An Archive of the World’s Freshest Satellite Images

A new tool lets you search NASA-quality photos of Earth from 2013 up to this very minute.

Last month, we wrote about Mapbox’s envelope-pushing Landsat-live map. Fed by gorgeous, high-res imagery of the planet captured every 16 days by the USGS’ Landsat 8 satellite, the map offers a first-of-its-kind chance to explore the Earth’s surface as it appears in (almost) real time.

It’s no surprise that other folks are also making moves on that Landsat data. Satellite and software company Astro Digital just released a way to easily browse Landsat imagery dating back to in February 2013 (the launch of Landsat 8) through this very moment (Landsat is constantly rephotographing the planet in patches).

Tags: mapping, perspective, remote sensing, geospatial.


When Wearing Shorts Was Taboo

In certain places in American history, showing a little leg has been illegal — for men and women.


What is cultural acceptable varies over time and space.  This particular issue may seem silly now, but it is a reminder that the norms of the here and now, might have been seen as revolutionary or scandalous in a different time and place.  Cultures and customs are socially mediated and those processes creates cultural norms–norms are continually enforced, resisted and reshaped.     

Tags: culture, folk cultures, unit 3 culture.

It wasn’t just the Armenians: The other 20th century massacres we ignore

“Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the killings of more than a million Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Despite considerable opposition from the Turkish government, the anniversary is bringing renewed attention to an often overlooked historical issue, with President Obama in particular facing criticism for not using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the killings. The 20th century was bloody and violent, and while some horrors are at least relatively well-known – the Holocaust or the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia, for example – others have become mere footnotes in history.”

Tags genocidepolitical, conflict, war, refugees, empirecolonialism, historical.


An earthquake felt across South Asia

“The magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday morning destroyed parts of Kathmandu, trapped many people under rubble and killed more than 2,500 people. It was the worst to hit the country since a massive 1934 temblor killed more than 8,000.”


Even though we know that with the plate tectonic boundaries where these disasters are more likely to occur, it never fully is expected.  These before and after pictures are heart-rending and full the extent of the damage is hard to comprehend (explore in ArcGIS online).

Geographer Jon Kedrowski has a blog about his mountaineering and expeditions. He is up on Everest now, and his blog has a description of the earthquake and the resulting avalanche. The pictures and descriptions are both sobering and fascinating.

*This post was prepared in collaboration with Dr. Deborah Hann of the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education.

Tags: Nepal, disasters, physical, tectonics.

Earth’s tectonic plates skitter about

“Geoscientists have unveiled a computer model that maps the details of that tectonic dance in 1-million-year increments—practically a frame-by-frame recap of geologic time. It shows that the plates speed up, slow down, and move around in unexpectedly short bursts of activity. It also suggests that researchers may have to rethink what drives much of that incessant motion.  The new model shows that although plates usually creep along at an average speed of about 4 centimeters per year, some can reach much faster speeds in short sprints. For example, India, which broke off the east coast of Africa about 120 million years and is now plowing into Asia, reached speeds as high as 20 centimeters per year for a relatively brief 10 million years.”

Tagstectonicsphysicalgeomorphology, video.


Seaweed Farms in South Korea

The dark squares that make up the checkerboard pattern in this image are fields of a sort—fields of seaweed. Along the south coast of South Korea, seaweed is often grown on ropes, which are held near the surface with buoys. This technique ensures that the seaweed stays close enough to the surface to get enough light during high tide but doesn’t scrape against the bottom during low tide.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of seaweed cultivation in the shallow waters around Sisan Island on January 31, 2014. Today, about 90 percent of all the seaweed that humans consume globally is farmed. That may be good for the environment. In comparison to other types of food production, seaweed farming has a light environmental footprint because it does not require fresh water or fertilizer.


Airport Codes

Making sense of those three-letter airport codes.


I often fly into CVG (Cincinnati) and wondered why those 3 letters are used as the airport code instead of CIN.  “Serving the greater Cincinnati metro area, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky’s airport code comes from the nearby city of Covington.”  So why is Chicago ORD and Washington D.C.’s airport IAD?  Airport codes has all the answers to these sorts of questions, but the great circle mapper can help you visualize how these transportation hubs are connected and make fun maps of all your travels.    

Tags: mobility, mapping, transportation.

Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Imperative creates a shared language and common goals to align different organizations and achieve greater social impact.


I think we all know that we shouldn’t judge a country just by it’s GDP.  Economic development might be correlated with development and social progress, but the outliers are so telling.  In this TED talk, we learn about a new metric designed to measure how well a society provides opportunities for communal and individual success.  Having lived in Costa Rica for two years, I’m not surprised to find that Costa Rica does much better on this index than it would if we were to use GDP or HDI as a way to measure social progress and quality of life. For a more detailed look at the United States, see Geographies of Opportunity: Ranking well-being by Congressional Districts.        

Questions to Ponder: How is the Social Progress Index similar to and different from the Human Development Index?  What assumptions are built into the system? 

Tags: development, statistics, economic, Costa Rica, mapping.