Strictly Spatial #31

9 May 2017

Your fortnightly fix of everything geospatial is here! In this issue, we look at how innovative and artistic cartographic design is used to capture the imagination of wider audiences, how your social media information is being used for the benefit of public health and we explore how increased drone use is helping to combat the impacts of climate change. We also have a look at how changes in nighttime light maps can paint a powerful picture of human movement over time.

6Sometimes in cartographic design, it can be a challenge to create maps that appeal to a specific audience. This challenge is one that TeleGeography takes on every year when they produce an updated version of The Submarine Cable Map. Each edition is tasked with displaying the extent of undersea communication cable networks in a creative way, to capture audiences that would not normally be interested. This year the map follows an Indiana Jones theme, and shows black and white images of cable connections at the surface and old fashioned documents and artifacts scattered around the periphery. Previous versions have included both old and modern styled maps, you can read more here. 











As people become increasingly hooked to their mobile phones and other devices, social media continues to increase its reach and influence throughout society. This creates opportunities for the analysis of spatial trends in human activity. Topic Modelling, a successful tool used by businesses to explore their social media platforms, is now extending into new areas. An example is the real-time mapping of spatial public health patterns. Researchers in the United States have found that patterns in obesity can be explored by accessing social media information. This article explains how social media posts and profile information coupled with location data, provides a powerful tool to help us understand the scale of the problem and target potential solutions.

In recent times drones have become a powerful, efficient tool to map geographic landscapes and conduct spatial analysis. With ongoing advancements in drone technology and significant reductions in cost, drones are increasingly giving scientists the ability to gather data over larger areas with higher levels of accuracy. One area that the application of drones is rapidly increasing is in conservation GIS.

In the Maldives, where rising sea levels are threatening the livelihoods of many locals, scientists have used semi-autonomous drones to create a high-resolution 3D map of the Islands. This will greatly benefit the planning and understanding of climate change consequences in the area, by indicating the number of people at risk and indicating where they may need to be relocated to. The same method has been used for the complex and often dangerous task of tracking melting glaciers in Switzerland. You can read more here.


9In a rapidly changing and diverse world, geographers are constantly coming up with innovative ways to map the movements of people and the adjusting urban environments that they live in. NASA has recently released a global nighttime light map showing changes in light emissions between 2012 and 2016. This eye-opening story map clearly shows the impacts of urbanisation, economic fortune and civil war on where people live. It can also be used as an indicator of development in places like India where electricity infrastructure has extended further into rural areas.

That’s all for this fortnight’s Strictly Spatial, remember to keep in touch through Facebook, @InterpretGS, LinkedIn or email!