Friday, November 24, 2017

Power Plants of North America


The North American Power Plants interactive map shows the location of nearly 10,000 power plants in the USA, Canada & Mexico. The map also provides a breakdown of how much capacity is provided by each type of power plant. Currently natural gas provides over 40% of capacity in the whole of North America.

6,400 of the power plants on the map (generating one or more megawatts) use renewable sources, such as hydroelectric, wind, solar, pumped storage, biomass, geothermal and tidal. 3,300 of the power plants use non-renewable sources (natural gas, coal, nuclear and petroleum).

You can use the drop-down menu to filter the map by type of of power production. When you filter the map then the map sidebar also updates to provide a breakdown of the capacity within the selected sector. This sidebar also automatically updates as you zoom & pan the map to provide a breakdown of capacity for only the power plants shown in the current map view.


Carbon Brief also provides a comprehensive map showing How the US generates electricity. The map visualizes how & where electricity is generated in the USA and the amount of electricity generated by the different types of electricity production.

The map allows you to filter the results by type of electricity production. This allows you to see where in the country the different types of electricity production create the most output. For example geothermal power plants are all based in the west of the country while nuclear power plants seem to be mostly built in the east.

All the power plants are displayed on the map using colored scaled markers. The colors indicate the type of power plant and the size of the markers represents the plants' output capacity. The graph in the map sidebar shows the percentage that each type of production contributes to the total of electricity production in the United States. You can select a state from the drop-down menu to view the makeup of the capacity mix for that state.

The Global Croplands Map


The USGS has released an interactive map which shows all the land used for crops and all the possible cropland in the world. As the world's population continues to grow the USGS believes that monitoring global croplands and their water use is essential to ensure future food security.

The Global Croplands map provides 30 meter resolution cropland data for the entire world. The data comes from analyzing Landsat satellite data using the Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform. Europe, India, the USA, China and Russia have the highest cropland areas and combined have about half of the world's cropland.

The 30-m global cropland data used in the Global Cropland map is currently in the peer-review stage. Once this peer review process is over the data will be released and available to download.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Australia's Marriage Law Survey Results


In September Australia held a non-binding national postal survey into the issue of same-sex marriage. There was a high response rate, with over 80% of eligible voters participating in the survey. An overwhelming 61.6% of voters voted 'Yes' to same-sex marriages while 38.4% voted 'No'.

You can see how people voted in your area on Esri's interactive map of the results. Their Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey map shows the 'yes' & 'no' votes in each electoral district. The map also reveals the response rate of eligible voters in each district.

Esri's map uses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics who have released detailed results and participation rates from the survey. The ABS has published two interactive maps the Participation Map and the Response Map. These maps allow you to view the participation rates and the results of the survey by State/Territory and Federal Electoral Divisions.

How the World has Changed


Urban Radiance compares historical night-time satellite views of the Earth to analyse urban development across the world. By comparing recent night-time satellite imagery with historical night-time satellite views of the same locations Urban Radiance is able to show how countries have changed in terms of urbanization, electrification and population density.

Urban Radiance has compiled time-based night-time satellite composites of Asia, the Middle East, North America, North Africa, Europe and the whole World. On each map the newer night-time view uses orange to show light pollution while the older night-time uses blue to show light pollution. In this way it is easy to pick out areas in the map where light pollution has grown over time.

On each composite map Urban Radiance has picked out significant areas which have seen a growth in light pollution. For example in North America Urban Radiance highlights how the growth of shale gas fields in the Dakota and South Texas regions has led to more light pollution in these areas. Below each map graphs show the total growth (or fall) in radiance in each country shown on the map.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Geography of the Thanksgiving Meal


Tomorrow across the United States people will be sitting down to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The tradition largely depends on where you live in the country.

The traditional Thanksgiving menu can be hugely influenced by geography. For example if you live in the north or west then you will probably have cranberry sauce with your turkey; while those who live in the southern states will mostly be enjoying sweet potato casserole. Nearly everyone will be eating turkey. But how you prepare your turkey can also be shaped by where you live. Tell me if your turkey is smoked, roasted or fried and I can probably tell you if you come from the mid-west, the east coast or California.

The Los Angeles Times has used data from Google to determine the Thanksgiving foods searched for in different regions of the United States. You can read the results of their analysis in What will be on your Thanksgiving plate? It depends on where you’ll be. The article includes a little tool which can show you the Thanksgiving foods that are most searched for in each state.


