Archive for the ‘Self promo’ Category

Adding new rivers and lakes to 10m Natural Earth in North America

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Tom and I have been busy adding 4 times the rivers and 3 times the lakes we had for North America. This adds in many “missing” hydro features that one might normally find on a 1:10,000,000 hydrologic reference map.

Why were they missing from the first version of Natural Earth? It’s hard to wade thru 1:1,000,000 features to figure which to add and an even tougher job to attribute them with the correct name and scale ranks. There’s another factor: these extra features are great if you’re making a watershed map, but can be a little noisy when used as a background layer in say a political reference map.

Cody Rice, now of the EPA but formerly of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) send along an amazing link last week. The CEC is a joint agency between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Specifically: USGS, Natural Resources Canada, INEGI-Mexico. Each country contributed base data for a 1:10,000,000 digital atlas. The data is available in many popular formats and is in the public domain. Better yet, it includes GIS data attributes like river name!

We’ve compared with our existing Natural Earth linework and identified which features were missing. For those we’re adding, we’ve adjusted the new linework a nudge here and there so it lines up with SRTM relief and our existing linework. We’ve also gone thru and created lake centerlines and applied scale ranks to all in three new steps (10, 11, and 12). We have some final polishing but will be releasing, along with some slight adjustments to the original data, by the end of January.

Do you have time to donate? Unlike ranks 0 to 9 (the original data), this new data will NOT come tapered. We’d like it to be and can show you how.

Know of a similar, attributed with name, 1:10,000,000 regional dataset we could adapt into Natural Earth to build out our coverage? Please let me know at nathaniel@kelsocartography.com.

Preview images below:

Red = new at rank 10. Blue = new at rank 11. Black = new at rank 12. Grey = old at ranks 0 to 9.

Click images to view larger sizes.

hydro_west_coast

hydro_mid_west

hydro_east

hydro_mexico

hydro_alaska

hydro_yukon

hydro_quebec

Updating Natural Earth Populated Places (Kelso)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Dick Furno and I have been busy revising and expanding the populated places included with Natural Earth, released in December. We’re adding around 1,000 places to get to ~7,300 total towns and settlements around the world. We include more admin-1 capitals and make a first stab at linking to GeoNames via their unique IDs. Dick has gone over the towns and created a new 30m scale rank that helps cut the 20m clutter in half. We hope to have the update pushed out by the end of January.

Here’s a preview: Click images to see larger version

Added locations
(red = added general place, black = added admin-1 place at less than 10m scale rank, grey = existing places)

added_place_or_admin_1_capital

Scale rank changed
(red = change, grey = no change to existing or added at less than 10m scale rank)

scale_ranks

Changed the name, location, feature class, population, or other property
(blue = changes to existing features, grey = existing or added)

names_location_featureclass_population

Places with GeoName ID linkages
(green = with ID, grey = lacks ID for mostly small population settlements)

geonames_id

An autonomous Vojvodina: Exit strategy (Economist)

Friday, January 8th, 2010

ceu921[Editor's note: I'm often asked why Natural Earth has units between admin-0 and admin-1 and this week the Economist has the perfect map showing why. Vojvodina is a semi-independent region within the sovereign state and country of Serbia. It has a regional capital and is formed of admin-1 units ("states" in the US) and the "region" of Serbia proper is also formed of admin-1 units. Together they form the "country" of Serbia. You'll find these type of sub-national polygons in Natural Earth's admin-0 "details" units and map-subunits.]

Republished from the Economist.
Dec 30th 2009 | BACKA TOPOLA AND NOVI SAD

A Serbian province wins greater self-governance

SERBIAN nationalists are outraged over a new autonomy statute for Vojvodina, their northern province. Their country has in effect been shrinking for two decades, and this may be the thin end of a wedge leading to Vojvodina’s independence. After all, Kosovo and Vojvodina had equally extensive autonomy until Slobodan Milosevic scrapped it in 1989. And in February 2008 Kosovo, whose population is overwhelmingly Albanian, declared independence.

Such scaremongering is nonsense, says Bojan Pajtic, Vojvodina’s prime minister. So are comparisons with Catalonia and Scotland, where autonomy is based on language or history. Some 65% of Vojvodina’s 2m people are Serbs who have no wish for independence. Moreover, compared with the autonomy the province had between 1974 and 1989, the powers now being devolved look modest. Indeed, sceptics say what is really at stake is a battle for party power, influence and money between Mr Pajtic and Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic.

Mr Pajtic rejects such claims. What Vojvodina has gained, he says, is the ability to develop just like other European regions. But Relja Drazic, a publisher based in Novi Sad, the region’s capital, who otherwise welcomes more autonomy, sees this as grandstanding.

