Blue Marble Monthly – October 2017 GIS Newsletter

Satellite Imagery

The Global Mapper Edition
Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

October’s newsletter focuses on Global Mapper and highlights the new features of recently released version 19. We introduce the latest blog post from Katrina Schweikert, one of Blue Marble’s Applications Specialists, in which she describes how Global Mapper helped resolve a drainage problem around her house. We also hear from Global Mapper Guru, Mike Childs who recently contributed to the Blue Marble blog with an entry in which he eulogizes about one of his favorite subjects: free online data. Finally, and as always, we challenge your geographic aptitude in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge with a brand new copy of Global Mapper v19 up for grabs for the lucky winner.

Global Mapper 19 Release

Product News | Global Mapper 19 Released

2017 marks twenty years since the aforementioned Mike Childs responded to a request from the USGS to develop a simple viewing tool for their burgeoning collection of public-domain datasets. In the intervening years, Global Mapper, into which the freeware application would eventually evolve, has established itself as a key player in the worldwide geospatial industry. Late last month, we proudly unveiled version 19 of this remarkable software with upgrades and improvements throughout the application.

Significant new functionality includes:

  • A new table-based attribute querying and editing tool
  • An innovative interactive utility for adjusting the terrain hillshade
  • Drag and drop window docking for improved multiview management
  • New support for online data for Canada and all 50 U.S. states
  • And much more

 

Watershed Analysis in Global Mapper

Projections | Estimating Property Modifications in Global Mapper

One of the benefits of the increased availability of local LiDAR data is the prospect of conducting high-precision analysis of terrain variability, especially in the context of drainage. This was the impetus behind a project recently undertaken by Blue Marble’s Katrina Schweikert. Having recently purchased a house close to Blue Marble’s headquarters in Hallowell, Maine, Katrina soon found out that there was a stream literally flowing through her unfinished basement. Read how Global Mapper was used to create a simulated model illustrating how the problem could be resolved.

 

Online Data Access in Global Mapper

Did You Know? | Free Online Data in Global Mapper

In a world in which streaming has become the norm, it is not surprising that much of the map data that we consume is increasingly being delivered through the internet. The benefits are obvious: real time updates and no local storage requirements. Did you know that Global Mapper includes easy access to immeasurable quantities of data from countless sources that are readily, and often freely, available within the Online Data component of the software? For the Global Mapper 19 release, we expanded the built-in online data services to include data for all 50 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces. Recently, we convinced Mike Childs to take a break from coding so he could share some insights into the online data options in Global Mapper.

 

Hillshade Rendering in Global Mapper

Webinars and Webcasts | What’s New in Global Mapper 19

On Thursday, October 12th, Blue Marble Application Specialists will be conducting a live webinar showcasing the highlights of the Global Mapper 19 release. This hour-long presentation is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Time), and it will provide an opportunity to see the latest tools and to ask questions about the new functionality. Space is limited, and registration is required so be sure to sign up today.

Previous 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.

 

October 2017 Geo-Challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Thank you to all who submitted an entry in September’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge. Check out the answers here. The randomly drawn winner and the recipient of a copy of Global Mapper is Ray Romano, Chief Designer at Persu Property Fund Pty Ltd in Australia. This month, another copy of Global Mapper is being offered to the winner so why not take the challenge.

 

See complete terms and conditions here. 

 

GEO1 Hangar

BMUC LA | Win a Helicopter Flight Over Los Angeles

Thinking of heading to the Blue Marble User Conference in Los Angeles? Now there’s another reason for you to sign up. Several attendees will be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the city from the air. Scheduled for November 15 and held in partnership with Blue Marble partner, GEO1, the event will include an onsite drawing to select the lucky participants. After the close of the meeting, the winners will accompany GEO1 technicians on a helicopter ride as they simulate their aerial data collection workflow while flying over the famous landmarks of LA. Space is limited and the registration deadline to be included in the drawing is October 13, so sign up today.

