Georeferencing Familiar Places

On the Leventhal Map Center’s website, Ezra Acevedo describes what it’s like to georeference a century-old atlas of your hometown. “Spending many hours poring over maps of such a well known place was really exciting. My knowledge of the town coupled with its resistance to change meant that the historic maps of Ipswich weren’t all that difficult to line up with the modern map. However, I did learn four important lessons while georeferencing my hometown.”

NYC Tree Map

Screenshot of the NYC Tree Map

The impressive and/or insane thing about the New York City Tree Map is that it maps individual trees: now about 860,000 of them, all managed by the city’s parks department on city streets and in parks, down to the species and trunk diameter, which also means you can filter for those parameters, plus get most recent inspection and tree care data on specific trees. You can even favourite individual trees. If trees had social media accounts, they’d be here. [Bloomberg CityLab]

Previously: Mapping Central Park’s 19,630 Trees.

The Bois Forte Native Names Map

Bois Forte Native Names Map

The Bois Forte Native Names Map collects more than 100 original Ojibwe names in the traditional territory of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, in what is now northeastern Minnesota. The hand-drawn map is the result of a two-year collaboration between the band, Ely Folk School and volunteer artists. A limited first-edition print is available via a school fundraiser; plans are afoot for a mass-produced paper map, as well as an online version. Details here; also see the Star Tribune’s coverage. Thanks to Paul for the link.

Previously: Indigenous Place Names in Canada; Indigenous Place Names and Cultural Property; An Interview with Margaret Pearce, Mapmaker of Indigenous Place Names.

Satellite Observations of Ukraine’s Wheat Harvest

Satellite observations have made it possible to evaluate the success of Ukraine’s wheat and barley harvest, even in active war zones or occupied territories. NASA Earth Observatory reports that the harvest was, in the end, larger than expected: “At the outset of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February, some analysts cautioned that 20 to 30 percent of Ukraine’s winter crops might not be harvested at the end of the summer. However, NASA Harvest’s analysis indicates that 94 percent of the winter crop was harvested, including 88 percent of winter crops in areas not controlled by Ukraine.”

The Privacy Implications of a Slight URL Change

Garrit Franke thinks a change in Google Maps’s web address—it now redirects from a subdirectory,, to a folder on Google’s root directory,—means that location permission given to Google Maps (a normal thing to do when using maps) could be applied across all of Google’s services without asking for additional permissions. [Daring Fireball/Lat × Long]

Kenneth Field Redesigns the Tube Map

One of two redesigned London tube maps by Kenneth Field. This one has a colour palette that is more accomodating to people with colour vision deficiency.
Kenneth Field

Kenneth Field has been a vocal critic of the London tube map’s increasing complexity and clutter. Earlier this year he advocating dumping the map and starting from a clean slate. At last month’s NACIS conference he revealed two versions of a redesign that does just that. Based on an earlier 2019 redesign exercise, this version is inarguably a Beck-inspired diagram; it just benefits from not shoehorning more and more information into an existing, already busy map. In fact, it removes quite a bit of information, relegating it to the index on the reverse side. And in his second variant (above), he commits what I gather is a minor heresy by removing the iconic colours of the original Tube lines, allowing the map to use colour to indicate mode and also accommodate people with colour vision deficiency. Ken explains on his blog post; his NACIS talk is available on YouTube.

Previously: Part Two of Unfinished London’s Tube Map History; Kenneth Field: ‘Dump the Map’; So the Launch of the New Tube Map Seems to Be Going Well.

Update, 16 Jan 2023: Commentary from Transit Maps.

‘Geospatial Data Is Stuck in the Year 1955’

James Killick’s blog, Map Happenings, looks very much like one worth following. Killick’s been around the block more than a few times, working at Mapquest, Esri and most recently at Apple’s Maps division. He’s seen things, in other words. In his latest post, he decries the geospatial industry’s lack of common data standards, which he compares to the shipping industry before container ships.

The lack of common, broadly adopted geospatial data exchange standards is crippling the geospatial industry. It’s a bit like going to an EV charger with your shiny new electric vehicle and discovering you can’t charge it because your car has a different connector to the one used by the EV charger. The electricity is there and ready to be sucked up and used, but, sorry—your vehicle can’t consume it unless you miraculously come up with a magical adaptor that allows the energy to flow.

James produces a couple of counterexamples—standards for transit data and indoor mapping developed by Google and Apple, respectively—and points to Esri as a possible force for data standardization.

