Intermittent wanderings exploring elements of geography and cartography.
Recently, a train derailed south of Seattle on a new stretch of tracks that were intended to reduce commute times. The train was reportedly traveling at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour over the speed limit for that segment of rail line. An article by the Washington Post contains explanatory imagery and graphics of the train derailment. That information can be found by clicking here. The derailment closed southbound Interstate 5 for several days as first rescuers freed people from the derailed cars, then the NTSB conducted an on-site investigation, and finally the wreckage was cleared and taken away.
A recent news item is that President Trump decided not to continue the process of entering into the so-called Paris Accords, which is a global-scale agreement about carbon emissions between the nations of the world. Carbon dioxide is a known greenhouse gas with known physical properties, and the more of that particular gas that is in the atmosphere (modern or historic atmospheres), the warmer the planet becomes. It is not the only greenhouse gas, and it is not the most efficient greenhouse gas in terms of delaying the transmission of heat from the atmosphere to outer space. It is definitely a byproduct of human economies, and as such, a gas over which we (collectively) have some measure of control... namely, how much we produce and release into the atmosphere each year.
Here is a New York Times article that has two animated maps. One map shows how many days are predicted to be above 95 degrees Fahrenheit if the Paris Accords are fully implemented and carbon emissions are restricted as provided under the Accords. The other map shows predicted distributions of the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit if there is no such action taken; no carbon restrictions as provided by the Accords. It's an interesting look into possible futures.
More than 3,000 Indigenous communities in Canada have been added to Google Maps - and it's about time, Indigenous people say... click here for the original article. In Canada, indigenous people are also known as the "First Nations", acknowledging that they were in what is now modern Canada before Europeans and those from other continents encountered North America.
An NPR report on a special map of Native American tribes using their own language and names (toponyms) to show the distribution of Native peoples across North America. In the United States, indigenous peoples are those who are also known as American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Hawaiian Natives and Pacific Islanders. Related to the previous map is one created for Alaskan tribes and indigenous peoples.
The study of place names is a cross between historical, linguistic, geographic, political, and religious or cultural interests. Who gets to name a geographic location or landscape feature? Does the name have any cultural or historical significance? Has it changed over time?
On August 21 of this year, a Total Solar Eclipse will occur and transit across North America. The path of the total solar eclipse will intersect the state of Idaho, conveniently, on the first day of classes for Fall Semester. If you are lucky enough to be located somewhere along the path of the eclipse, take advantage of this opportunity to experience the phenomenon. Here are links to a couple of resources, the Eclipse Megamovie site (check out its Simulator page) and the official NASA website for Total Solar Eclipse 2017 (the Resources page has a lot of printable maps and other neat stuff).
An endangered species here in the Pacific Northwest is the mountain or alpine caribou. The small remnant herds of these animals migrate between areas in Canada and the United States, although they are more often perceived as a far northern species in both countries. This article from the New York Times details the struggles of this species to survive against the odds. A conservation group also maintains this web page as a collection of informational resources on the mountain caribou.
For people who recall the tragic landslide that occurred several years ago, the Seattle Times has published an article that revisits the science and social impacts of that fateful day. To read this piece, click through the link. If you are unfamiliar with the landslide, its effects, and the scientific efforts that have gone into analyzing and explaining it, visit this website that curates a number of articles on the topic.
Here is an article from the Spokesman-Review about a Google initiative known as Google Trekker. This is a program where people take high-resolution cameras out into the woods, down a river, along a park path, etc., and take photos along the way. This allows other people to see those areas without actually going there themselves. It kind of defeats the purpose of an outdoor experience, but it can be useful and educational, especially for people who cannot physically visit those places themselves.
I read this recent article by a reporter for the Washington Post, in which he recounts his visit to a place that he once called, "America's Worst Place To Live". This is a great example of how numbers, statistics, variables, etc., can be pulled together in a way that supposedly "ranks" places by some measure invented by a news organization or other entity... and those statistical profiles can leave the reader with a skewed and perhaps very incorrect visual image of that particular place. The reporter goes to visit the place he denigrated in an article... and learned some important things along the way. In essence, he learned about the geographical concepts of "site", "situation", and "place" by experiencing them first-hand. Well worth the read!
This summer, there has been a lot of wildfire activity across the Pacific Northwest. Air quality has reached record levels of unhealthy ratings across the region as smoke is funneled across the landscape underneath temperature inversions and high pressure atmospheric conditions. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center has a website upon which people can interactively explore information about the various known wildfires currently burning. When you get to the website, you can click on the "fire" icon next to a wildfire's name to learn more about that particular wildfire.
Map users are often unaware of the ways that map makers can subtly change characteristics of maps to emphasize certain aspects of the map. This short blog/article focuses on a few of the ways in which map users and map readers can better recognize how a mass media map might have been created to project a particular perspective as opposed to being a more objectively-produced map. If this topic is one that grabs your attention, consider reading an excellent book by Mark Monmonier that explores related topics in far more depth.