Most locals seem not to care much, partly because they do not know what more autonomy will mean in practice. In the past Vojvodina has seen devastating wars and big migrations that have made it one of the most ethnically mixed places in the Balkans. After the second world war, ethnic Germans were driven out and their empty villages repopulated, mainly by Bosnian Serbs. The Balkan wars of the 1990s led to more migration. Vojvodina has six official languages, including Ruthenian and Slovak.

Hungarians (some 14% of the population) comprise the biggest minority. But over the past two decades younger Hungarians have drifted back to Hungary. In the small town of Backa Topola, whose population is mostly Hungarian, Janos Hadzsy, a journalist, laments that anyone with enough brains runs away. Yet though much of Vojvodina remains poor, some parts have done well. Much of the province is flat and fertile farmland, and there is some thriving small industry as well.

Vojvodina is also home to Serbia’s most successful brand: the Exit music festival, created in 2000, which has done more than anything else to improve Serbia’s post-war image. Its manager, Bojan Boskovic, talks of turning Novi Sad into the Edinburgh of the Balkans. He is speaking of culture, not politics.

Time and Again, the Calendar Comes Up Short (Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

na-bd085_numbgu_ns_20091229180832

[Editor's note: If you haven't gotten a 2010 calendar yet, please try my Illustrator script for making your own. Its nifty! Many of my projects last year focused on time and less on mapping. It can be harder to count days than you might think!!!]

Republished from the Wall Street Journal.
By CHARLES FORELLE

Sticklers for Symmetry Lament Imperfections in the 400-Year-Old Gregorian System; Earth’s Inconvenient Orbit

Friday marks the start of another new year, and for a small band of reformers, another missed opportunity.

For the 428th straight year, much of the world will again use the familiar Gregorian calendar. We will suffer the fiscal quarters of varying lengths and the 52 weeks that don’t quite fill the year. We will recite rhymes to recall how many days are in June, and shrug if we are asked whether Halloween is on a weekday.

Almost since Pope Gregory XIII promulgated the new calendar — itself a reform of Julius Caesar’s calendar — in 1582, proposals have bubbled up for something better.

Apostles of efficiency lament that each year needs a fresh wall calendar. The astronomically precise complain that Gregory’s leap-year formula (every four years, except centuries not divisible by 400) is erratic, and a hair off the real year’s length anyway. The financially fixated sigh that next year there will be more shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than this year.

“We have a world-wide consensus about this second-rate calendar that the pope imposed 400 years ago,” Simon Cassidy, a California software engineer and amateur calendar scholar, says by telephone from New Zealand, where he is spending the northern-hemisphere winter.

Creating a calendar is like fitting a lot of round pegs into not quite as many square holes. Western tradition demands a seven-day week. Ancient custom, rooted in moon cycles, calls for a 12-month year. The Earth’s tilted axis produces four seasons. But the Earth, uncooperatively, takes 365 days, plus a tad more, to go once around the sun, and 365 is divisible by none of seven, 12 or four. And thanks to the extra bit of time — about one-fourth of a day — required for a complete orbit, leap years are needed to keep things on track.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal . . .

Yemen’s deteriorating security, economy could fuel terrorism (Wash Post)

Monday, January 4th, 2010

[Editor's note: Yemen's been in the news of late as the latest about-to-fail state and host to the Christmas bomber. Map by myself with help from Laris and Gene.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

By Christopher Boucek.

Yemen’s problems are many, and some are already spreading beyond its borders. Security and stability are deteriorating. The population is growing rapidly. The economy is collapsing. There are few good options today; things will look worse tomorrow. Immediate and sustained international attention is needed to at least lessen the impact of some problems.

Yemen is a weak state with little history of central government control. The government’s first priorities have been a civil war in the north and a growing secessionist movement in the south; lower on the list has been confronting al-Qaeda, which is now resurgent. The government does not fully control all territory, nor does it have the authority or capacity to adequately deliver social services in many rural areas. Organizations inspired or directed by al-Qaeda have sought refuge in undergoverned spaces.

Spending is not directed toward the root causes of instability but toward war costs, accelerating the economic collapse. Petroleum sales supply the bulk of government revenue, but oil reserves are shrinking and there has been little serious planning for a post-oil economy. A large deficit is forecast for next year, and foreign currency reserves are being spent at an alarming rate. Corruption is a major problem. Separately, mismanagement, rising consumption, increased urbanization and poor irrigation practices are contributing to dire water shortages. Sanaa may be the first capital in modern history to run out of water. The population, most of which is under 30, is expected to double in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, unemployment is on par with levels in the United States during the Depression.

