Posts Tagged ‘natural earth’

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.

Limbo World: Countries that don’t actually exist (Foreign Policy)

Friday, January 8th, 2010

KURDISTAN: A shepherd tends to his flock in Iraqi Kurdistan. Few would-be countries have reached a happier state of limbo than this relatively stable Iraqi region.

[Editor's note: I discovered a dozen or so "countries" working on Natural Earth that exist on the ground but hardly any other nation recognizes. This article from Foreign Policy give you an arm-chair geographer's guide to several.]

Republished from Foreign Policy (which is a The Washington Post media holding)
BY GRAEME WOOD
| JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010

They start by acting like real countries, then hope to become them.

On my most recent visit to the Republic of Abkhazia, a country that does not exist, I interviewed the deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gundjia, about the foreign trade his country doesn’t have with the real countries that surround it on the Black Sea. Near the end of our chat, he paused, looked down at my leg, and asked why I was bleeding on his floor. I told him I had slipped a few hours before and ripped a hole in my shin, down to the bone, about the size of a one-ruble coin. Blood had soaked through the gauze, and I needed stitches. “You can go to our hospital, but you will be shocked by the conditions,” Gundjia said. So he pointed me to the building next door, where in about 20 minutes I had my leg propped up on a dark wooden desk and was wincing at the sting of a vigorous alcohol-swabbing by the health minister himself. I was not accustomed to such personalized government service. Fake countries have to try harder, I thought, and wondered whether it would be pressing my luck to ask for the finance minister to personally refund my vat and for the transportation minister to confirm my bus ticket back to Georgia, which is to say, back to reality.

Abkhazia, along with a dozen or so other quasi-countries teetering on the brink of statehood, is in the international community’s prenatal ward. If present and past suggest the future, most such embryonic countries will end stillborn, but not for lack of trying. The totems of statehood are everywhere in these wannabe states: offices filled with functionaries in neckties, miniature desk flags, stationery with national logos, and, of course, piles of real bureaucratic paperwork — all designed to convince foreign visitors like me that international recognition is deserved and inevitable. Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian separatist enclave within Azerbaijan, issues visas with fancy holograms and difficult-to-forge printing. Somaliland, the comparatively serene republic split from war-wasted Somalia, prints its own official-looking currency, the Somaliland shilling, whose smallest denomination is so worthless that to bring cash to restock their safes, money-changers need to use draft animals.

These quasi-states — which range from decades-old international flashpoints like Palestine, Northern Cyprus, and Taiwan to more obscure enclaves like Transnistria, Western Sahara, Puntland, Iraqi Kurdistan, and South Ossetia — control their own territory and operate at least semifunctional governments, yet lack meaningful recognition. Call them Limbo World.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy . . .

Natural Earth Browser from Thematic Mapping

Monday, January 4th, 2010

[Editor's note: Bjorn over at his Thematic Mapping Blog has done up a Natural Earth tile set using open source tools. How have you been using Natural Earth?]

Excerpted from Thematic Mapping Blog.

My holiday project, apart from skiing, was to play with the new Natural Earth dataset. By combing raster and vector data you can make a variety of visually pleasing maps. You can use my Natural Earth Browser to study the great linework of Natural Earth.
Natural Earth Browser was created with a variety of open source tools. Map tiles from raster data was created with MapTiler and optimised with pngng. Map tiles from vector data was styled with Mapnik and pre-genereated with TileCache. The map interface is based on OpenLayers, Ext JS and GeoExt.
Continue reading at Thematic Mapping Blog . . .

Obama’s apparent low-key approach to Kashmir disappoints some in disputed region (Wash Post)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

gr2009122903635

[Editor's note: The map uses Natural Earth vector and raster imagery to parse the mixed administration and claims in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Emily Wax. Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SRINAGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR — Every day, Irfan Ansari sorts through dozens of résumés from young Kashmiris seeking jobs at his call center, seen by many here as a haven from the turmoil caused by militant Islamist forces seeking to uproot the government of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Many young Kashmiris today just want a good life,” said Ansari, who has 300 employees. “I have more than 10,000 résumés on my desk. I wish I could hire them all.”

