm’s defence turns on his drawings being “non-authoritative” and a disclaimer that these are not legal surveys. The Board apparently thinks that’s insufficient. A spot of litigation seems required to clarify things.
.@googlemaps This is an abject failure. You are sending people up a poorly maintained forest road to their death in a severe blizzard. Hire people who can address winter storms in your code (or maybe get some of your engineers who are stuck in Tahoe right now on it). pic.twitter.com/IzagAXzBtA
Other dispatches from Twitter allege that the service—particularly its mobile app—directed people to closed-off highways, mountain passes and lakeside roads to get around. This is in direct contrast to Caltrans’ messaging to avoid workarounds. Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Steve Nelson told SFGATE on Monday that they were seeing drivers trying to skirt highway closures with side streets. “They’ll take side roads and try and sneak past the closures, and that never ends well,” he said.
Google engineer Sören Meyer-Eppler responded on Twitter to spell out some of the technical and logistical problems involved in rerouting traffic during bad weather: the difficulty in finding timely data (and in such cases data need to be really timely) and the risk of false positives. More at Jalopnik.
This 1930s map has made the rounds—it claims to show the global locations that various sites in California could plausibly represent on screen, and swaps the place-names accordingly (e.g. the Sierras can play the French Alps) [thread] pic.twitter.com/lVmYjWYyi6
You Are Here: California Stories on the Map is an exhibition showing at the Oakland Museum of California through 2022. “Showcasing a diverse range of maps from Oakland, the Bay Area, and California—from environmental surroundings and health conditions to community perspectives and creative artworks—experience how maps can be a powerful tool to share unique points of view and imagine a better future.” San Francisco Examiner coverage. Admission is $16 or free to museum members.
ProPublica maps the change in California’s fire seasons. “As California continues battling its worst wildfire season on record, new research shows that fall fire weather days—days with high temperatures, low humidity and high wind speeds—will double in parts of the state by the end of the century and will increase 40% by 2065. […] In the north, a summer fire season has been driven by high temperatures and low humidity. In Southern California, fall fire season is driven by east winds. With climate change, though, both the summer and fall fire seasons have grown longer, and are melting into each other, overlapping in time and space.” [Joshua Stevens]
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]
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.
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.
The New York Times maps ongoing wildfires in California—and the state of things is that I have to specify which: in 2019; the Easy, Getty and Kincade fires in Ventura, Los Angeles and Sonoma counties, respectively. The page also maps where PG&E engaged in preventative power outages to inhibit the spread of fires.
This interferogram shows the ground displacement caused by last week’s earthquakes in southern California. Produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it’s based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from JAXA’s ALOS-2 satellite taken both before (16 April 2018) and after (8 July 2019) the earthquakes. Each colour cycle represents 12 centimetres (4.8 inches) of ground displacement.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s 2018 California Fire Tracker is an interactive map of ongoing and contained wildfires—notably, at this moment, the Camp and Woolsey fires. It includes fire perimeter and air quality data. (Note: it’s glitchy on desktop Safari.)