Upcoming Events

Visit Blue Marble at the following events:

2017 AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition | Washington DC | October 9 – 11

NYGEO Conference | Lake Placid, NY | October 17 – 19

Global Mapper & LiDAR Module Training | Ottawa, Canada | October 17 -19

Maine GIS User Group Meeting | Bangor, ME | October 20

2017 Texas GIS Forum | Austin, TX | October 23 – 27

Commercial UAV Expo | Las Vegas, NV | October 24 – 26

Fall Northeast Arc User Group Conference | Newport, RI | November 5 – 8

Global Mapper and LiDAR Module Training | Atlanta, GA | November 7 – 9

Where in the World September 2017 Answers

The Monthly Blue Marble Geo-Challenge — September 2017

Name the capital city? – Seoul

Seoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the Country? – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Name the Island? – Maui

Maui

Name the Body of Water? – The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar

Name the Desert? – The Namib Desert

The Namib Desert

Navigating a Volcanic Wilderness Using Global Mapper Mobile

Backpacking Trip in Haleakala National ParkJeffrey Hatzel
After earning a MSc. in GIS, gaining experience working in the GIS industry, and most importantly, having Global Mapper Mobile, I was prepared for my honeymoon — a backpacking trip in the Summit Area of Haleakalā National Park.

At the end of my very first week working for Blue Marble Geographics, the company had a small party. This gathering was to celebrate the successful release of our latest application for a mobile device, Global Mapper Mobile. As an active, outdoors-oriented person, I could immediately envision how useful an app like Global Mapper Mobile would be; mapping new running routes, hiking, hunting, camping, and of course, backpacking.

On my first trip into the back country six years ago with my wife (then girlfriend), I decided to make our trail maps, as we would be heading into the wilderness. As a GIS student and enthusiast, I was confident I could take what scant data I could find available from others’ trips into the Sage Creek Wilderness of Badlands National Park and make a decent reference map for our trip. While the trip was a phenomenally enjoyable success, I will say we could have saved a few miles with a better map. This memory was fresh in my mind as we planned part of our honeymoon — backpacking the Summit Area of Haleakalā National Park. However this time, after earning a MSc. in GIS, gaining experience working in the GIS industry, and most importantly, having Global Mapper Mobile, I was prepared!

The Goal: A Custom Reference Map

While the summit of Haleakalā Volcano is a wilderness, it is nowhere near as vast or remote as the back country in Badlands National Park. Trails of varying quality and some signage would be present throughout the volcanic crater, providing guidance to hikers. What I needed was a custom reference map for our planned hike. I wanted base imagery, with contour lines, our proposed hiking route, way-points, and a way to organize data I recorded from my device’s GPS.

Preparing the Data: Creating a Package File

Global Mapper Mobile requires a package file (Global Mapper Mobile Package or GMMP) in order to transfer data from PC to mobile device. The file is created on the PC in Global Mapper, exported to GMMP format, and sent to the mobile device. In planning for this trip — and really any use of Global Mapper Mobile — I had to organize my goals and properly create the package file to reflect my needs. Having found vector files of the trail we planned to hike, they were the first bit of data loaded into the Global Mapper desktop application. Using them as a reference, the Online Data Tool allowed me to download both base imagery and a terrain layer for the area.

Obtaining Terrain Data and Imagery from the Online Data ToolJeffrey Hatzel
The top screenshots show a view of the terrain data and imagery obtained from the Online Data Tool in Global Mapper, displayed with a vector line feature (red) representing our planned hiking route in the bottom screenshot.
Map in Global Mapper MobileJeffrey Hatzel
The map, when initially loaded into Global Mapper Mobile, zoomed in to show a portion of the first day’s hike.

At this point I was able to generate the final features for my map; contours and waypoints. When generating contours, it is important to understand scale. With the increasing popularity of high-resolution LiDAR data, fine scale terrain layers and contours are becoming the norm for many workflows. However, for a map covering over 4,000 feet of elevation change, high resolution contours would have been overwhelming. Since this map is being used for reference purposes and not high-precision work, I felt generating contours every 500 feet was appropriate.

In addition to contours, I wanted to represent our halfway point for this first day of our hike, along with our campsite location. I chose to stylize the campsite in Global Mapper with a built-in point style (Campground). Styles can be retained on export to GMMP, so I would have it on my device.