A new generation of Kashmiris is weary of five decades of tensions over the future of this Himalayan region, which has been a flash point for India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers that claim Kashmir as their own.

But Kashmiris have been caught in the diplomatic dilemma facing the Obama administration as it tries to persuade Pakistan to take on a stronger role fighting Islamist extremists and simultaneously seeks to improve relations with India, Pakistan’s arch foe.

Many Kashmiris celebrated when President Obama took office nearly a year ago, because he seemed to favor a more robust approach to bring stability to Kashmir, where human rights groups estimate that as many as 100,000 people have died in violence and dozens of Pakistan-backed militant groups have sprung up. At one point, the Obama administration contemplated appointing former president Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the region.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

India to create new southern state of Telengana (Wash Post)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

gr2009121103403[Editor's note: Time to updated Natural Earth vector already! Last week India added a new state to the national map (see map at right), not without counter protest. India is largely administered by language-focused states. The last time states were added was in 2000. The BBC has some good coverage (second).]

Republished from The Washington Post via the AP.

By RAVI NESSMAN. December 16, 2009.

Demand for new states could change India’s map

NEW DELHI — From scores fasting in demand of a new state in India’s hilly northeast to a powerful chief minister suggesting her region be split up, the map of the nation is facing an overhaul.

Ethnic minorities and activists in economically deprived regions are seeking states of their own, following the government’s surprise decision last week to give in to a hunger strike and create a new state in southern India.

Now, India is confronting serious calls for a grand reorganization of this sprawling, diverse nation of 1.2 billion.

“We are looking at what could be a major crossroads in the political evolution of the Indian system,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a prominent political analyst at Delhi University. “Are 28 states enough for a billion people when 300 million Americans have 50 states?”

China, which India is expected to surpass in 2025 as the world’s most populous country, uses centralized, authoritarian rule to maintain order and unity. India’s democracy has relied on constant negotiation and compromise to empower its different ethnic groups and bind the diverse country, from the rural hill people who live on the Tibetan border to the business tycoons of Mumbai.

The Indian system gives broad power to the states. It was largely created after a Gandhi disciple died from a 58-day hunger strike in 1952, while pressing for the creation of Andhra Pradesh, a new state in the south.

Following the ensuing street protests, the government agreed to reorganize the country based on language groups. India has occasionally tweaked its internal boundaries since then, most recently with the creation of three new states in 2000 that brought the total to 28.

Some states remain so large they have become difficult to govern, leaving politically marginalized regions out of the country’s economic boom.

“You’ve got to try something new,” Rangarajan said. “Something’s not working about it.”

Parties across the spectrum – including the ruling Congress Party – have backed appeals for new states to garner regional support during elections. But as the campaigns fade, so does the pressure for statehood.

In an attempt to re-ignite the passions, politician K. Chandrasekhar Rao embarked on another hunger strike in Andhra Pradesh last month, demanding his neglected region of Telangana be given statehood.

As his health faded and protests grew, the government suddenly gave in – and was immediately swamped by calls for at least 16 other new states.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

What is the difference between a sea and a lake? (Environment Canada)

Friday, December 11th, 2009

[Editor's note: This Q&A from Environment Canada explains the rough difference between types of hydrological features. Names in the real world are often messier than this text book explanation. One way we've tried to help in Natural Earth is by indicating if a lake is freshwater, saline, natural, artificial, stable water level, seasonal water level, or simply ephemeral.]

Republished from Environment Canada. Feb. 2002.

What is the difference between a sea and a lake? Looking at the names of many sea and many lakes does not readily demonstrate an identifiable difference. There are salt water lakes and fresh water seas and some lakes that are bigger than other seas.
Bruce Schoenegge, Irvine, California, USA

Salt crust resulting from receding lake, Lake Frome, Australia.
Salt crust resulting from receding lake, Lake Frome, Australia.

In order to understand why some smaller salt water bodies are called lakes and others seas it is necessary to realize that lakes are, in geological time scales, transitory in nature–they form, mature and die.

