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Geography in the News

Newspaper Map – World Newspapers

Newspaper Map – Web Resource

Okay news junkies and map geeks, check out this fabulous interactive website:! Not only is it visually stunning, it is an excellent online tool for anyone interested in local news.

Newpaper Map All

The developers of the website, located in Sweden, have this motto:

All news is local news
Local perspectives on global news. In your language.

The website is one giant map highlighting the location and language of more than 10,000 newspapers around the world. You can search for specific newspapers, zoom in on a geographical area or filter by language. Mainstream papers are highlighted with a large marker, and regional papers are represented with a small marker. Click on any marker for the name of the paper and a link to its website. A list of translation languages are offered or you can opt to translate the website with the click of a button once there. You can even filter the website by language. Check it out – but be warned, it can be addicting!

Newspaper Map Boston Newspaper Map Boston Globe

ISPCA Emergency Beacon System

ISPCA Emergency Beacon System

Malaysian AirlinesMissing Malaysian Flight MH370 continues to be a mystery. For the families of those aboard, hope remains that the passengers and crew will be found alive. Without any conclusive evidence the plane has been lost at sea, it is easy to understand. A CNN report just released today tells of a beacon (ELT – Emergency Location Transmitter) system aboard the aircraft that did not send a distress signal, further fueling the hope that the plane landed safely, somewhere.  ELTs are designed to activate and transmit a distress signal when a crash is detected. No such signals from any of the four ELTs aboard the flight have been detected.

What’s particularly fascinating about ELTs from a geographic standpoint is how the system came to be and how it works.  A little known group, the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme (ICSPA) was first formed in 1979 as a joint effort by Canada, France, the United States and the former Soviet Union, and was formally constituted as an intergovernmental organization in 1988. The program is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert detection and information system, which ‘listens and watches’ for emergency beacon signals activated by aircraft, ships and backcountry hikers in distress. Whenever a distress radio beacon (ELTs for aviation use, EPIRBs for maritime use, and PLBs for personal use)  is detected, SAR services are immediately alerted, with the objective being to reduce, as much as possible, any delays in the time required to locate the people in distress and provide assistance.

Cospas-Sarsat SystemTo achieve this, the ISPCA utilizes instruments aboard geostationary and low-altitude satellites in conjuction with ground-receiving stations, also known as LUTs (Local User Terminals).  The emergency beacon radio signals are received by the satellites, downlinked to LUTs, which process the signals and generate distress alerts. The distress alerts are then transmitted to Mission Control Centers which forward them to the appropriate SAR services.

GeoStationary OrbitA geostationary satellite orbits in synch with the plane of the equator so that it remains “stationary” in relation to a fixed point on the surface of the Earth. A low-altitude satellite, on the other hand, orbits the earth at a distance of approximately 100 miles above the surface and can make a complete journey around the globe in about 90 minutes. Utilizing both types of satellites increases the probability to quickly intercept emergency beacon signals.

The Cospas-Sarsat program claims to have made its first rescue of three people in 1982, when a light aircraft in Canada crashed. As of December 2012, the program reports having provided assistance in rescuing over 35,000 people in 9,600 separate incidents. With more than 1.2 million emergency beacons around the world, the program states it rescues about 5 people a day. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars. For folks who like to venture into the backcountry where no other form of communication is available, these devices can and do save lives.

World’s Largest Oil Spills (25th Anniversary of Exxon-Valdez)

OilDropOn March 24, 1989, exactly 25 years ago today, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in the Prince William Sound in Alaska. More than 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the pristine water. It was the largest oil spill in the U.S. at the time. The disaster had far-reaching effects. With fishermen no longer able to practice their livelihood and local businesses going bankrupt, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and depression dramatically increased in Cordova, the hardest hit town in the aftermath of the disaster. While economically things are better, the environmental recovery is still incomplete. Local resident Michelle O’Leary reminds us “there’s no way to put the oil back once it spills.” (Source: NPR)

Just this weekend, on Saturday, March 22, 2014, a barge carrying nearly 1 million gallons of marine fuel oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay. The shipping channel was closed between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico, backing up ship traffic as far as the eye could see and bringing business to a halt. How much of the especially heavy, sticky oil from the collision has leaked into the bay is not yet known. Any oil spill, no matter the size is an environmental and economic disaster. How much is 1 million gallons of oil? Well, for comparison, an Olympic size swimming pool holds approximately 660,000 gallons!

