Archive of posts with tag 'geography'

The Invisible Barrier Keeping Two Worlds Apart

May 8, 2023 • #

This is a fascinating video on the Wallace Line, which separates to biogeographic regions:

The wildlife on each side differ tremendously from one another, even the line cuts through straits that aren’t wide at all.

Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (a contemporary of Darwin), noticed the distinction and defined the line. But what we now know is that he discovered the effects of plate tectonics decades before the theory was formalized.

So it’s not that different species mysteriously won’t cross the line — it’s that the separated landmasses with...

Architecture from Every Country

September 12, 2022 • #

This was a fantastic thread from The Cultural Tutor — so simple, but had me on an epic Wikipedia / Google Maps rabbit hole.

Some of my favorite examples:

Kind of sad to see so many overbearing modernist structures in here, but some of them are nothing if not impressive, at least.

His newsletter, Areopagus, is full of great tidbits on art, history, classics, architecture, rhetoric....

Intro to Areography

February 7, 2021 • #

The resemblance between Martian and Terran topography is amazing. Mars has volcanism, plains, valleys, and hard evidence of water formerly everywhere.

Great shots here with renderings of Martian topography.

Places: The English Channel

June 28, 2020 • #

English Channel

This image from Landsat 8 shows the western end of the English Channel off the coast of Cornwall. A phytoplankton bloom spreads for dozens of miles, filling the St. Austell Bay.

The only time I was on the Channel was on the ferry from Dover to Calais, on a particularly rough but clear day.

English Channel :: 50°01' N, 4°31' W

Image credits: NASA

Places: the Tes River Basin

March 11, 2020 • #

This one cropped up through Google’s Earth View Chrome extension.

The Tes River runs east to west into northwest Mongolia from the Sayan Mountains in Siberia.

Tes River

It empties into the Uvs Nuur Basin, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The river’s floodplain looks amazing from the air, a 10+ mile wide swath with dozens of smaller streams formed as the main course has meandered all over and stranded oxbows and dropped bands of sediment.


    <div class=

Weekend Reading: Tagging with Turf, Mars Panorama, and Kinds of Easy

March 7, 2020 • #

🗺 turf-tagger

Bryan put together this neat little utility for merging point data with containing polygon attributes with spatial join queries. It uses Turf.js to do the geoprocess in the browser.

🚀 Mars Curiosity High-Res Panorama

Amazing photography of the Mars surface:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface. Composed of more than 1,000 images taken during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday and carefully assembled over the ensuing months, the composite contains 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape. The rover’s...

Places: Remnants of an Ancient Lake

February 17, 2020 • #

Lake Chad spans 4 national borders in the central Sahel: Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. Since the 1960s it’s shrunk to about 5% its ancestral size, due to overuse, mismanagement, and climate shifts.

Lake Mega Chad

This NASA photo uses SRTM data combined with Landsat 8 to highlight the edges of the basin that was once the size of the Caspian Sea:

About 7,000 years ago, a vast lake spread hundreds of square kilometers across north-central Africa. Known to scientists as Lake Mega Chad, it...

Weekend Reading: MiLB, Naming Public Transit, and Soccer Playing Styles

November 30, 2019 • #

Mapping the New MiLB Landscape

Combining baseball and maps? Sign me up. The MLB has a plan to “improve” the MiLB system costs, standards, compensation, and other things through shuttering 42 ball clubs around the country. In this piece for FanGraphs, the authors use some GIS tactics to analyze how this shakes out for baseball fans falling within those markets:

So how many Americans would see their ability to watch affiliated baseball in person disappear under MLB’s proposal? And how many would see their primary point of access shift from the...

An Island Chain

October 24, 2019 • #

I’m an airplane window seat guy. So when on a flight with good views, I end up gazing out the window for most of the time and capturing my own aerial imagery.

Our Monday flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan took us over the Bahamas, so I got some nice scenery to look at during the trip. The first batch was over the centerline of the Bahamian chain, next over Turks and Caicos, then a gap of ocean north of Hispaniola until reaching Puerto Rico.

