Tag Archives: maps

Stunningly beautiful maps from Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs

Whoever says science isn’t beautiful has obviously never seen one of Robert Szucs’ colorful river basin maps.

The rivers of the US. All image credits: Robert Szucs / Grasshopper Geography.

The rivers of Texas.

Scuzs is a cartographer with a noble heart. He studied geography and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) — all the interactive maps we use today — think Google Maps. But he didn’t really enjoy the cubicle life, as he himself describes it. So he gave the comfort of a monotonous life away.

“I took a deep breath and decided to spend my time and money volunteering my mapmaking skills for NGOs instead. I’ve worked for archaeologists on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, with marine biologists in Alaska, and in an orangutan conservation program in Indonesian Borneo, amongst others. These trips made me grow both personally and professionally, while helping with causes that matter.”

Africa’s rivers.


This change of career has also enabled him to indulge in more creative projects and start Grasshopper Geography, which grew from some hobby projects and maps he initially posted. Now, Szucs is working really hard to create fresh, colorful, eye-opening and scientifically accurate maps, of the highest quality possible.

Europe’s forest cover.

These maps make us go ‘Wow’, and then they make us think. For instance, why do you think there’s such a big empty space in the one below?

North America’s forest cover.

So far, his most inspiring project has been detailed and colorful river maps. The vein-like rivers and river basins, dividing familiar countries into usually hidden geographies are simply stunning. He also works on custom maps, though most of the time he focuses on larger-scale geographies.

“The river basin maps came from a couple of years back, when I was volunteering in Portugal, and had a lot of free time,” he says. “I started working again on some old hobby projects, like some river, elevation and population maps I never had time to finish. They all really started just as me trying to practice and get better at what I’m doing, to see if I can do better than what’s out there.”

Australia’s rivers.

So far, the internet seems to be loving Szucs’ work. It enables him to make a living from his passion while allowing him to contribute to worthy causes. Surviving as an independent GIS-turned-artist, however, is challenging.

“It is hard sometimes to resist the well-paying jobs, and do something good, but it’s possible,” he told ZME Science. “My newest adventure is trying to survive as an independent artist… not easy.”

If you’d like to support Robert or would like to buy one of his maps, check out his Etsy page or the contact page on Grasshopper Maps. He’s also looking for an interesting cause to volunteer in 2019, so if you’re in need of a good GIS-her, give him a shout.

July 2090 high emissions.

Chilling maps show just how scorching 2090’s US will be, thanks to climate change

In an effort to show the actual effects climate change will have on each of our lives in the future, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put together some chilling maps showing a scorching future.

Melting ice cream.

“Melting Ice Cream Truck” by Glue Society.
Image via thisiscolossal.

Climate change is going to cause a whole lot of changes to the world as we know it. Sea level rise, species extinction, and food and water uncertainty for many. While we’re aware of these future threats, the problem is that we’re just not very good, from a psychological point of view, at dealing with future problems that require collective action.  It doesn’t feel like it matters to us directly, it doesn’t feel like we can do anything about it, so we don’t really care. Our brains sport more of a cross-that-bridge-when-we-get-there type of wiring.

That, in the context of climate change, is a really bad strategy. It takes time for this damage to build, but it takes just as long for us to work on preventing it — and much longer to fix it after the deed is done.

Would you like some ice with that?

NOAA, however, knows what’s up. NOAA is also sneaky and knows what everybody hates: scorching summer temperatures. So, to help us better understand what path we’re walking down, they’ve compiled some maps to show just how hot things are going to get by the end of the century. For example, here’s what mean July temperatures looked like in the US in 2010 — and how they will look in 2090.

Scorching, right? Well, don’t take out the ice-cubes just yet because this is one of the better-case scenarios — one where we pursue and achieve fairly ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reforestation. Yep, fairly ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and reforestation. With the new, 2.0, ‘clean’ coal administration currently ruling the US, neither of those targets seem very likely, do they?

NOAA agrees; that’s why they’ve also made predictions for a business-as-usual scenario, in which we keep polluting as we do now, and make no policy changes in regards to the environment. If we go down that road, July 2090 looks like a time where no amount of ice cream will cut it:

July 2090 high emissions.



For those of you with an unnatural fear of metrics, deep red (the thing covering most of the US in the picture) corresponds to average daily highs of 100°F (37.8°C). Daily. For a month at least, year after year, after year. I don’t know about you guys, but when I see the thermometer hitting 30°C I know it’s going to be a bad day. At 35°C, I can’t function any longer. I just fill my bathtub with cold water and camp in it.

I’m not so special in that regard; people and high temperatures don’t seem to mix that well. Currently, some 658 people die from extreme heat in the US every year, mostly in states such as Arizona or Texas. That number is bound to skyrocket as these states themselves, along with the rest of the US, start getting hotter.

Winters will also warm up. Even under a best-case-scenario, average highs during winter months will look something like this (the video starts with current mean temperatures).

I like what NOAA did with these maps because I feel it helps put that infamous 2°C Paris goal into context. It’s often used as a reference point in many discussions around climate change, and a benchmark that many official bodies, scientists, and publications use — but it doesn’t convey much to the average Joe.

Knowing that global temperatures will increase by 2°C doesn’t sound like much, and there’s probably a lot of ‘globe’ around so that doesn’t tell me much about what I’m going to have to face. Even worse, that figure is the mean annual temperature — putting one more layer of abstraction between it and what effects I’ll feel.

Hopefully, NOAA’s work will help us better understand what’s waiting for us down the road. They note that most people in the US will have to contend with scorching heat as soon as 2050 — and such conditions will take their toll on the economy and our quality of life (high temperatures, among other things, make it harder for us to sleep).

Our lawmakers do have the power to change where we’re heading. Quite possibly, most of them don’t particularly care — but they do care about votes. Call them up, ask them why they want you to suffer through 100°F during lunch. Then ask why you should vote for them.

You can now use Google Maps to explore other moons and planets

It’s now possible to explore Venus, Mercury, Pluto, and several icy moons from the comfort of your own home.

Credits: Google / NASA.

Working with NASA, Google engineers have rolled out a new feature (see here) where you can navigate between various celestial bodies in our solar system, rotating and zooming as you wish. The project drew inspiration from the Cassini spacecraft, which sent us hundreds of thousands of pictures, offering us an unprecedented view of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons. Google explained:

“Twenty years ago, the spacecraft Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral on a journey to uncover the secrets of Saturn and its many moons. During its mission, Cassini recorded and sent nearly half a million pictures back to Earth, allowing scientists to reconstruct these distant worlds in unprecedented detail. Now you can visit these places—along with many other planets and moons—in Google Maps right from your computer.”

It can be a bit tricky to navigate since Google hasn’t implemented a search feature, but you can just scroll around and explore the areas on your own. The company notes that it worked with astronomical artist Björn Jónsson to bring the images to life.

Image credits: Google / NASA.

Previously, you could have used Google maps to navigate the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, as well as the International Space Station. Now, you can also check out Ceres, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Mimas. These are not simply small frozen moons, they are active places rich in features, and some of the likeliest places to host extraterrestrial life (not Io though, that place is crazy).

“Explore the icy plains of Enceladus, where Cassini discovered water beneath the moon’s crust—suggesting signs of life. Peer beneath the thick clouds of Titan to see methane lakes. Inspect the massive crater of Mimas—while it might seem like a sci-fi look-a-like, it is a moon, not a space station”, the Google press release reads.

However, the maps aren’t perfect; a few problems have already been reported with the labeling. Planetary scientist Emily Lakdawalla has already contacted Google in order to fix the problems.

Still, minor bugs aside, it’s an excellent resource to use both educationally and for fun. Just think about it, the first plane flew about a century ago, and now we have high-resolution maps of planets and moon in our solar systems, available for everyone to access. If that’s not a huge technological leap, I don’t know what is.

10 Amazing Sights Discovered Over Google Earth

I’ve really loved the Google Earth/Maps technology ever since it’s first rolled out of the Silicon Valley giant many years back. The prospect of having my own digital satellite at my fingertips has been simply mind-blowing, keeping me constantly fascinated by how easy it is for me to reach far away places. Thanks to Google Earth I can now physically see where I need to go, what routes to take or even my cousin’s car in front of her flat in The Village. The possibilities are incredibly wide, as well as the privacy issues…but that’s a story for another time.

Along the years Google Earth hasn’t just been a source of geographical information, but also a valuable tool in spotting remote places and making surprising findings. It helped find a forest packed with undiscovered species, early mammal fossils or even a huge cannabis plantation (sure beats finding crop circles), and much, much more. Bellow, I’ve listed a few truly amazing sights captured with Google Earth, that are either fun, odd or simply mind blowing captured by people with waaay too much time on their hands.

1. Arizona <3 Oprah

Oprah Crop Circle

Throughout this list you’ll see a lot of crop circle ‘art,’ but this one can be considered by far one of the weirdest, not because it foretells of the arrival of an alien master race to enslave us all, but rather because it’s a really clear example of how far obsession and cult-like personality can go. Above captioned is the portrait of famous talk-show host Oprah Winfrey carved in a 10-acre crop by an Arizona farmer. Now that’s a fan! [see it on Google Maps | Coordinates: +33° 13′ 33.18″, -111° 35′ 48.32″]

2. The Jet Plane Inside a Parking Lot


Talk about a smooth ride! We’re used to using jet planes either on air stripes or in the sky, where they belong, not in a residential parking lot in a Parisian suburb as is the case in the above photo. Weird as heck! [see it on Google Maps | Coordinates: 48.825183,2.1985795]

3. A Farmer Who Hates Internet Explorer


Back in 2006, the Oregon State University Linux Users made this huge Mozilla Firefox logo in a corn field to celebrate the world’s most favorite web browser’s 50 millionth downloads. I can really say I get the man… as can anyone who’s used Internet Explorer lately. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: +45° 7′ 25.39″, -123° 6′ 49.08″ ).

4. The Huge Bunny In The Woods


Built by a group of artists from Vienna, this huge 200 feet bunny rabbit thingy was built in Prata Nevoso, Italy a few years back. Quite cute. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: +44° 14′ 39.38″, +7° 46′ 11.05″)

5. The Bloody Iraqi Lake


This lake’s colour, located outside of Baghdad, Iraq, has been puzzling people for a lot of time now. Most likely, the reddish colour is a product of pollution or a water treatment facility (which might explain the corrosive colour). Then again, this might as well had been the dumping pool for Saddam’s enemies. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: 33.39845000,44.48416800 )

6. Building A Brand, Can By Can


What’s quite possibly the largest logo on Earth (if not, it’s definitely the biggest Coke logo), this is what advertising enthusiasts drool about. This huge Coke ad, 50m tall and 120m wide, was built using 70,000 empty coke bottles in northern Chile near Arica desert. This veritable Coke monument was meant to mark the anniversary of 100 years since the brand’s inception, as one can see in the photo (“100 años” – 100 years). Don’t worry, tree huggers, the Aniro desert is one of the most barren places on Earth. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: -18° 31′ 45.21″, -70° 15′ 0.07″)

7. The Noble Clay Indian


This is one of the most famous Google Earth photos to have circulated on the web. Dubbed the Badlands Guardian, this eroded valley very much resembles the face of a man, and if you take a closer look at the tip of the head, you might notice something like the feather head-piece decoration native Americans used to wear. NOW, if you take an even closer look, you might notice what may seem like a pair of iPod headsets. Pretty funky, right? Unfortunately, it’s just a road with an oil rig at its end. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: +50° 0′ 37.76″, -110° 7′ 0.86″ )

8. African Zoom


Google Earth is great, but it’s hard to tell a lot of things apart at low res, this wonderful piece of African life, however, depicting a herd of elephants on the move, is one sweet exception. You can even see details in the grass! Simply wonderful. (See on Google Maps – be sure to zoom… a lot! | Coordinates: +50° 0′ 37.76″, -110° 7′ 0.86″)

9. The Highest Place … In Your Living Room


Peeking at 8,848 meters  or 29,029 ft, Mount Everest is the highest place on Earth. Let’s face it, neither of us will ever get to climb it, but thanks to Google Earth, we now have an incredible view of the mountain from the high-up. When I first found it, I was simply stunned by its beauty. Be sure to scroll around it when viewing it – the perspective of it all will undoubtedly send a few shivers up your spine. So serene, yet to deadly! (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: +27° 59′ 9.12″, +86° 55′ 42.38″)

10. Stunning Victoria Falls


One of the tallest and, at the same time, most spectacular waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls never ceases to amaze people. This true spectacle of nature should be on everybody’s must-see/go-to list, but until you book a flight to Zimbabwe, Google Earth should do the trick. (See on Google Maps | Coordinates: -17° 55′ 31.84″, +25° 51′ 29.60″)

Note: Use the coordinates for inputting into Google Earth. If you’d have the software installed, you can use Google Maps as an alternative. It’s not even half as fun, but still pretty incredible.


The world may be too dependent on GPS, report says

Besides their evident telecommunications value, satellites also pose enormous benefits when synchronization and navigation are concerned, available and more and more used to the common public through GNSS (global navigation satellite system) or the US based GPS (global positioning system). However, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK warns that the nation has become overly reliant on the system, which academicians consider it to be very vulnerable and prone to natural hazards (solar flares) or deliberate attacks (terrorist endeavors).

Dr Martyn Thomas, who chaired the group that wrote the report, said: “We’re not saying that the sky is about to fall in; we’re not saying there’s a calamity around the corner.

“What we’re saying is that there is a growing interdependence between systems that people think are backing each other up. And it might well be that if a number these systems fail simultaneously, it will cause commercial damage or just conceivably loss of life. This is wholly avoidable.”

Remember, that GPS applications aren’t limited to simple, though widespread, auto-navigation or as personal mapping; they’re used by manufacturing industries, supply chains, drilling oil, various other logistics, banks, and virtually anything you can imagine. It’s not a UK based dependency either, it’s a fact well known applying to the whole world. The failure of such a system might indeed deem severe economic and social consequences.

Just how much? Let’s just stick to money-wise -the European Commission, in a recent update on its forthcoming Galileo sat-nav network, estimated that about 6-7% of Europe’s GDP, approximately 800bn euros (£690bn) annually, was now dependent in some way on GNSS data.

“The deployment of Europe’s Galileo system will greatly improve the resilience of the combined GPS/Galileo system, but many of the vulnerabilities we have identified in this report will remain,” says Dr Thomas.

“No-one has a complete picture of the many ways in which we have become dependent on weak signals 12,000 miles above us.”

The report goes on to suggest some solutions for backing-up and improving the signal, such that calamities might be avoided, such as awareness campaign so that users might begin to back-up their signals, R&D investments for new signal-enhancing technology, and probably the most practical – a plea to the UK government to ban jamming equipment. This kind of equipment can be bought for as low as 30$ and are used mostly by criminals to disrupt tracking signals for jacked cars.

I think the subjects begs for an interesting question to be pondered, how many of you know how to read a map?