Posts Tagged ‘natural earth vector’

Greenland Gains Self-Government from the Kingdom of Denmark, Kinda (Economist)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2609ww2[Editor's note: What is a country? A nation? A nation-state? By some counts, there are about 195 "countries" or 194 (US State Department) in the world, but by others like the ISO and United Nations, about 245 which includes extra "regions" for statistical reasons or FIPS code assignments. The World Bank (2) says 186 or 210. How can there be such a wide spectrum of valid answers? The issue is complicated by historic colonial relationships with overseas dependencies and affiliated political administrative units, and by the non-uniform way different "countries" sub-divide themselves.

For instance, France considers all it's "dependencies" unitary parts of France, while the U.S. does not view it's own territories equal to states vis-a-vis constitutional rights. But some unitary parts of France outside mainland Europe get treated differently from Metropolitan France by the European Union (they don't necessarily get an E.U. passport).

This week, Greenland steps closer to becoming one of the club of 195 "countries" in the world, but really it's just getting more quasi-self-government (sticking in the 245 bracket) within the Kingdom of Denmark's administrative umbrella (which is and is not the same as the "country" of Denmark) for defense and foreign policy.

The higher number doesn't even address sub-national semi-autonomous entities like the United Kingdom's England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland which fall somewhere between what we in the U.S. think of as "states" and "provinces" (1st order admin units) and those top level countries and nations. Nor does it address disputed or break away regions like Abkhazia.

For Natural Earth Vector, we will include groupings at both "top-level" views (about 195 and 245), and at the 1st order admin (state, province, over 3,000). We will also include a sample of sub-national areas and disputed, breakaway areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Two tonnes of rare whale meat were distributed in Greenland as part of celebrations to mark the start of an era of self-government. After nearly three centuries of rule by Denmark, Greenland’s 56,000 people will gradually take control of most domestic affairs, although defence and foreign policy remain in Danish hands. Greenlandic is now the official language. Photo by: Adam Roberts.

Continue reading related story, “Greenland’s future: Divorce up north?” from Nov. 27, 2008 . . .

Placename conventions: Wales (Cymru) @ 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

img_1008_2 img_1011_2 img_1012_2

[Editor's note: Visiting the Wales section of this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival (continues thru July 5),  I am reminded of how each language has a different name for the same set of geographic features. This is mostly true on the world scale for countries, oceans, continents and so on. Sometimes it continues down to major cities within a certain country, especially with names like "New York". Each language has a "conventional" name for foreign placenames that may or may not bear an obvious resemblance to the name used by the local language used by those in that place. Some cities even have historic (no longer used) conventional names: Istanbul (not Constantanopal). Mumbai took a good 15 years to replace the US-English conventional for Bombay in India.

The technical terms for this, definitions courtesy Wikipedia, are Exonym (a name for a place that is not used within that place by the local inhabitants), endonym, autonym (the name used by the people or locals themselves). Exonyms may derive from distinct roots as in the case of Deutschland, Germany. They can also be cognates which sound similar (and are spelled similar, using the local script), and final they may be fully or partially translated from the native language (like New York and Neuvo York). Transliteration is the practice of converting a text from one writing system into another in a systematic way. Some places, like New Zealand, have multiple local language names for the same geographic features, further clouding the issue.

The US-English conventional romanized script for the country in Europe that borders France and Poland is "Germany" yet in Welsh it is "yr Almaen", which is similar to the usage in French and several other European languages. These types of naming styles are important when attributing a world base map (see Natural Earth Vector blog post). For an audience that is mono-lingual, it makes sense to use conventional names for foreign place names. But what happens for a product that enjoys multi-lingual users? On one hand we want to be "localized" to the appropriate name in each language, but we need to provide enough "conventional" placenames for the user to orient themselves, especially when the foreign names use a completely different writing script (not roman ABCs). Google Maps-US takes an hyprid approach where names in each country are labeled in the local script using the local name, with a few labels also in conventional US-English. When one searches for Tokyo, the map shows Japan in mostly Kanji script with some romanized, conventional US-English versions of those names.