The last thing to consider, which again can be applied to any use of Global Mapper Mobile, is data recorded in the field and how that will be stored within the application. By default any data created in the field, whether manually or via GPS, will be saved to a default layer. The user also has the option to save it to another loaded layer, however, this has the potential to become confusing if multiple feature types and large amounts of data are being recorded, causing a headache when it comes to layer management. To address this, Global Mapper Mobile utilizes Feature Template layers. The Feature Template layer is created in Global Mapper and can then be exported as part of the GMMP, retaining any pre-determined styling, attributes, and other settings. Recorded field data can be added to the proper Feature Template layer as appropriate. The usefulness of such functionality is workflow- and use case-dependent. When initially creating my GMMP I decided that since I would not be recording a large amount of data in the field, it was unnecessary to create any Feature Template layers. I was comfortable using the default layers created when recording data.

In the Field: Quick Rendering and Recording GPS-Based Data

Standing on top of the Haleakalā Crater at roughly 10,000 feet was breathtaking. It felt as if we were standing on the edge of an alien world. After absorbing the majesty of it all for a few minutes, I decided to put Global Mapper Mobile to the test. The app responded quickly, easily loading the 400MB GMMP. I was able to pan across the entirety of the map, effortlessly zooming to the immediate trail ahead, with the application smoothly rendering my vector data, terrain layer, and the relatively high resolution imagery used for my base map. This seemed the perfect opportunity to record my first GPS-based piece of data, a picture point of my view.

Picture Point | GPS LocationJeffrey Hatzel
Left: The first GPS based picture point, taken at the top of the trail before heading into the crater. Right: Global Mapper responded efficiently, immediately displaying our location as I panned and zoomed into our first rest stop location.

At this point, the phone was packed away for the descent into the crater. As we made our way down the trail, miles of sand contrasted with the green of lush slopes along the crater, as clouds spilled over the crater rim. We approached our rest stop about 4 miles later, after having travelled over 2,000 feet down into the crater. Zooming in to our first rest stop as we approached allowed us to clearly see our location along the trail and even how the vector trail aligned to the bit of trail visible in the base map.

Two miles on from our rest stop, we had scrambled up and over a sandy rise. With another two miles to go before camp, I knew I’d have to put Global Mapper through some more tests today, as our hike out of the crater tomorrow would be much more challenging, requiring my full attention. I decided to create a picture point at the start of our last leg, and then begin recording our trail as we hiked. Global Mapper Mobile quickly opened up and centered on my location, reporting a strong GPS signal from my phone. A quick GPS-based picture point, the start of an auto-recorded line, and we were off. I had strapped my phone to my pack and set the GPS to beep with each recorded vertex, allowing me to “hear” the app running in the background as we hiked. The wind over the edge of the crater drowned it out, but I left the app do its job as we covered the final two miles.

The app successfully recorded the entirety of the last leg of our hike for the day. In the image above, the black picture point can be seen at the start of the recorded trail (black line) as we hiked northwest to Hōlua, where we would camp for the night, before the climb out of the crater the next morning.

Once our tent was set we sat down for a glamorous meal of what I like to call back country chicken curry, which is delicious after a day of hiking. I was able to sit and reflect on the day and all we had accomplished; the personal achievements and experiences … and of course Global Mapper Mobile.

Picture Point and Recorded Route in Global Mapper MobileJeffrey Hatzel
Top: Another picture point taken as the trail began to track through black sand, volcanic rock, and reddish hills. Bottom: After setting the app to automatically record our route based on GPS as we hiked the final leg of our first day, we could see the path we hiked (black) in relation to our proposed route (red).

Takeaways: A Successful Trip with a Versatile GIS Application

This was my first time using Global Mapper on a backcountry trip. The application’s versatility was perfect for all I threw at it. The app operated without any issues the entire day. It responded swiftly while zooming and panning across the map. Picture points were created and saved based on GPS locations. The app accurately tracked our path while strapped to my pack via automatic GPS recording for the few miles I had it running. I consider it a success.