Some water bodies that started out as saltwater seas over time became closed-off from the oceans. Depending on the quantity of fresh water flowing in from rivers, glacial melt water, or other sources, the salinity could have declined to the point where the water became relatively fresh. The Sea of Aral is probably an example of where this transition has occurred. Similarly the reverse can occur whereby freshwater lakes can become open to the sea so that the salinity increases, as in the Baltic Sea. The Black Sea is an example that has alternated between fresh and salt water conditions over geological time. Evidence for these changes can be found in ancient fossils of organisms some of which were known to be tolerant of saltwater while others were known to have been intolerant.

No doubt there was also some confusion in the naming of water bodies by the early explorers based on their first impressions and certainly one can understand why some may have been inappropriately named. In addition the subsequent translation of the names between different languages could also have added to the confusion.

Here are some definitions of water bodies:

Ocean
The whole body of salt water that covers nearly 3/4 of the surface area of the globe. In particular, each of the main areas into which the sea is divided geographically, e.g. Atlantic, Pacific. Oceans are tidal, living systems containing a multitude of biological organisms.

  • Average depth of the world’s oceans: 3,962 metres(13,000ft)
  • Maximum depth: 10,680 meters; (35,040ft)
  • Average salt content – 3.5% (mostly common salt, NaCl but with some magnesium and calcium salts)
  • Average density – 1.026
Sea
The expanse of salt water that covers most of the earth’s surface and surrounds the land masses. A body of salt water that is secondary in size to oceans.
Lake
A large area of water surrounded by land. Normally fresh water but in some cases can be appreciably saline depending on the geology of the underlying and surrounding terrain. Lakes are living systems containing various quantities of biological organisms. Lakes can be classified according to the level of bioproductivity as oligotrophic (low productivity), mesotrophic or eutrophic (high productivity). The productivity is usually controlled by the amount of nutrients (mostly phosphorus and nitrogen) present in the water and the amount of light that can penetrate the water column.
River
A large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake or another such river. The flow can be permanent of seasonal.
Stream
A small, narrow river flowing on the surface of, or beneath, the ground.

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

Natural Earth Vector Preview: Cities (Part 2)

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Announced at NACIS in Sacramento, California in October, we’re closing in on final release of Natural Earth vector and raster map data.

Bill Buckingham wrapped up processing the Natural Earth Vector cities (populated places point locations) this week. I’ve been honing our admin-1 and admin-1 rankings and feature names (only 4,000 states and provinces around the world, wew!).

Bill’s added population estimates for each city based on LandScan. The technique allows the user to know both the relative “regional” importance of a town, regardless of it’s population, based on which map scales the feature should be visible (thanks to Dick Furno) at AND to know how many people live there.

By taking a composite of both, you can still show small population cities that are regionally important at a small type point size along with larger populated places at the smaller map scales.

We have about 6,500 cities in Natural Earth Vector. Over 90% of those have population estimates (the ones that don’t are usually out in the boondocks). Together, our cities capture over 3 billion people or half of humanity.

For comparison, most other populated place GIS files have only 2,000 some cities and they focus on country and first order administrative capitals with a bare smattering of other towns. For instance: Lagos, Nigeria or San Francisco, California.  This makes smaller countries with lots of administrative divisions (like Slovenia, Vietnam, or Jamaica) seems way more populated than larger countries with larger administrative divisions (like the United States). See the North America screenshot below for an example and look at the Caribbean versus United States.

They also don’t estimate populations, and if they do they use official census number that hide the true “metro”-style counting of people that should inform a thematic map regardless of formal administrative boundaries at the smaller map scales that Natural Earth excels at.

Now for some screenshots:

(Scale ranks, followed by population view color coded like the scale ranks with nodata green dots, then cyan dot version is ESRI cities overlayed)

0world_ranks

0world_population

1no_amer_ranks

1no_amer_population

1no_amer_esri

2us_ranks

2us_population

2us_esri

More continents o’ dots after the jump.

(more…)