For Natural Earth Vector, we follow a hybrid approach that will allow for localization into other languages besides the compilation language, US-English. Tom Patterson used the following guidelines for his original Physical Map fo the World project, which this project uses as it's primary source:

• Endonyms (Appennino) were favored over exonyms (Apennines) for place names based on Romance and Germanic languages, which are often cognates of familiar English names and easy to identify.
• For other languages, transliterated names of major features (mountain ranges, plateaus, deserts, etc.) received English place name descriptors. For example, Verkhoyansk Khrebet in Russia is labeled on the map as Verkhoyansk Range. Smaller physical features, such as mountains within ranges, have entirely local names.
• Transnational features named in more than one language, for example, the Donau/Duna/Danube River, received conventional English names.
• When two or more countries claim ownership of the same physical feature and use different names for it, the preference was for the country currently in possession of the feature regardless of the circumstances. For example, the southern Kuril Islands that Japan and Russia both claim, and which Russia has occupied since 1945, have Russian names.
• A few notable places have English translations in parentheses, for example, Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter).
• All river names dispense with the word "River" or the abbreviation "R."
• Island names within compact island groups drop the word "Island" or the abbreviation "I."
• Non-English place names have accents and diacritical marks. However, the font used on the map (Adobe Frutiger) lacked a few exotic accents for consonants, which consequently do not appear on the map.

And now for the Welsh Smithsonian Festival information:]


Republished from the Smithsonian.

Wales (Cymru in Welsh) is a dynamic and resilient nation. The industrious and resourceful nature of its people provides a firm platform from which to present its rich culture and heritage. Wales Smithsonian Cymru will celebrate language, literature, and the spoken word, present crafts and occupational skills, share music and cooking, and evoke the spirit that powered the industrial revolution and is now championing sustainable solutions. The program will explore how age-old knowledge, skills, and materials continue to be refashioned, recycled, and reinvented to meet modern demands and to continue to connect Wales to the world.

With much of its border being coastline, Wales’ maritime influences remain vital to the nation’s evolution. The mountain ranges and National Parks sustain the rural communities and outdoor life that are Wales’ touchstones. The essence and inspiration of the landscape will be shared by those who live off and nurture Wales’ beguiling natural environment. Cooking demonstrations will explore the qualities of fresh, local ingredients sourced from farmers markets and savored across the country, from seafood platters to hearty Welsh lamb dishes. Performances and workshops will illustrate the diversity of the Welsh music scene, from the ancient sounds of the crwth and pibgorn, to evocative vocal and harp renditions, and to lively folk bands playing a range of familiar and experimental repertoires. Craftspeople and building arts experts will share their experiences and skills working with native Welsh woods, slate, wool, metal, and stone.

Immigration and an international perspective have enriched Welsh culture for generations, while the strength of the Welsh language, which stems from the sixth century, continues to underpin the nation’s identity. Visitors will be able to practice Welsh phrases and learn about the history of the language. In addition to the Festival, Wales’ presence will be extended through ancillary programs that will begin in March 2009, presented in collaboration with partner organizations in Washington, D.C. These activities and events will include a wide range of contemporary arts and a focus on sustainable living and climate change.

Continue reading at the Smithsonian . . .

Bounding Boxes for World Countries (Berkeley GADM)

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

[Editor's note: Knowing the longitude-latitude (latLng) bounding box of a feature gives us a clue as to what map scale or zoom level is required to fit the feature into our display area and thus what base map scale set to draw from. While this image does not provide actual coordinates, it visually establishes what such bounding boxes look like (further refinements can be had with respect to crossing the 180° meridian, note New Zealand). ]

Republished from Berkeley GADM (Global Administrative Areas).

Here is a map of all countries and their bounding boxes (when using a lat/long “projection”), highlighting those countries that cross the international date line, and for which these bounding boxes make little sense (this map is provided for diversion only).


First Look at Natural Earth Vector

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Tom Patterson and I collaborated on the precursor to his first Natural Earth Raster project several years ago and we now preview Natural Earth Raster + Vector, a new free product due Fall 2009 that complements and expands on the previous work by providing detailed GIS linework at the 1:15,000,000 (1:15 million) scale and new versions of the raster product (including cross-blended hyspometric tints). The Washington Post, where I work, is contributing 2 more vector GIS base maps at the 1:50m and 1:110m scales and new versions of Natural Earth Raster will be released for those scales. This is a NACIS and mapgiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconson-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others.

Please attend the October NACIS 2009 map conference in Sacramento, California for the unveiling.

More description and preview images after the jump.


CIA World Factbook Relation Browser (moritz.stefaner)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009


[Editor's note: This interactive visualization browses the CIA World Factbook topology of geography by country. Featured edge relationships include neighboring countries, spoken language, and more.]

Republished from Moritz.Stefaner.

This radial browser was designed to display complex concept network structures in a snappy and intuitive manner. It can be used to visualize conceptual structures, social networks, or anything else that can be expressed in nodes and links.