Largest oil spills in the world:

• 1991: Gulf War – Persian Gulf – 240-336 million gallons
• 2010: Deepwater Horizon – Gulf of Mexico – 205 million gallons
• 1979: Ixtoc I Oil Well – Gulf of Mexico – 140 million gallons
• 1979: Atlantic Empress –Caribbean Sea – 90 million gallons
• 1992: Mingbulak Fergana Valley – Uzbekistan (land spill) – 88 million gallons
• 1993: Nowruz Field Platform – Persian Gulf – 80 million gallons
• 1991: ABT Summer – Atlantic Ocean (near Angola) – 80 million gallons
• 1983: Castillo de Bellver – Saldanha Bay, South Africa – 79 million gallons
• 1978: Amoco Cadiz – English Channel – 69 million gallons
• 1988: Odyssey – North Sea (Nova Scotia) – 43 million gallons

World's Largest Oil Spills

The Exxon Valdez does not even make this list based on quantity of oil spilled, however, the environmental impact was by far the most damaging of all time affecting more than 1100 miles of coastline.

Best Satellite Image of 2013?

Best Satellite Image of 2013?

GlobeCameraWant to vote for your favorite image of the year from Digital Globe? The top 20 images have been narrowed to 5, and you can like your favorite(s) on their Facebook page. Voting is open until the end of the year (12/31/13). These are some pretty neat satellite images. How exactly did the photographer create the optical illusion of the Snake River that makes it look as if it is sitting above the surrounding terrain anyway?

Snake River - Digital Globe Photo Contest 2013

The top 20 images were all pretty neat as well. Click here to see the DigitalGlobe Top 20 Album.

New Beach Front Property? If all the ice melted…

When it comes to global warming, or rather the new, more PC term, climate change, there is one main theme – rising temperatures of both land and sea. While the debate rages on whether this threat is real or perceived, or whether it’s human induced or a natural geological cycle, one thing is certain, the earth is changing. But then it always has been and likely always will,  and this keeps our scientists very busy indeed!

In the September 2013 issue of National Geographic, a map was created in response to the question many of us have asked in recent years – “What if all the ice melted?” Well, for starters, the sea would rise an estimated 216 feet, and the most dramatic effect in the U.S. can be observed in Florida… er, wait, there would be NO Florida!!! Along with that, we would lose much of the rest of the Gulf Coast, as well as the entire Atlantic seaboard, San Diego, and more.

If All the Ice Melted - US


But before those of us slightly inland from our current shorelines reassess our property values, it’s going to take awhile to melt the more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth. According to National Geographic, “some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.” To see more, click on this link, or on the map above to view the affect on each of the continents.

Hurricane, Typhoon, or Cyclone? Location, Location, Location!

Philippines Map Haiyan

Weather around the world continues to be wild and unpredictable. Our hearts go out to everyone in the Philippines affected by super-Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that made landfall on Nov. 8, 2013. The death toll has reached 4,000 and continues to climb. An estimated 9 to 13 million people have been affected by the storm in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities. The hardest hit city was Tacloban on the island of Leyte. The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded.

The Western Pacific has the highest frequency of tropical cyclones (typhoons) north of the equator and experts fear more storms of similar magnitude are likely in the future. According to the Asian Development Bank, while the average number of cyclones per year has not risen significantly, the severity of individual events has increased due to rising temperatures of both the air and sea. The impact of damage from storm surge has increased as well given rising sea levels in the region.

