New Arctic Ice Thickness Map

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the first maps of sea-ice thickness in the Arctic, based on data from the CryoSat mission. Cryosat’s orbit goes within a couple of degrees of the poles, allowing it to collect much more detailed data than previous earth observing satellites.

This graphic depicts ice thickness as it approached the annual maximum in January and February this year:

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness, Jan-Feb 2011


ESA has also a released a preliminary, low resolution, exagerrated terrain profile of the ice sheet in Antartctica. Data is from February and March 2011:

Antarctic ice thickness

CPOM/UCL/ESA/Planetary Visions

According to ESA this new information will provide a baseline for further measurements, shedding new light on the complex relationship between polar ice and climate.

Also See – What would Greenland look like without the ice cap.

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Life Expectancy in the U.S.

Life Expectancy in the US,  mapThe Washington Post has drawn on a study from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington to create a interactive graphic of life expectancy across the USA. The map ranks each county by life expectancy and percent change from 1987 to 2007, with filters for gender and race.

A background article in the Washington Post paints a pretty negative picture of the changes shown:

…as life expectancies vary across the country, both men and women in certain counties, particularly in the South and Southeast, can expect to die more than a decade sooner than others.


the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life.

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Mapping the spread of the Cordón Caulle volcano ash cloud

On June 4, 2011 the Cordón Caulle volcano complex in Chile erupted sending volcanic ash high into the atmosphere. A combination of small ash particles, which take a long time to fall to Earth, and the high winds of the jet stream has resulted in this ash plume being carried great distances to the east – crossing Argentina, the Atlantic, South Africa, Indian Ocean, Australia and New Zealand towards the Pacific Ocean.

Starting on June 5,  the following image sequence, based on data from Meteosat-9, MTSAT-1R and GOES-11 satellites maps the spread of the ash cloud around the southern hemisphere. Bright red indicates the highest ash concentrations.

Ash plume form the eruption of the  Cordón Caulle volcano in Chile, maps

Credit: Darwin VAAC. Source agencies NOAA, JMA and EUMETSAT

The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre has an animated version of the sequence.

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Visualize world flights on a 3D globe

To showcase PhiloGL, a Javascript visualization tool, Nicolas Garcia Belmonte has put together World Flights – a nifty 3D viewer of major international airline routes and airports based on openflights data.

World Flights on a 3D Globe

You can’t do anything rather than rotate the globe, select and deselect airlines – several hundred by my reckoning – but it’s still pretty cool.

As with Google’s recently launched Search Globe, the clever thing about this is it runs natively in the browser without the need for Flash. You’ll need a WebGL capable Internet browser – latest version of Chrome, Firefox etc – not Internet Explorer.

If you can’t get the website working – a few of the comments suggest incompatibility issues with various versions of Windows – check out the video instead:

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Socal Networking Map of the World (June 2011)

Vincent Cosmati has updated his twice yearly map showing the most popular social networks in different countries around the world.

No real surprise to see Facebook continuing to spread. chalking up a bunch of Middle East countries such as Syria, Iraq and Iran since the December 2010 graphic. The site is now the market leader in 119 out of the 134 countries shown. Vincent predicts Brazil and the Netherlands will be next to fall.

Here’s the full sequence of maps dating back to June 2009:

World Map of Social Networks

Interestingly, although globally Facebook continues to grow strongly, some recent reports claim monthly active user numbers have dropped back slightly in the USA,  Canada and the UK.

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Before and after aerial imagery of the Wallow Fire, Arizona

During some types of natural hazards, satellites are capable of capturing remarkably clear imagery of affected areas. Below, before an after Landsat visible-infrared images of the Wallow fire in eastern Arizona, USA. The images cover 300 square miles (500 sq km) – about half the area hit by the uncontained fire up to June 7, 2011.

Green indicates healthy forest and grassland; Red, burnt areas; bright pink, ongoing fires.

Click here if you don’t see the images.

Courtesy NOAA

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The Dangers of New York City Traffic

Ron Gabriel’s 3-way street highlights the bad habits of New York motorists, cyclists and jaywalking pedestrians, focusing on the way such behaviour was exacerbated by the roll-out of bike lanes across the city.

The video analyzes a series of dangerous looking near-misses at the intersection of Park Avenue South and 28 Street. Footage is annotated, with graphics drawn around vehicles and pedestrians so you can track events leading up to each incident.

3-Way Street is part of a larger road safety awareness campaign. For more info, see


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Explore the Sun with Helioviewer

As you might have seen elsewhere, there was a spectacular solar flare on June 7 caught on camera by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Unusually for such a powerful event, the ejected material fell back onto the surface of the Sun, rather than into space, resulting in a dramatic rainfall-like effect:

The SDO records 1 terrabyte of imagery showing changes on the Sun’s surface every day. To make it accessible to the wider public, NASA and the European Space agency have put together Helioviewer – a simple to use, online application which lets you lets you browse current and archived images from the SDO and the older SoHO spacecraft.

Just like Google maps you can pan around and zoom-in for detailled close-ups. For instance here’s a link to imagery of the June 7 prominence. Through the drop down menus you can switch the visualization to different wavelengths of light, even blend several different layers together.

Just recently new features were added to make it possible to view image sequences as high-definition time-lapse movies and upload these to Youtube. I used it to create the video above,  switching the time and date to 07:30 on June 7 2011,   then selected the ‘Movie’ -> ‘Viewport’ option to pick an area to capture.

By default, movie duration is 3 hours but you can alter it to cover a longer period. Takes a few minutes for the application to  prepare the videos – even longer when lots of people are trying to use it,   but the results are pretty incredible.

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