Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.


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After a Tornado, Greensburg, Kansas, Rebuilt Green. Was It Worth It?

A decade ago, a tornado wiped out the small town of Greensburg, Kansas. But the town decided to rebuild—as a totally green community. Ten years out, has the green rebuilding program been successful, and is this a model that might be used by other towns? Or is going green harder than it seems?


If you haven’t discovered the podcast “Placemakers” you are missing out.  The entire series centers around the challenges that confront different types of communities and the opportunities to improve the way things work. They present “stories about the spaces we inhabit and the people who shape them. Join us as we crisscross the country, introducing you to real people in real communities—people who make a difference in how we travel, work, and live. You’ll never look at your community the same way again.”  And yes, that sounds like a whole lot of applied geography to me.   


Tagsplace, tornado, weather and climate, planning, podcast.

Tornado Alley

Interested in learning about tornado alley? Then you’ll want to read our tornado alley facts and information. Tornado Alley 101


This map nicely shows the particular air requirements needed for a tornado to form and why the part of the United States known as Tornado Alley accounts for the majority of the world’s tornadoes.  This nicely shows how physical geographic factors form a major part of how a region might be defined and conceptualized. 


Tags: tornado, physical, weather and climate, visualization, regions.

Hurricane Matthew-Humanitarian Mapping

“The Humanitarian OpenSteetMap Team (HOT) has activated to provide geographic base data in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. Category 4 Hurricane Matthew continues to strengthen and is advancing on Haiti and the Bahamas. Hurricane Matthew is expected to cause ‘catastrophic‘ damage including extreme flooding and landslides potentially affecting millions in Haiti, Jamaica, and Bahamas. To start we are mapping coastal communities in the storm path.”


Want to see geographic knowledge and geospatial skills in action?  Crowd-sourced mapping is increasingly an important resource during an emergency.  Poorer places are often not as well mapped out by the commercial cartographic organizations and these are oftentimes the places that are most vulnerable to natural disasters.  Relief agencies depend on mapping platforms to handle the logistics of administering aid and assessing the extent of the damage and rely on these crowd-sourced data sets.  My students and I are working on this over the weekend; can you join in and help?  The projects that are marked urgent by the Red Cross are all in Haiti right now.  Here are is a video playlist that explains the project and how you can help if you are new to OpenStreetMap (OSM).


Tags: disasters, mappingSTEM, physicalHaiti, weather and climate.

Why Hurricane Categories Make a Difference

During a hurricane you usually hear meteorologists refer to its intensity by categories. If you don’t know the difference between a category 1 and a category 5 hurricane, The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Elliot breaks it down for you.


With Hurricane Matthew having just hit Haiti (video) and Cuba, it now poised to strike Florida. Many are unsure what the term “category 4” actually means because they are unfamiliar with the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  This video is a good introduction to what this means to people in the path of the hurricane. As we monitor this (and future) situation, these are my favorite digital globes that display wind speeds and a few other of Earth’s physical systems. What is beautiful and majestic from one scale can be horrific and catastrophic at another:    


Tagsphysical, weather and climatedisasters, mapping, visualization.

Climate Comparison Maps

Triton1982 makes maps by comparing each of the city’s highest and lowest average temperatures against the Koppen classification system.”


Many maps are shared on Reddit, and this series of maps help make some far off places easier to relate to.  I think these cross-regional comparisons can also help students also see that countries can have a great degree of internal variety.  


Tags: Australia, Oceania, mapping, visualization 

Death Valley’s Roving Rocks

Death Valley,California – Giant boulders in the desert look as though their moving all on their own! But could weird weather be behind these roving rocks


Since the video above was created, the mystery has been solved.  On very rare occasions, when it rains in the region, water will accumulate in the playa (  If the wind is powerful and consistent enough, the wind will push the panels of ice against these rocks and over time, the ice floes will push these rocks, leaving behind distinctive trails ( This perfect combination of water, wind, ice and heat creates a remarkable signature on the landscape (  The video in this article ( nicely explains how the non-aerodynamic rocks of Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa move, leaving behind their trail in the hot desert.  Numerous attempts using GPS receivers ( and good ol’ fashioned observations have been made, but observing ice in Death Valley is so rare that no one had ever seen it until now (  


Tags: physical, geomorphology, landforms, desertlandscape.

Louisiana in Tough Shape

Unlike the many maps we have seen that show what Florida, Boston, or some other coastal location would look like with higher sea levels, the figure above compares the iconic outline of Louisiana with the present-day outline of its dry land. An important caveat is that some of the removed areas are wetlands, meaning they are not under water all the time, but those lands are not available for most human uses (aside from fishing), so this outline warrants attention.


Last month I was in New Orleans, Louisiana and I’m so disheartened to know that thousands have their homes under water.  As stated in this article, “the boot is at best an inaccurate approximation of Louisiana’s true shape and, at worst, an irresponsible lie.”  To explore the issue yourself, this gorgeous interactive map pulls together some high quality source materials on a wide range of issues to look at this environmental issues of this region in a holistic manner.


Tags: environmentweather and climatecoastal, water, disasters

Interactive Climate Map

“Obsessed as we are with cartography we in Staridas Geography perceive any aspect of the actual 3D World as a constant opportunity for another pretty map creation!”


This is a great interactive map of the world’s climate zones. 


Tags: ESRIStoryMapedtech, GIS, mapping, cartographyphysical.

How over 2 feet of rain caused historic flooding in Louisiana in less than 72 hours

All-told, over 20 inches of rain fell in less than 72 hours around Baton Rouge.


Last month I was in New Orleans, and it rained for about 2 hours…it was staggering to see how many issues stemmed from that drainage in such a flat floodplain.  This is so much worse.  This article focuses on the weather/environmental situation, and this one on the political/human impact.


Tags: urban ecology, environmentweather and climate, water, disasters

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