Here are some of the best shots, with captions for reference.

The Bahamas


Places: Kimbolton Region

October 2, 2019 • #

I first saw this through Google’s Earth View a few months back. It’s a coastal area of the Kimberly Region in Western Australia.


Bands of low-lying mountain ranges run from southeast to northwest, jutting out into the Timor Sea. The striated bands of folded rock formations create low-elevation channels, and where these meet the ocean you get fjord-like features slicing into the coastline. It reminds me of The Vale from the map of Westeros.

Along the coast you get features like the Horizontal Falls: a...

Places: The Kolyma River

August 8, 2019 • #

Kolyma River

This striking image shows sediment flow from the Kolyma, a 1,300 mile braided river that originates in the mountains of Eastern Siberia.

For about eight months of the year, the Kolyma River is frozen to depths of several meters. But every June, the river thaws and carries vast amounts of suspended sediment and organic material into the Arctic Ocean. That surge of fresh, soil-ridden waters colors the Kolyma Gulf (Kolymskiy Zaliv) dark brown and black.

Nearby to the west you can see a...

Places: Mergui Archipelago

July 16, 2019 • #

On this edition of Places is the Mergui Archipelago, a string of coastal islands off of southern Myanmar in the Andaman Sea.

Mergui Archipelago

I saw this image a few years back on NASA’s Earth Observatory feed. It’s an amazing snapshot from Landsat 5 that shows gorgeous colors from the silts and sediments emptied at the mouth of the Lenya River. The tidal motions make the colored sea water smear across the image like an oil painting. I also love the dendritic patterns of the streams and tributaries on the islands. They give...

Places: Col du Galibier

June 25, 2019 • #

The mountain stages of the Tour de France are some of my favorite events in sports. This edition of Places features a tribute to this year’s 18th stage, and one of my favorite climbs of the Alps: the Col du Galibier, a 2,600m HC beast with an epic descent on the other side.

Col du Galibier

Galibier was last climbed in the 2017 Tour, during an awesome Stage 17 when Primož Roglič won the day on a route that included famous...

Places: Great Slave Lake

June 7, 2019 • #

Our place for today I found via NASA’s Earth Observatory feed: the Great Slave Lake of the Canadian Northwest Territory.

The Great Slave Lake

While it’s a big body of water when you pan over it on the map, it’s size is hard to fathom when compared to other geographic features:

If you are traveling on Canada’s Great Slave Lake, you will notice one characteristic right away: it is enormous. Roughly the size of Belgium, it ranks in the top fifteen largest lakes worldwide....

Places: Lake Natron

May 22, 2019 • #

Only geography nerds have NASA’s Earth Observatory feed set up in their RSS reader. On there a team from NASA share interesting images from around the world as they come in from the various earth observation satellite sensors in orbit.

I check out items as they come through the feed and will occasionally download my favorites to edit into wallpapers for my laptop or phone. One of the best ever that’s been the wallpaper-of-choice on my machine for the past year is this great shot of Tanzania’s Lake Natron:

Lake Natron

Places: Richat Structure

May 10, 2019 • #

I browse maps all the time, panning around in Google Earth whenever I want to look something up, favoriting things along the way. I thought I’d start documenting some of those here.

The Richat Structure is a circular geologic dome formation in the Mauritanian Sahara. I actually saw this when I was panning around the desert looking at the striated mountains you can see going from east to west toward the Atlantic. The whole structure is about 20 miles in diameter, and looks completely alien and out of place in the desert.

Richat Structure

Weekend Reading: Brains and Language, Hillshading in Blender, and Antifragility

April 13, 2019 • #

🧠 Your Brain Needs 1.5 MB of Storage to Master Your Native Language

“It may seem surprising but, in terms of digital media storage, our knowledge of language almost fits compactly on a floppy disk,” the authors wrote in the study. In this case, that would be a floppy disk that holds about 1.5 megabytes of information, or the equivalent of about a minute-long song as an Mp3 file. [3D Images: Exploring the Human Brain] The researchers estimate that in the best-case scenario, in a...