In the aftermath, and from halfway around the world, my daughter asked what exactly was a typhoon. I explained to her it was just a different name for a hurricane, which got me to thinking, why are they different, and how does one know? I went searching for answers and found this graphic from David Simmer II’s Blography site.

TropicalStormNameMapDavid had this to say about his map: “It’s not a perfect map, of course… but it basically boils down like this: Historical British colonial regions like India and Australia use “Cyclone.” The Americas use “Hurricane.” Asia uses “Typhoon.” There are variations on all those. And, of course, local languages have many different names in their native tongues.”  The NOAA defines the location of these storms similarly: “In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used; a similar disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.”

All these storms are initially referred to as tropical storms once winds reach a sustained 39 mph. The tropical storms are then given an actual name by the World Meteorological Organization, using forenames familiar in each region. The Philippines has its own naming system as well, hence Haiyan to the world, and Yolanda locally. Tropical storms become either a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone when winds reach a sustained 74 mph. As the storms escalate they can range from Category 1 (weakest) to Category 5 (strongest), except in Australia which has its own system for categorizing strength.

But back to the question… Why the different names (hurricane, typhoon, cyclone) for these storms? Well, it comes down to the same thing: location, or more precisely the regional influence on the local language. In a nutshell, here is the basic etymology of the three storms from

Hurricane – Spanish (1545-55) huracán, and the Taino (an extinct Arawakan Indian tribe of the West Indies) hurakán 

Typhoon – Chinese (1580-90); akin to Chinese dàfēng, meaning great wind; altered by association with Greek typhôn, meaning violent wind.

Cyclone – introduced by British meteorologist Henry Piddington in 1848, perhaps from the Greek kyklôn, meaning revolving, and apparently confused by Piddington with kýklōma, meaning wheel or snake’s coil

While these storms are the same in cause and nature, there are some other interesting differences among hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones:

hurricane – The direction of the rotation of the storm depends on whether they occur north or south of the equator – clockwise if north and counter-clockwise if south.

– Seasons vary by location with the Atlantic and central Pacific hurricane season ranging from May to November; the south Pacific and Australia cyclone season ranging from November to April; and the northwestern Pacific typhoon season ranging nearly year-round.

– Frequency of northwest Pacific typhoons is the greatest with an average of 27 storms per season, while the average number of Atlantic hurricanes per season is 11.

No matter what you call them or where they occur, these storms can pack a real punch and are very dangerous. The power of Mother Nature is awesome and should never be underestimated.





Air Quality – Measurement Industry Opportunities: The Sky is the Limit

Air Quality – Measurement Industry Opportunities:
The Sky is the Limit

Air PollutionOn December 31, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act intended to “foster the growth of a strong American economy and industry while improving human health and the environment.” In the 40 years plus since, the EPA has been working to improve air quality across the nation. While significant improvement has been made in many of our cities and communities, there remains much more to be done, and opportunity abounds. Read on…

Even before the passing of the Clean Air Act, the government introduced the AQI (Air Quality Index). The AQI is a measurement of how clean or polluted the air is, along with any potential health impacts, based on these five major air pollutants:AQI Map 082713

  • ground-level ozone,
  • particle pollution
    / particulate matter
  • carbon monoxide
  • sulfur dioxide
  • nitrogen dioxide

AQI Table

In the dog days of summer, for those living in areas particularly susceptible to poor air quality, daily air quality index warnings are broadcast through the media and along heavily traveled thoroughfares. Electronic signs encourage residents to drive less, carpool if Air Quality Alertpossible, and reduce overall energy consumption. Daily AQI ratings and forecasts for over 300 cities, can be found here on the EPA’s AirNow website. Links to more detailed state and local air quality data are provided as well.

What does all this have to do with business opportunities? We’re glad you asked… “Next Generation Air Measuring,” that’s what! Traditionally, measuring air quality has required complex and expensive equipment. However, the EPA states, “…as air quality management problems become more complex, there is a need for enhanced air quality and exposure monitoring capabilities.”