Yemen is often considered a failing state. Its stability should be a critical concern for the United States. The international community needs an integrated and comprehensive approach that addresses both the immediate security issues and the underlying sources of instability and militancy. While military and counterterrorism operations are critical, long-term development assistance is also necessary.

The United States can support police reforms, help to professionalize the prison service, and assist in implementing effective counterterrorism laws. Coast guard and border officials also need quiet aid in controlling smuggling, trafficking and illicit migration. The international community needs to build local capacity in Yemen before it is too late.

Click on map to view larger size . . .

Introducing In Obama’s Words (Kelso via Wash Post)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

[Editor's note: The third in The Washington Post's Obama accountability series, we now explore his key speeches with transcripts and videos tied in with their POTUS Tracker events. See trends in sum or by issue with our tag clouds and over time with charts. Credit goes to Wilson Andrews, Jackie Kazil, Nathaniel Kelso, Sarah Lovenheim, Ryan O'Neil, Paul Volpe, and Karen Yourish.]

Interact with the original at The Washington Post . . . Screenshot below.

obama_speeches_top

omaba_speeches_bottom

Tag Cloud: In their own words (Wash Post)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

[Editor's note: I created these three tag clouds to represent the responses to a national poll conducted for The Washington Post. Respondents chose 1 word to represent the Republican party. The words are all on the same type size scale in each of the 3 clouds. The position of the same words also needed to be consistent between clouds (ie: Palin in the upper left). Obviously the Republicans are on message about being conservative. Created with a custom script in Illustrator. Arranged by hand.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Nov. 30, 2009.

Those taking the poll were asked what word or phrase they would use to describe the Republican Party. The chart below shows all responses cited by two or more people, sized by number of responses.

View larger original at The Washington Post.

gr2009113001885

Unemployment rate by county (Kelso via Wash Post)

Monday, December 7th, 2009

[Editor's note: Kudos to Kat Downs for wiring up this interactive, zoomable map of the United States showing unemployment rate by county. There's a slider to see data back in time. I did the base map using my map generalization skills honed on Natural Earth. Using data that is appropriately generalized for the display scale cuts down on file size and reduces lag before data display.]

Republished from The Washington Post. Dec. 3, 2009

unemploymentmap
SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics; GRAPHIC: Kat Downs, Mary Kate Cannistra and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso – The Washington Post, December 3, 2009

Natural Earth Released, Let the Downloads Begin!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Tom and I are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Natural Earth, free vector and raster map data at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. This is a NACIS and MapGiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others.

Do you have a new theme to contribute to Natural Earth? Great! Please follow these data creation guidelines so it fits in with the rest of the project. Find an error? Log it via the Corrections system.

Why Create Natural Earth?

We have two goals:

First, to give cartographers an off-the shelf solution for creating small-scale world, regional, and country maps. To this end, Natural Earth Vector includes both cultural and physical features and builds on Tom Patterson’s Natural Earth raster data, first introduced in 2005.

Second, we include many features missing from people’s mental map of the world in the hope of improving overall geographic literacy.

Natural Earth Vector solves a problem that many NACIS members face: finding vector data for making publishable-quality small-scale maps. In a time when the web is awash in interactive maps and free, downloadable vector data, such as Digital Chart of the World and VMAP, mapmakers are forced to spend time sifting through a confusing tangle of poorly attributed data. Many cartographers working under tight project deadlines must use manually digitalized bases instead.

Small-scale map datasets of the world do exist, but they have their problems.

For example, most are crudely generalized—Chile’s fjords are a noisy mess, the Svalbard archipelago is a coalesced blob, and Hawaii has disappeared into the Pacific two million years ahead of schedule. They contain few data layers, usually only a coast and country polygons, which may not be in register with each other or modern satellite imagery. The lack of good small-scale map data is not surprising. Large mapping organizations that release public domain data, such as the US Geological Survey, are not mandated to create small-scale map data for a small user community that includes mapmaking shops, publishers, web mappers, academics, and students—in other words, typical NACIS members. Natural Earth Vector fills this oft-overlooked but important niche.

Collaboration

Making Natural Earth Vector is a collaboration involving many volunteer NACIS members. Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso and Tom Patterson began working on the project in late 2008. Following the path of least resistance, the idea was to repurpose existing data that we already had as an integrated world dataset at three map scales.

The 1:50 million and 1:110 million-scale data comes from bases developed by Dick Furno and additional staff at the Washington Post for quick turnaround newspaper mapping— the Washington Post Legal Department kindly granted us permission to use these data. The kernel for the 1:10 million data was a compilation by Patterson for the Physical Map of the World, consisting of coastlines, rivers, lakes, and physical feature labels. Expanding and improving on this foundation has been our chief activity.