Sierra Nevada, Basin and Range

February 8, 2019 • #

One of the highlights of the west → east flight from Northern California is the chance to get views over the ranges of California, Nevada, and Colorado. The first leg of my flight home this week took me from San Jose to Denver, offering up those snow-capped mountains I so rarely get to see living in the southeast.

Sierra Nevada

Not too far into the flight you come upon the Sierra Nevada, if you’re lucky passing right over the Yosemite Valley. Today there was a thin, low cloud layer over the mountains, so the view...

A Live Experiment in Disassembling a Map

February 7, 2019 • #

This was a cool idea from cartographer Daniel Huffman. He live-streamed a walkthrough taking apart one of his map projects in Illustrator to see how he puts it all together.

I love this idea and am excited to see him do more like this down the road.

The Salton Sea

February 6, 2019 • #

I don’t remember what got me to it, but the other day I found this short documetary video about Southern California’s Salton Sea, a saline lake about 80 miles inland from San Diego:

I knew about its infamy as a failed resort destination, with planned developments like Desert Shores and Salton City that popped up on its edge in the 1950s. What I didn’t know was the sea’s history as the result of an engineering accident, induced by the California Development Company trying to divert...

A Vast Wilderness

January 27, 2019 • #

I picked up John McPhee’s Coming Into the Country this week. You could think of it like a biography of Alaska: the region pre- and post-statehood, its people, the wilderness, wildlife, and its vastness.

Woven throughout are reminders of just how massive the untouched wilderness is in Alaska, and how far you really are from civilization out in the flatlands or up in the Brooks Range.

Early in the book he and his companions are traveling up the Salmon River, in the Kobuk Valley National Park (still not designated in 1977 at the time of...

The Earth in 8K

January 17, 2019 • #

Mesmerizing, hypnotic video shot in 8K pointed straight down from an airplane. It looks like these were originally shot for Apple to use as their “Aerial” screensaver seen on Apple TV.

I could leave this on a loop in my office all day.

The History of the World on One Map

January 14, 2019 • #

Every year since the pre-Stone Age area, visualized as a time lapse on a map.

This is amazing and puts into context what was developing where over time. I know when I read the history of one culture, like Ancient Greece, it’s hard to keep in the mind what was happening elsewhere in the world during the same time period. This video could be a good reference point to pull up to get a sense of what happened during, before, and after any...

Cycling: A Sport for Geographers

January 13, 2019 • #

The UCI World Tour season kicks off this week with the Tour Down Under.

I started following pro cycling closely about 5 years ago, but since it’s fairly hard to get access to on broadcasts, I only get to watch a handful of events each year. With the NBC Cycling Pass you get some big events, like the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, plus some other fun ones in the spring like Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Last season while watching the Criterium du Dauphiné, it dawned on me one of the reasons I got...

Weekend Reading: How We Collect Data, Mapping the Camp Fire, and Earth's Great Unconformity

January 5, 2019 • #

🗺 How We Get Data Collected in the Field Ready for Use

My colleagues Bill Dollins and Todd Pollard (the core of our data team), wrote this post detailing how we go from original ground-based data collection in Fulcrum through a data processing pipeline to deliver product to customers. A combination of PostGIS, Python tools, FME, Amazon RDS, and other custom QA tools get us from raw content to finished, analyst-ready GEOINT products.

🔥 Mapping the Camp Fire with Drones

The 518 coordinated flights operation, by 16 Northern California emergency responder agencies, is one of...

Weekend Reading: Mastery Learning, Burundi’s Capital, and SRTM

December 29, 2018 • #

🎓 Mastery Learning and Creative Tasks

Khan Academy’s Andy Matuschak on tasks that require “depth of knowledge” versus those that have higher “transfer demand.” Both can be considered “difficult” in a sense, but teaching techniques to build knowledge need different approaches:

One big implication of mastery learning is that students should have as much opportunity to practice a skill as they’d like. Unlike a class that moves at a fixed pace, a struggling student should always be able to revisit prerequisites, read an alternative explanation, and try some new challenges. These systems...