This Thanksgiving America will consume around 250 million turkeys, millions of barrels of cranberries and hundreds of thousands of acres worth of green beans. If you are interested in where your turkey was raised and where your brussels sprouts were grown then you need Esri's Where Does Your Thanksgiving Meal Come From? interactive map.

The map looks at the origins of the traditional Thanksgiving vegetables, turkey and sweet dishes. It includes separate maps showing where turkeys, cranberries, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, pumpkins and pecans are grown and farmed in the United States.

UK Car Accidents Mapped


The Co-op's Car Accidents Map can help you plan a UK driving route and tell you the number of collisions that tool place along the route in 2016. The map uses data from the Department of Transport to show you where collisions have taken place on the UK's roads.

The car routing engine used in the Car Accidents Map doesn't take into account the number of collisions along the route. In other words it won't necessarily show you the safest route. It just maps one possible route and tells you the distance, estimated driving time and the number of collisions along that route.

The map does show every collision last year in the UK for every route you search. This means you can manually check the proposed route and try to work out a safer route for yourself. The map would definitely be more useful if it included an option to search for safer routes. Perhaps the map should include a warning that the route shown isn't necessarily the safest route. I definitely assumed when first using the map that it would automatically try to route me around hazard hotspots.



This is the second interactive map for car drivers that the co-op has released this year. In August Co-op Insurance also released an interactive map to help UK car drivers see where vehicle crime is most frequent.

Enter your location into Park Smart and you can view the location of nearby car crimes that have occurred in the last six months. Numbered and scaled markers show the number of car crimes reported at each location. It is therefore possible to quickly identify roads and blocks which experience high or low levels of car crime.

As well as the interactive map Co-op Insurance has released some handy tips for parking your car safely. Such as parking with your wheels facing the kerb to deter car thieves looking for a quick getaway.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Censored on Google Maps


Since the earliest days of Google Maps a big multi-colored circle has obscured a part of Noordwijk aan Zee in the Netherlands. It isn't the only location in the world which is hidden on Google's satellite imagery. However no one seems to know why Google is so keen to censor what appears to be just a normal Dutch residential neighborhood in Noordrwijk aan Zee. No other online map service censors the area and even on Google Maps you can walk around the neighborhood on Street View.

Back in 2006 this Dutch website suggested that the area was censored on Google Maps because a liquid fuel pipeline had once run through the area. However the pipeline was removed from the area a very long time ago (before Google Maps even started).


Another reason why this censorship in the Netherlands is so strange is because it is very unsubtle. Anyone looking at the area on Google Maps can be in no doubt that Google is trying to hide something here. Google is not usually so unsubtle when hiding locations on Google Maps.

A slightly more nuanced way to hide locations on satellite maps is by blurring the image. For example this building in Greece appears to have been intentionally blurred out on Google Maps. An even more subtle approach is to use a lower resolution image for censored locations. This French prison appears in lower resolution on Google Maps compared to the area around the prison. The low resolution imagery means that the casual user may not be aware of Google's censorship while at the same time successfully obscuring any details in the prison.

Even more subtle is to use older satellite imagery to hide new constructions or additions to locations. For example, it is believed that an older satellite image of this Irish prison has been superimposed on top of newer satellite imagery on Google Maps. If you look closely around the boundary wall of the prison it does appear that different images have been stitched together here.

Wikipedia maintains a useful list of Satellite map images with missing or unclear data. The list keeps track of locations which are censored on the most popular satellite map services. It has also mapped these locations so that you can view the results of this censorship for yourself.

Ignore Google's Thanksgiving Travel Advice


According to Google for most people the best time to travel home for Thanksgiving is early Wednesday morning (3-4 am).  Google analysed traffic data from last year's Thanksgiving holiday to determine the best and worst times to travel by car from a number of major cities. But ignore Google's advice about the worst time to travel. It isn't during rush-hour tomorrow. The worst time to travel is during rush-hour today.

Mapping Thanksgiving includes a tool which allows you to discover the best and worst times to leave a number of American cities. Select the city where you live and the tool will tell you the best time to travel - before and after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately Google has only looked at data starting the day before Thanksgiving. Which is why I've told you to ignore Google's travel advice! Google claims that the worst time to travel for most people is around 4 pm tomorrow. The actual worst time to travel is during rush hour today. This is because a lot of people will actually finish work before their usual time tomorrow.