The core team grew to include Tanya Buckingham, who coordinates data attributing by Ben Coakley, Kevin McGrath and Sarah Bennett at the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab; Dick Furno as populated places guru; Nick Springer as the website developer; and Lou Cross as NACIS liaison.

A cast of consultants, many regulars on the Cartotalk.com discussion forum, assisted with place names for various world regions. They include Leo Dillon, Hans van der Maarel, Will Pringle, Craig Molyneaux, Melissa Katz-Moye, Laura McCormick, Scott Zillmer and fellow staff at XNR Mapping.

Data for cartography

We developed a world base map data suitable for making a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps. Unlike other map data intended for scientific analysis or military mapping, Natural Earth Vector is designed to meet the needs of mainstream production cartographers. Maximum flexibility was a goal. For example, Natural Earth Vector comes in ESRI shapefile format, the Geographic projection, and WGS datum, which are de facto standards for vector geodata.

Neatness counts with Natural Earth Vector. The carefully generalized linework maintains consistent, recognizable geographic shapes at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. As Natural Earth Vector was built from the ground up, you will find that all data layers align precisely with one another. For example, where rivers and country borders are one and the same, the lines are coincident.

Natural Earth Vector, however, is more than just a collection of pretty lines. What lies beneath the surface, the data attributes, is equally important for mapmaking. Most data contain embedded feature names, which are ranked by relative importance. Up to eight rankings per data theme allow easy custom map “mashups” to emphasize your map’s subject while de-emphasizing reference features.

Other attributes facilitate faster map production. For example, width attributes assigned to rivers allow you to create tapered drainages with ease. Assigning different colors to contiguous country polygons is another task made easier thanks to data attribution.

Other key features:

  • Vector feature include name attributes and scale ranks – know the Rocky Mountains are larger than the Ozarks.
  • Large polygons, such as bathymetric layers, are split for more efficient data handling.
  • Projection friendly—vectors precisely match at 180 degrees longitude. Lines contain enough data points for smooth bending in conic projections, but not so many that processing speed suffers.
  • Raster data includes grayscale-shaded relief and cross-blended hypsometric tints derived from the latest NASA SRTM Plus elevation data and tailored to register with Natural Earth Vector.
  • Optimized for use in web mapping applications, such as Google, Yahoo, and OpenStreetMaps with built-in scale attributes to direct features to be shown at different tile zoom levels.

Data development

Since Natural Earth Vector is for visual mapmaking, we prepared the base layers in Adobe Illustrator in conjunction MAPublisher import and export filters. Illustrator offered us flexible tools for editing lines and polygons, organizing data on layers, and the ability to inspect the final data in a map-like form. A variety of third-party plug-in filters and scripts, some written by Kelso, were essential for linework generalization and other tasks.

World Data Bank 2 was the primary vector data source that required significant modifications. For example, we found that the entire west coast of the United States was about seven miles west of its true position and adjusted it accordingly. Slight adjustments to river positions better matched them to shaded relief derived from more satellite data. For Antarctica, we completely abandoned World Data Bank 2. Here, the coast, glaciers, and ice shelves derive from 2003-2004 NASA Mosaic of Antarctica, a MODIS product. We also updated the data to reflect recent ice shelf collapses.

Contributors from around the globe researched additional feature names beyond those original to Patterson’s Physical Map of the World. Attributing the data was performed in ArcGIS by the team at the University of Wisconsin and by Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso at The Washington Post.

Future activity

We regard the initial release of Natural Earth Vector as a starter dataset that will see periodic updates. With any project as complex as this, flaws and omissions are bound to emerge, requiring our attention. One proposal is to form a Natural Earth map data committee that will incorporate information from users, perhaps using a Wiki model, for coordinating updates. Rivers, lakes, cities, and first order admin are components still in need of refinement. Possible data for future updates include transportation (roads and railroads), time zones, and terrestrial hypsography.

If you have ideas for Natural Earth or
want to show off how you’re using the data,
please drop us a line.

Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso
nathaniel@kelsocartography.com

Tom Patterson
mtmaps@verizon.net

A Magic Wand for Selecting Text in Adobe Illustrator – 11e (KELSO)

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

[Editor's note: The beta had expired; this is purely an extension of the testing period to November 2010. No new features. I've been caught up in Natural Earth the last year and will return to the project at a date uncertain.]

I have been developing a plugin / script for Adobe Illustrator to make it easier to select type in Illustrator by attributes like font family, style, size, and fill color. I hope to release this as a commercial plugin for designers and cartographers at some point. If you would like to beta test this plugin for me, please send me an email at nathaniel@kelsocartography.com or…

Download version 11e of Find and Replace Fonts Script (1.6m). Good thru November 2010.

More information on this script available in this March 2009 post.