Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

Maps and charts updated weekly show the latest extent of the drought in the United States.


I’ve shared numerous links here about the drought situation in California over the past few months, but the situation extends far beyond California as these animated maps and charts demonstrate. Some of the best public data on drought can be found at the National Drought Mitigation Center

Tags: wateragriculture, environmentresources, environment depend, physical, weather and climate, consumptionCalifornia.

Flip-Flop Summer Caused by Strange Jet Stream

“Temperatures across the Northeast have been unusually cool, and they have been unusually hot across the northwest.  A strange jet stream is behind the flip-flop between summer conditions in the two northern corners of the country. The polar jet stream is the prevailing band of wind that blows west to east across the upper half of the U.S. in summer. (There is a subtropical jet, also, that typically crosses northern Mexico).  We often see the jet stream depicted on TV weather reports—that big, wavy line across the U.S. and Canada that bends south then north then south again. Low-pressure weather systems, sometimes called cold fronts, ride along the jet stream, bringing us much of our daily weather. But this summer the polar  jet steam seems to be somewhat flattened out, and it’s been in that position more than usual.”

Tags: physical, weather and climate, seasonal.


Why Paris doesn’t want a Scottish Yes

“Nothing unites different nations quite like mutual enemies. But the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France – both historic rivals of England – doesn’t mean that the French government favours Scottish independence. Far from it.”


Historically, France has supported greater autonomy or independence as a way to limit English political power and influence.  However in the era of the E.U. and greater regional integration, modern geopolitics makes this old alliance untenable as some in Scotland are seeking independence from the United Kingdom.  


Tags: devolutionhistorical, supranationalism, political, states, sovereignty, autonomy, Europe, unit 4 political, geopolitics.

Canada on mission to map Arctic, lay claim to broader boundaries

Canada has dispatched two icebreakers to map the Arctic seabed beneath the North Pole to support a bid to extend the country’s maritime territory deeper into the waterways at the top of the world.


Canada, Russia and Denmark (Greenland) are all seeking to expand their maritime claims in the Arctic.  Globally speaking, the retreat of Arctic sea ice can be seen as a unmitigated disaster, but disasters for the many can open up new economic opportunities for the few.  When trapped under ice, extracting resources is cost prohibitive, but the melting sea ice will make the Arctic’s resources all the more valuable (including the expanded shipping lanes).  This fits in with the APHG new course outline which includes political ecology (the study of the political and economic principles controlling the relations of human beings to one another and to the environment).

Tagseconomic, environment, political, resources, water, sovereignty, coastal, environment depend, territoriality, unit 4 political, Arctic, climate change, political ecology.

What You Need to Know About the Ebola Outbreak

Questions and answers on the scale of the outbreak and the science of the Ebola virus.


This Ebola outbreak began in Guinea, near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, where a network of roads makes the movement of people, goods ideas possible.  Unfortunately though, those same roads make spread of diseases easier.  In the past African Ebola cases in isolated villages could be contained but increased transportation has accelerated the diffusion process.  If this spreads to Lagos, watch out.

medical, development, diffusion.


Where We Came From, State by State

Charts showing how Americans have moved between states for 112 years.


This incredible series of interactive charts from the New York Times show where the residents of every U.S. state were born and how that data has changed over time (update: now available as an interactive map).  This graph of Florida shows that around 1900, most people living in Florida were from the South.  Around the middle of the 20th century more people from other parts of the U.S. and from outside the U.S. started moving in.  What changes in U.S. society led to these demographic shifts?  How has demographics of your state changes over the last 114 years? 

On the flip side, many people have been leaving California and this article charts the demographic impact of Californians on other states.  

Tags: migration, USAvisualization, census, unit 2 population.


Start of the Year Videos

“A great Florida teacher produced this video.  Visit his course website for additional incredible resources.”


This just one of my favorite “start of the year” videos.  I’ve compiled them here so they can be used to at the beginning of the school year to show the importance of geography, spatial thinking and geo-literacy.  They show why taking geography courses is so important, useful and interesting.  Do you know of a great video that I should put on the list?  Send me a tweet.

Tags: geo-inspiration, geography education, APHG.

Mosul Dam key win for Islamic State

“Islamic State’s capture of the Mosul dam gives it control over the water and electricity supply in northern Iraq.”


There is a geography to insurgency.   This dam controls both the energy and water resources in the region, which gives the insurgents/rebels/terrorists greater local power.  On a related noted, this op-ed entitled, “How America Lost the Middle East” has plenty of foreign policy and geopolitical material worth discussing.  

Explore old maps of US cities

“This cool new historic mapping app from the folks at esri and the U.S. Geological Survey is worth exploring.  What it does is take 100 years of USGS maps and lets you overlay them for just about any location in the nation. That allows users to see how a city – say Harrisburg – developed between 1895 and today.  The library behind the project includes more than 178,000 maps dating from 1884 to 2006.”


For more ESRI maps that let you explore urban environmental change, the ‘spyglass’ feature gives these gorgeous vintage maps a modern facelift (but not available for as many places). The cities that are in this set of interactive maps are: 

Tags: cartography, mapping, visualization, urban, historical.