The CIA Factbook demo displays the relations of countries, continents, languages and oceans found in the CIA world factbook database. Click the center node for detail information or click adjacent nodes to put them in the center. The arrows on the top left can be used to navigate your click history. Use the dropdown in the upper right to directly access nodes by name. The varying distance to the center node for nodes with many neighbors was only introduced to enhance legibility and does not have a special semantics.

Ocean Dots: The Island Encyclopedia

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


[Editor's note: I've enjoyed using this photo-based encyclopedia the last couple weeks working on the Natural Earth Vector island features, which includes many small specs of land out in the deep blue. Natural Earth Vector will be released at the 2009 NACIS map conference in Sacramento, Calif. Related posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4)] is an image-based encyclopedia of the world’s islands and reefs, using a mix of satellite imagery and user-contributed images.

You can now upload you own island photographs to share with other visitors to the site. If you’d like to upload images, visit the image upload page.

Continue exploring at OceanDots . . .

Map Scale Calculator Tools? (Kelso)

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Do you know of any good tools for converting a map’s graphic scale bar measurement to a representational fraction (RF)? Please share them! We often think of maps as 1:24,000 or 1:1,000,000 natural scale but more often than not a scale bar is the only indication of scale we have on a map. How to convert that back to the more familiar representational fraction?

What are the features and interface you’d like to see for such a tool?

The best that I’ve been able to dig up is:

From Oregon State University Library

Type in the number of units per distance (or distance per unit) and it’ll return the relational fraction. It does not do a very good job allowing you to type in both the units and the distance as variable. I hardly ever find scale bars on maps that are exactly an inch long. So involves some pre-math to get this tool to work.

Screenshots below:

This University of Texas site does the opposite:

Enter the representational fraction of the map and get “1 inch = X miles” verbal statements where the left and right terms do not have the same units.

Then there is the general problem of converting between map units.

Google provides the most ready answer:
Type in “convert 12 miles to km” and it will return the conversion.

The same OSU site also has a version:

Read more about map scales.

Some example map scales and worked formula examples from Richard Layton (source).

  • 1 inch equals 10 miles
  • 1 inch = 10 miles
  • 1 inch = 10 miles x 12 inches/foot x 5280 feet/mile
  • 1 inch = 10 x 63360 inches = 633,600 inches
  • 1:633,600

To convert from RF to Verbal Scale you convert the fraction to familiar units of measurements; for example:

  • 1:250,000
  • 1 inch = 250,000 inches
  • 1 inch = 250,000 inches [d] 12 inches/foot = 20,833.3 feet
  • 1 inch = 20,833.3 feet [d] 5280 feet/mile = 4 miles or
  • 1 inch = 250,000 [d] 63360 inches/mile = 4 miles
  • 1 inch equals 4 miles

[Note: [d] = divided by]

SOME COMMON SCALES. Here is a list of RF scales commonly used in the Map Collection and their equivalent Verbal Scales.

  • 1:24,000 - 1 in. = .379 mi.
  • 1:62,500 - 1 in. = .986 mi.
  • 1:100,000 – 1 in. = 1.578 mi.
  • 1:250,000 - 1 in. = 4 mi.
  • 1:500,000 - 1 in. = 7.891 mi.
  • 1:1,000,000 – 1 in. = 15.783 mi.

For example you want a map of Arizona on a 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. To allow for 1/2-inch margins the new sheet will then be 7 1/2 x 10 inches. Since Arizona’s north-south dimension, 395 miles, is slightly longer than its east-west dimension, 340 miles, we will place the longer north-south dimension along the longer 10-inch dimension of the paper. The next step is to compute the scales for both dimensions of the State. The smaller of the two scales will be the one we need.

10 in = 395 mi
10 in = 395 mi x 63360 in/mi
10 in [d] 10 = 25027200 in [d] 10
1 in = 2502720 in

7.5 in = 340 mi
7.5 in = 340 mi x 63360 in/mi
7.5 in [d] 7.5 = 21542400 in [d] 7.5
1 in = 2872320 in

[Note: [d] = divided by]

We therefore need a map of Arizona at a scale of 1:2,872,320 or less to place it on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper.



Width on Ground*





Nation-wide maps




National and
state maps




State or
regional maps




US Army Map




USGS 30′


5208 feet


USGS 15′


2000 feet




1320 feet




800 feet


*Approximate real width on ground of a pencil line on a map – harder pencils give a finer line

1:2,000,000 to about 1:250,000 are SMALL-scale maps. Items on these maps appear small (e.g. a county on a 1:2,000,000 map is much smaller than on a 1:100,000 map).

1:24,000 on towards 1:9,600 are LARGE-scale maps. Items on these maps appear larger. 1:100,000 are
pretty much in the middle – intermediate scale.