Monitoring personal air quality in community settings is of growing interest to the EPA. The door to innovation is wide open. The EPA is collaborating with not only other government agencies and academic groups, but also with community groups and innovative do-it-yourselfers. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get in on the ground floor to develop and market the next cutting edge technology solution company.

Innovation Quotes

Entrepreneurs with an interest in developing affordable air sensors, as well as creative ways for the public to interact with the equipment, are in demand. From cell phone apps to wearable sensors to mobile sensor platforms, such as this solar-powered, air-monitoring bench at a library in Durham, NC, and beyond, the “sky is the limit.” Innovation and entrepreneurship in air quality measurement tools will benefit the health and wealth of our nation, and further the achievement of the goals of the Clean Air Act set nearly a half century ago.

Particular areas of interest in air sensor research at the EPA include:

Air Measurement ResearchTable

For any current or prospective entrepreneurs interested in the air quality measurement industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth site location analysis including an understanding of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Satellite Imagery Firm Requests Lift on Resolution Limits

DigitalGlobe LogoDigitalGlobe, of Longmont, Colorado, is a commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content, and operator of civilian remote sensing spacecraft. Recently, the firm requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lift restrictions and allow the company to provide higher resolution images.

The current regulation limits images to a resolution of a half meter (approx. 20 inches); which means an object needs to be at least that size or larger to be clearly visible. Any images taken at a higher resolution have to be made blurrier before they can be sold. Satellite ImageryDigitalGlobe would like the regulation changed to a quarter meter, or slightly less than 10 inches. The company hopes to gain business in international markets where other satellite imagery providers operate without such restrictions.

According to the NOAA spokesman, John Leslie, the limits are part of a government-wide effort “…to protect U.S. national security and or foreign policy obligation,” (source: The Hill). However, the limits were set more than 10 years ago, and industry experts feel this is a classic example of the regulatory environment not keeping pace with technological innovation; and they expect the restriction to be lifted. Leslie stated the government “periodically examines the limits on resolution to ensure there is a balance between keeping the U.S. industry as the global lead and taking into account national security concerns, foreign policy concerns and international obligations.” A decision is expected soon.

According to company founder, Walter Scott, “We’re seeing a lot of demand for higher resolution imagery,” (source: The Hill). One particular application of higher resolution images, noted by Scott, would allow for the identification of specific minerals or crops, which would be of value to a range of commercial interests. Additionally, reduced restrictions would allow American satellite companies to remain the top industry leaders.

40 Maps that Explain the World

We’d like to share with you a blog post from Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff. Max wrote a great post including both existing and newly created maps that each give a unique view of the world.

WARNING: Do not click on the link to Max’s post unless you have some time to spare! If you love maps and you love data, you WILL get caught up in the fascinating 40 maps provided.

Here is a sneak preview of Map 3:  The world’s major writing systems:

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff

Says Max… “This map is a reminder that the world’s divisions and commonalities go much deeper than national borders. It also helps to tell the stories of a few major events that still shape the globe, the echoes of which you can see in almost every map on this page:European colonialism, the Arabic-speaking Islamic conquests of the 7th century, the Russian expansions of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the (still-ongoing!) unifications of India and China.

Okay, now you’ve been warned, so here is the link: 40 Maps that Explain the World. Enjoy… because we sure did!

Map of US Rivers

Map of US Rivers

What an incredible Map of US Rivers! Using USGS data, Nelson Minar has created a vector tile map of all the water flowlines in the 48 contiguous states.  While he cautions that he includes all the flowlines available in the dataset (i.e. “lots of seasonal creekbeds, arroyos, etc.”) it’s still a pretty incredible depiction of all the flowing water sources in the U.S.

Minar also cautions that there is some missing data as well as some nuances of the data and software that causes some blue rectangles and variable density, particularly north of Texas and west of the Mississippi. For those who are technically adept and interested in trying their own hand at creating vector tile maps, Minar has provided detailed information thru this link: