The Monthly Blue Marble Geo-Challenge — August 2017
Name the capital city? – Paris
Name the Country? – Maldives
Name the Island? – Tasmania
Name the Body of Water? – Red Sea
Name the Mountain? – Kilimanjaro
Name the capital city? – Paris
Name the Country? – Maldives
Name the Island? – Tasmania
Name the Body of Water? – Red Sea
Name the Mountain? – Kilimanjaro
I recently purchased a house in Hallowell, Maine, where the Blue Marble Geographics office is located. Hallowell is a teeny tiny city with lots of historic homes that sit on a rather large hill overlooking the Kennebec River. One aspect of my historic fixer-upper property that needs some work is the drainage. I have decided to explore drainage solutions by estimating property modifications using Global Mapper and publicly available data.
The first step is finding the right data. So, to start with, I use the search tool in Global Mapper to create a point feature at my address. I also change the projection to something that works for the area, such as the State Plane projection for Maine. Next, with the online data tool, I easily connect to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.
The State of Maine GIS site, MEGIS, has a number of other helpful layers that can be added. Vector data can be downloaded as shapefiles using a web browser and can be loaded into Global Mapper by simply dragging the files into the software. Like a lot of states, Maine’s GIS site also offers web services that can be added to the list of online sources in the software. For my project, I need the outline of my individual property, so, I first download the property parcels layer for the entire city and drag the downloaded zip file onto the map to import it. I use the Digitizer to select my property and then use CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy it to a new layer.
What I really need for this analysis is some high-resolution terrain data, and luckily my property is close enough to the coast to be included in the NOAA coastal LiDAR data. I use the online data source tool again to search the Digital Coast for data that matches my current map bounds.
A quick look at the LiDAR data confirms that it contains preexisting point classifications, including a lot of points marked as noise that look fine to me.
My first task is to clean up and then improve the classification with the Automatic Classification tools. Using the Path Profile tool, which renders a lateral view of the point cloud data, I can clean the data up even more with some manual editing, since it is such a small area that I am interested in.
The Maine GIS site also provides 4-band ortho-imagery that was collected in a similar time frame to the publicly available LiDAR data. From that imagery, I apply the RGB color values to my point cloud using the Apply Color tool, which improves the point cloud analysis capability and creates an interesting visual perspective of the data. The imagery is leaf-off, so it does not match up perfectly with the point cloud, but it adds some detail that can help with identification and analysis.
After creating a terrain surface from the classified and filtered LiDAR data, I estimate the modifications that are needed to improve the drainage around the base of the house.
Using the new Breakline and Hydro-flattening tools, I create a flattened foundation by applying a height to the buildings in the terrain modeling process. Next, using the Watershed tool, I see the current drainage problem.
By using the digitizer tool and calculating the elevations, I create a line for a back drainage that would allow water to flow from start to finish. Then using buffering and site planning tools, I create a modified terrain surface that will calculate the necessary terrain modification.
Finally, I measure the volume of soil to be removed, and calculate the benching and terracing for the back retaining wall.
After the modification, the drainage from the back of the house to the road is much better. I am also glad to have some warning of just how much dirt removal a plan like this will involve.
I am still considering options for creating a small pond, ending with a tile drain, and many other possibilities. But thanks to freely available data and some quick calculating and visualization with Global Mapper, I have a much better sense of the scope of this project and what the final results might look like.
Katrina Schweikert is an Application Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics. She provides technical support, training, and software documentation. Katrina has over five years of professional experience in GIS, a GIS certificate from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a degree in Geography from Middlebury College. She is happy to be working in technology back in her home state, as well as meeting GIS users across the globe.
Starting a GIS project can often seem like a daunting task. When presented with a blank canvas or low resolution background map you may wonder how to get started. In a typical case, you have a few small data files in some format (like one of the 300 or so that Global Mapper supports) for your project area. However, just a few lines and points on a blank background do not provide much context and certainly nothing you would want to present to a customer. Where does one go for online data access to find additional high quality data?
Luckily there is a vast quantity of free online data ready to stream right into your project to give it meaning. The Online Data services in Global Mapper provide streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps. For the Global Mapper 19 release, the services were expanded to include data for all 50 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.
Access to streaming raster map data is pretty standard stuff. After all, everyone has used Google Maps or another online mapping service at one time or another. What is unique about Global Mapper is that you also get access to multiple sources of streaming terrain data for the entire world. These are not pre-rendered hill-shade images of terrain, but the raw terrain data itself, ready for use in any terrain-enabled function, like contour generation, view shed, path profile, 3D display, and stream generation.
We have built in access to the following terrain data sources, hosted right on our servers in the hyper-efficient GMG (Global Mapper Grid) format for maximum speed:
For users working in environmental and wind power fields, we have tiled and hosted a number of land cover data sets for streaming, including the CORINE data for Europe, the NLCD data for the US, and ESA CCI data for the entire world. The NASA GIBS sources provide daily updates from several NASA satellite sensors, allowing you to pull in things like global-scale imagery, snow and sea ice cover, and temperature data for any desired date. You might pull in a couple of different dates and use the Image Swipe Tool to compare the conditions at different times or perhaps you will want to conduct some more complicated change detection analysis using any number of appropriate tools in Global Mapper (raster calculator, volume calculations, etc).
While Global Mapper has a huge variety of built-in sources, we can’t even begin to include all of the streaming data sources available. We provide a mechanism on the Online Data dialog to add your own sources to the built-in list, allowing you to stream data from them just like any other source. All of the OGC standard source types are supported, like WMS/WMTS for streaming raster maps, WFS for vector data sets, and WCS for downloading individual data files for a defined area. Pre-tiled imagery and terrain data sets are also supported using the OSM (OpenStreetMaps), TMS (Tiled Map Service), and Google Maps tile schemas. You simply need to select the appropriate source type and provide the service URL from the data provider and Global Mapper should handle the rest.
Finally, if you have your own collection of data that you want to host as a streaming source, Global Mapper provides the means to distribute your data in to the tiles that GIS software can handle. The web export option allows you to export any loaded data to JPG or PNG tiles (as appropriate) with the appropriate folder and filename structure for upload to a server for streaming access on an internal or external network. Support even exists for creating an OSM tile set with GMG (Global Mapper Grid) tiles so you can create your own streaming terrain (or other gridded) data source in Global Mapper. User-created streaming sources provided a way for you to host your data once and allow your colleagues and customers to browse the data quickly without needing to download many GB (or TB) of data. You can even choose to create a sample web page for embedding your data in the Google Maps or Bing Maps interface in a web page, or browse it in WorldWind!
We are constantly adding to our default list of free online data so if you have a particular dataset that you think others would like to have access please let us know. We will do our best to add it in the release version as soon as possible. And remember to stay current with our updates to Global Mapper so you always have the latest data and fastest way to consume it. Happy mapping!
Mike Childs is currently the Global Mapper Guru at Blue Marble Geographics. Mike was the original developer of Global Mapper and has over 20 years of experience developing mapping/GIS applications. He has been with Blue Marble Geographics since 2011, when Blue Marble acquired Global Mapper.
This month, we tip our hats to the alternative energy sector. No longer a fringe business, wind, solar, and other sustainable and renewable energy production industries are now very much in the mainstream. In this issue we hear from Blue Marble President Patrick Cunningham on the company’s position on the science of climate change. We explore the use of Global Mapper in the wind farm development process. We uncover a component of Global Mapper that has proven to be invaluable for solar farm development; and as always, we give you a chance to win a copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.
One of the most compelling and rewarding aspects of working at Blue Marble is the incredible diversity of customer stories we hear on a daily basis. On any given day, our sales and support teams might speak with agricultural technicians in Australia; climate researchers in Northern Canada; coastal geomorphology analysts in the Pacific Islands; or wind farm developers in Ireland. The common denominator among these and countless others in the Blue Marble community is that their work is founded on thorough scientific study. Unfortunately, in today’s world, the very nature of science is being systematically undermined in favor of overtly commercial interests. In a recent blog post, Patrick Cunningham, Blue Marble President shares some views on the subject.
More often than not, the most effective means of communication is visual so to that end, David McKittrick, Senior Applications Specialist at Blue Marble, recently recorded a short video in which he introduces several components of Global Mapper that are especially relevant for wind energy production. Using a series of simulated workflows, David’s video covers wind resource mapping; roughness analysis; ridgeline delineation; wind turbine placement; 3D turbine modeling; and much more.
Visualization and analysis of terrain data are some of the most important features of Global Mapper and the software includes several pre-configured shaders that can be used to clearly denote variation and patterns in elevation. Less well-known features, however, are a couple of shader options for rendering slope angle — a valuable tool for determining optimal sites for solar farm development. The Slope Shader applies colors to distinguish the steepness of the slope at any given location and the Slope Direction Shader indicates the bearing of the slope, which indicates areas with maximum sun exposure. Both of these options are available in the Shader drop-down list in Global Mapper’s toolbar.
August’s featured webcast focuses on the process of georeferencing in Geographic Calculator. Simply defined as the procedure for applying geographic intelligence to an image or other raster layer, the georeferencer is used to precisely place control marks and takes advantage of high order polynomial transformations to suit everything from a small scale scan of localized area out to large scale continent views. Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at the Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.
The winner of July’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge is Steven Coombes. Steven’s name was drawn at random from those who correctly identified the five locations. To see how well you did, here are July’s answers. Want to test your geographic aptitude? Another copy of Global Mapper is up for grabs in August’s challenge. The answers to July’s challenge are here. This month, another five locations await your scrutiny with a copy of Global Mapper on the line.
Four down; two to go. So far in 2017, the Blue Marble User Conference (BMUC) has made stops in Calgary, the Washington DC area, Amsterdam, and San Diego. As we appraoach the last few months of the year, our attention turns to our home state of Maine and our final stop in Los Angeles. BMUC is an informal gathering of geospatial professionals representing a wide variety of industies who share a common interest in Blue Marble’s GIS and geodetic technology. Registration is now open for the final two events of 2017 and space is limited.
Visit with Blue Marble at the following events:
Geospatial PDF Working Group | Reston, VA | August 9
FOSS4G Annual International Gathering | Boston, MA | August 14 – 19
Kentucky GIS Conference | Louisville, KY | September 5 – 7
GIS in the Rockies | Denver, CO | September 20 – 21
INTERGEO | Berlin, Germany | September 26 – 28
Blue Marble User Conference | Portland, ME | September 29
Blue Marble Geographics is a geospatial software company with customers throughout the world in all types of industries. Our customers are typically, though not always, geoscientists across all disciplines who analyze the world and create products for their companies and organizations based on the results of their scientific work. Surveyors, software developers, soil scientists, academics, biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, geophysicists, geologists, hydrologists, cartographers and of course geographers are all using Blue Marble products to help us gain a better understanding of the natural mechanisms of the planet and the impact of human activity on these natural processes. Many are focused on measuring change in our world, specifically in the area of climate change. We stand with these scientists and support the research they have done, both directly and indirectly, to assist with the development and hopefully fulfillment of international climate treaties such as the Paris Climate Accord. Blue Marble accepts the findings of the vast majority of the global scientific community that unanimously concludes that climate change is exacerbated by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases that are the result of human activity. This, we believe, is a proven fact as supported by the peer reviewed scientific community.
Unfortunately, there is a political constituency in the United States that has swayed some of the public into believing that this reality is not true. Recently, this issue came to the forefront when the current Administration decided to have the U.S. join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world that are not bound by the findings of the Paris Accord, despite overwhelming international and domestic public opinion.
The ongoing conflict between politics and science is one that many of our customers deal with on a daily basis and in the current political climate, these conflicts are becoming much more divisive.
Many users are familiar with the Global Mapper COAST extension, a free add-on to the software for measuring the financial impact of both severe coastal storms and sea level rise, both of which have been scientifically attributed to climate change. This tool is used to model impact from storms and sea level rise based on historical data and to create an adaption technology, such as a sea wall or a dam, to mitigate the effects of flooding. The costs of damage based on flooding and the costs of adaption are factored in to develop a return on investment or total cost of ownership calculation along with a GIS mapping model. Coastal communities are using this tool to make decisions about how to protect their assets or property of concern.
Historic data can be analyzed to gauge the most likely outcome with a given set of circumstances or, alternatively, it can be modeled to the subject’s belief in what will happen. The consultants for whom this extension was originally developed, found this to be a very useful feature when dealing with clients who wanted to argue that sea level rise is not occurring. It is a true statement of the times we live in when coastal communities aren’t prepared to acknowledge that flooding can be directly attributable to human-induced climate change, even after being presented with compelling evidence of an increased likelihood of future catastrophic flooding events. It is a strange contradiction.
Today in the U.S. in particular we are faced with a government that not only refutes the findings and recommendations of the Paris Climate Accord, but that is actively attempting to silence and/or remove climate scientists from government along with restricting the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other similar institutions. We see the effects of these efforts resulting in alt-Twitter accounts, whistle blower YouTube videos and unfortunately the potential for some scientists leaving their government jobs to pursue careers in the private sector where they can continue their work. Blue Marble supports these agencies and wants all of our customers to know that we value the Paris Climate Accord and the necessary and good work of all scientists. We thank you for your work and we’ve got your back!
Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management. Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.
Name the capital city? – Port of Spain
Name the river? – Colorado River
Name the country? – Togo
Name the island? – Corsica (Corse)
Name the lake? – Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)