The AAA says that in 8 out of the top 10 congested cities the worst time to travel is during rush hour on Tuesday (if you live in Atlanta or Houston then Google is correct & Wednesday rush hour is the busiest time). The AAA has also listed the worst times to travel to America's busiest airports. Some are busiest Tuesday & some busier on Wednesday (check the AAA list for the different airport times).

The University of Virginia agrees with the AAA that Tuesday evening rush hour is normally the worst time to travel. They have released an interactive map which uses data from last year to show the best and worst times to travel in Virginia this week. The Virginia Thanksgiving Holiday Historic Travel Trends map allows you to use a timeline to see how busy the state's roads are (historically) during this whole holiday week.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Still Building Trump's Wall


Donald Trump wants to spend millions of hard working Americans' tax-dollars on a wall between the United States and Mexico. KPBS claims that 653 miles of that wall already exists, 90% of which was built in only the last 12 years by Presidents Bush and Obama.

KPBS submitted a number of Freedom of Information requests to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to learn where that 'wall' is and when these sections were built. You can explore the data on their new interactive map America's Wall.

Using the map you can select sections of the wall to see when it was constructed and what type of physical barrier it is. You can also use the timeline chart to see how much of this existing wall was built in any particular year. This timeline is synced to the map. When you click on the chart the map is filtered to only show the sections built in the selected year.



USA Today flew & drove along the entire 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. During these journeys they mapped every known piece of the existing border fence between the two countries. You can view the locations of this existing border fence and also view the aerial video USA Today shot during their flight along the border on their interactive map.

Should we build a wall? A 2,000-mile search for answers not only maps the existing border fence but also explores some of the problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall between Mexico & the USA. The map shows where the existing fence consists of vehicle barriers, pedestrian fencing, other fencing and where no fencing currently exists.

The beginning of 'Should we build a wall' is in a story map format. This section explores some of the geographical, economical and legal problems the USA could face in trying to build Trump's wall. You can view some of these geographical problems yourself in the USA Today's aerial videos. If you scroll to the bottom of the story map and click on the 'Explore the map' button you can click on the map to view videos of the aerial footage captured during the flight along the border.

'Should we build a wall' is just one part of USA Today's special report The Wall - an in-depth examination of Donald Trump's border wall. In the rest of the report you can read interviews, listen to podcasts and explore the border in virtual reality.


Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has also been collecting data on the US-Mexico border for a number of years. They have spent a long time mapping the existing border fence using satellite imagery and government PDF maps of the border.

From this data Reveal has discovered that around 700 miles of the 1,954 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border is already fenced. Trump's new wall will therefore need to be at least 1,300 miles long. That's a lot of Chinese steel. You can explore Reveal's work on their The Wall interactive map. The map shows the current fence and shows where it is a 'vehicular' and where it is a 'pedestrian' fence. The map also shows where no fence currently exists.

You can get a good sense of the scale of construction needed to build Trump's new wall in a video from the Intercept. The Intercept downloaded and stitched together 200,000 satellite images to create a huge strip map of the U.S.-Mexican border. You can view this strip map in Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border, a short video which pans along the whole border.


From Donald Trump's 'detailed' construction plans we know that the Trump Wall will be up to 15 meters high, made of concrete and steel (but also possibly fencing) and will be 1,954 miles long. If you are having difficulty envisioning just how far 1,954 miles is then you can use the Berliner Morgenpost's interactive map. The Trump Wall Comparison Map allows you to overlay an outline of Trump's proposed border wall between the USA and Mexico on any other location on Earth.

If you want to create your own Trump Wall map then you can get Reveal's data for the US-Mexico border fence on Github. You can read more about how this data was collected and mapped in the Reveal article The Wall: Building a continuous US-Mexico barrier would be a tall order.

The Cost of Going Outside


Apparently Americans have to pay an entrance fee to 'enter' the great outdoors. Some National Parks in the USA charge an entrance fee. And the National Parks Service wants to put those prices up.

Mapbox has therefore released the NPS Fee Explorer Map. This interactive map allows you to select a national park, a mode of entry (car, bike or on foot) and the number of visitors to find out how much your visit could cost after the proposed increases to entrance fees. It also explains how much more this would cost than it costs now to visit the same national park.

The proposed increases only affect 17 national parks. The national parks are highlighted on the map by using a different shade of green than for the surrounding natural areas on the map.

Forget the map though. My big take away from this is that Americans have to pay money to go outside.