Red-blue electoral map and the green-gray in satellite imagery

For NYT’s The Upshot, Tim Wallace and Krishna Karra looked at how the red-blue electoral map relates to the green and gray color spectrum in satellite imagery:

The pattern we observe here is consistent with the urban-rural divide we’re accustomed to seeing on traditional maps of election results. What spans the divide — the suburbs represented by transition colors — can be crucial to winning elections. It’s part of why President Trump, seeking to appeal to swing voters, has portrayed the suburbs as under siege and menaced by crime. But the suburbs are neither politically nor geographically monolithic. They are where Democratic and Republican voters meet and overlap, in a variety of ways.

The breakdown and process are impressive. Be sure to check out the full rundown. Wallace also provides more details about how this came together on the Twitter.

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Forgotten map types

Geographer Tim Wallace likes to look at old maps, and is particularly fond of the weird and forgotten types:

So, I slowly amassed a more complete list. And here it is. Most of these map types are silly or unusual, not forgotten. Many of them are even deliberately taken out of context to highlight their wackiness and how easily maps can be misread (I sure misread them all the time!).

It’s fun poking around the Internet Archive and HathiTrust, blowing the digital dust off of a volume with 0 views and having a look. You never know what you’ll find. Maybe a forgotten map type?

The above is the long forgotten but everlasting Gobstopper zone map.

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Map of nighttime lights normalized by population

You’ve probably seen the composite map of lights at night from NASA. It looks a lot like population density. Tim Wallace adjusted the map for population, so that you can see (roughly) the areas that produce more light per person.

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Finding all of the trees in the world with machine learning

Descartes Labs used machine learning to identify all of the trees in the world where at least one-meter resolution satellite imagery is available. Tim Wallace with the maps:

The ability to map tree canopy at a such a high resolution in areas that can’t be easily reached on foot would be helpful for utility companies to pinpoint encroachment issues—or for municipalities to find possible trouble spots beyond their official tree census (if they even have one). But by zooming out to a city level, patterns in the tree canopy show off urban greenspace quirks. For example, unexpected tree deserts can be identified and neighborhoods that would most benefit from a surge of saplings revealed.

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Oceans absorbing heat


It keeps getting hotter on this planet, and the oceans are absorbing most of the heat. Tim Wallace for the New York Times shows several decades of changes.

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