A Globe of Connections

December 19, 2018 • #

Borders in today’s world are remarkably static, ever-present lines we all get used to separating territories as if there are hard barriers to interaction between the multicolored countries of your average political map of the world. Centuries of perpetual war, invasions, treaties, intermarrying monarchs, imperialism, and revolutions redrew the global map with regularity, but today we don’t see this level of volatility. When a new country is formed, a disputed territory shifts, or a country is renamed, it makes global headlines. It’s only every few years that you see territorial shifts.

This level of...

The World's Most Remote Buildings

December 18, 2018 • #

From one of my new favorite YouTube channels, The B1M, comes this list of the most remote buildings.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is straight out of science fiction.

I was curious, so I went and tracked down each one on Google Earth. And because I’m a nerd, here’s a geojson file with all of them so you can quickly find and marvel at their remoteness.

China is Erasing its Border with Hong Kong

December 17, 2018 • #

Part of Vox’s Borders video series. Hong Kong is such a fascinating and unique place, as is today’s China, though for massively different reasons. How China treats HK will be one of the indicators of the wider Chinese plan for free market economics and political openness.

An In Depth History of Maps

November 28, 2018 • #

This is the first book review post since I put up my library section. I hope to do more of this in the future with each new book I add to the collection. Enjoy.

The Story of Maps took me a while to get through, but it’s the most comprehensive history I’ve seen on the history of geography and cartography.

Of particular note was the history of the figures in antiquity, their discoveries, and the techniques they used to advance the science of mapmaking. From Strabo, Eratosthenes, and Ptolemy to Ortelius, Mercator, and Huygens, Brown is extremely...

Weekend Reading: Typing on iPad Pro, Climate Optimism, Visualizing GeoNames

November 24, 2018 • #

📱iPad Diaries: Typing on the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard Folio

I swung through an Apple Store a couple of weeks ago to check out the new hardware. The Smart Keyboard Folio has been hard to imagine the experience with in reviews without handling one. Same with the Pencil. I was particularly impressed with the magnetic hold of the Pencil on the side of the device — it’s darn strong. The current Smart Keyboard has some deficiencies, as pointed out in this article. No instant access to Siri or at least Siri Dictation, no system shortcut keys...

Teaching OpenStreetMap

October 26, 2018 • #

We’re heading up next month to the American Geographical Society’s Geography2050 again this year, which will be my 4th one, and the 5th annual overall. It’s always a great event — a diverse crowd in attendance and a chance to catch up with a lot of old friends.

The last two years the AGS has hosted and led an OpenStreetMap mapathon in conjunction with the event to promote OSM as a tool in education. It’s organized and led by TeachOSM, and they invite 50+ AP Geography teachers from around the country to learn how to...

The Diminishing Coast

September 29, 2014 • #

Yesterday I read this fascinating piece on the state of Louisiana’s gulf coast. This slow, man-induced terraforming of the coastline is permanently eradicating bayou communities, and becoming a high-profile issue in the state. One of the author’s contentions is that the misrepresentation of the state’s ever-changing shape on official maps is a contributor to the lack of attention paid to this drastic situation. I love this use of correct maps as an amplifier of focus, to clarify what bad maps are hiding from the general population.

This issue of map miscommunication isn’t isolated to crises like the one happening...

Future of Geo

October 2, 2013 • #

I presented the day-two keynote to the CFGIS Workshop, talking about what the future of the geography and GIS discipline holds — new technologies for collaboration and sharing, the growth of the geo community and why it matters, and the importance of foundational knowledge of geography to our young people entering higher education.


Counterinsurgency, a brief history

June 19, 2012 • #

I’ve been reading a lot lately about sociocultural geography — about how people interact with their environments and with one another across space and time. This topic is more relevant than ever with today’s borderless conflicts, asymmetric warfare, and technology behind the scenes leveling the playing field for groups at all levels. On a journey across the internet reading and watching various things about human geography, I stumbled upon this fantastic piece by Adam Curtis on his BBC blog.

It tells the story and background of counterinsurgency doctrine from its inception in revolutionary communist China and Indochina to...