Previously: Immersive View and the Death of Consumer Maps.

Anton Thomas’s Wild World: A Progress Report

Anton Thomas’s Wild World map, incomplete. Several continents are finished, but oceans and Antarctica are only fainly outlined. It’s using the Natural Earth projection.
Anton Thomas

Anton Thomas gives us an update on the map he’s been working on for the past two years: Wild World. “With much ocean ahead, and Antarctica, I think it’ll take another year to finish. But most of the land is done. And prints of certain continents are already available, so the map is going well. It’s just . . . more complex and detailed than I ever dreamed.”

Previously: Anton Thomas’s Next Project: Wild World.

Update, 20 Jan 2023: Interview with MapLab.

Changing the Cone of Uncertainty

The cone of uncertainty is a feature of hurricane maps: it shows the potential paths a storm’s centre may take, not the areas at risk when it makes landfall. Not being in the cone does not mean you’re safe: that misunderstanding has the potential to put people at risk. A long piece in today’s Miami Herald reports that changes to the cone may be afoot.

New research from the University of Miami confirms what a lot of emergency managers already knew, that people don’t understand the cone, and the UM experts are working with the National Hurricane Center to reshape it. Meanwhile, one Miami-based TV station, WSVN Channel 7, has already changed the way it displays the cone for storms, starting with Category 1 Hurricane Nicole in November.

Here’s the UM’s news release about that study.

Previously: The Dangers of Hurricane Maps’ Cone of Uncertainty; Rethinking the Cone of Uncertainty.

Part Two of Unfinished London’s Tube Map History

And here’s part two of Jay Foreman’s history of London Tube’s map, which looks at its post-Beck existence and increasing clutter and complication. (To say nothing of Beck’s post-map existence.) Part one is here.

Previously: Unfinished London: History of the Tube Map; Kenneth Field: ‘Dump the Map’; So the Launch of the New Tube Map Seems to Be Going Well; Tube Map Adds Thameslink Stations, Becomes More Even Complicated; Has the Tube Map Become Too Complicated?

The TomTom Maps Platform

TomTom corporate logoEarlier this month, at its investor meeting, TomTom announced that it was launching something called the TomTom Maps Platform. The announcement was, because of where it was made, long on investor-focused jargon: growth, innovation, etc., so it’s not immediately clear what it will mean.

Basically, TomTom is building a map ecosystem that can be built on by developers and businesses: an apparent shot across the bow at the Google Maps ecosystem. And indeed that’s how The Next Web sees it: an attempt to “wrestle control” of digital mapping away from Silicon Valley.

TomTom plans to do so by combining map data from its own data, third-party sources, sensor data, and OpenStreetMap. I’ve been around long enough to know that combining disparate map data sources is neither trivial nor easy. It’s also very labour intensive. TomTom says they’ll be using AI and machine learning to automate that process. It’ll be a real accomplishment if they can make it work. It may actually be a very big deal. I suspect it may also be the only way to make this platform remotely any good and financially viable at the same time.

SuperGPS Promises Ten-Centimetre Accuracy

It seems to be steam engine time for GPS alternatives. We’ve already seen two proposals that suggest using constellations of low-flying satellites to provide greater accuracy and more resilience against signal blocking than GPS and other orbital navigation systems can provide. Now a research team in the Netherlands is developing a project called SuperGPS, which promises decimetre-level (10 cm) accuracy through the use of terrestrial transmitters connected to a fibre-optic network. They’ve built a working prototype, and published the results in Nature. More at the TU Delft news release.

Previously: Starlink as GPS Alternative; ESA Considering Low-Orbit Satellites to Improve Galileo System.

New Book About Emma Hart Willard

Book cover: Emma Willard: Maps of HistoryA book about the work of Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) is coming out this month from Visionary Press. The book, Emma Willard: Maps of History, includes an essay by Susan Schulten (who also edited the book) along with reproductions of Willard’s maps, atlases and time charts (for example, the 1828 set of maps that accompanied her History of the United States, or Republic of America), which proved hugely influential in terms of using maps in pedagogy, as well as historical maps and graphical depictions of time. The book is part of a series, Information Graphic Visionaries, that was the subject of a successful Kickstarter last year. Outside of that crowdfunding campaign, the book can be ordered from the publisher for $95 (it’s on sale right now for $85). [Matthew Edney]

Previously: Emma Willard’s History of the United States; Women in Cartography (Part 3).