Before saving my map, shutting the phone off, and packing it away for the remainder of my vacation, I thought, “Why not, one more picture point?”.
The last picture point of day. Sunset at our camp, located at the base of a nearly 1,300-foot climb we would have to make the following morning.

Last Picture Point of the DayJeffrey Hatzel
The last picture point of day. Sunset at our camp, located at the base of a nearly 1,300-foot climb we would have to make the following morning.

Jeffrey Hatzel


Jeffrey Hatzel is an Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics. He provides technical support, training, and leads demos and talks at industry events. Prior to joining Blue Marble in 2016, Hatzel earned his M.Sc. in GIS at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has experience teaching and studying GIS theory, along with utilizing GIS applications across a variety of real-world settings.

Blue Marble Monthly – September 2017 GIS Newsletter

Satellite Imagery

The Geographic Calculator Edition
Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

Before Global Mapper takes center stage with its pending version 19 release later in the month, we thought it would be a good idea to shift our focus to Geographic Calculator for the month of September. In this edition of Blue Marble Monthly, we showcase an introductory video covering the basic operation of the software and we hear from Sam Knight on the important role that Calculator will play with the introduction of the new North American datum in 2022. As always, a free copy of Global Mapper is up for grabs in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

Satellite Image of Hurricane

Hurricane Harvey | Blue Marble Calls for Support for Texas

When it was first introduced over two decades ago, Geographic Calculator filled a void in the field of geodesy and became a mainstay for companies and organizations whose business depends on geographic precision. Nowhere was the Calculator more enthusiastically embraced than in Houston, Texas, home to many of the world’s leading energy exploration, extraction, and processing companies. It is with deep sadness that we watch the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has wrought on a region that has become a second home to Blue Marble. While we are confident that the city will recover, the short term needs are immense. For this reason, we strongly encourage the Blue Marble user community to join us in supporting the relief effort. Please donate whatever you can to the Red Cross.


Global Mapper Free for Hurricane Harvey Recovery

Blue Marble is offering free licenses of Global Mapper to any agency or organization that is providing an essential service in response to Hurricane Harvey.

If you are involved in the the clean-up or rebuilding process and you have a need for GIS software, simply email info@bluemarblegeo.com to request a copy of Global Mapper for the duration of the disaster relief effort.

Access Hurricane Harvey Imagery in Global Mapper

Global Mapper users can now access daily imagery updates of the affected areas as a built-in WMS option. Click the Connect to Online Data button and browse to the Weather category to find the Hurricane Harvey imagery organized by date.

This 35 second video compares Hurricane Harvey imagery to imagery before the storm using the Image Swipe tool in Global Mapper.

Diagram of Tectonic Plates

Projections | Are you Ready for NATREF2022 to Replace NAD83?

If there was ever a compelling reason to sit up and pay attention to the discipline of geodesy in general and to the functionality of Geographic Calculator in particular, here it is. In a few years, the folks at the National Geodetic Survey plan to replace NAD83 with the new “North American Terrestrial Reference Frame of 2022”. What does that mean for you? In a recent blog post, Sam Knight, Blue Marble’s Director of Product Management sheds some light on the change.

 

Screenshot of Best Fit Tool in Geographic Calculator

Did You Know? | Geographic Calculator’s Best Fit Tool

When we consider coordinate systems, we usually assume that they are based on some sort of geographic framework, however this is not always the case. It is common for a localized system to be developed without adherence to a recognized geographic datum. Assuming there is consistency, the system will work fine in a closed environment, however, a problem arises when the inherent data must be referenced to a recognized system. Geographic Calculator’s Best Fit job solves this problem by establishing a geometric relationship between specific locations within the extent of the local data and measured ground control points. With the necessary transformation calculation determined, all other data points in the local system can be accurately converted to the recognized geographic system.

 

Geographic Calculator Webinar

Webinars and Webcasts | Geographic Calculator Introduction and Overview

If you have never used Geographic Calculator, this hour-long introductory video offers an excellent starting point for learning the software. Covering the basic layout and touching on the most commonly used features and functions, this presentation walks through several simulated data conversion and transformation processes. If you would like a more hands-on learning experience, download an evaluation copy of Geographic Calculator and look for the Getting Started Guide further down the downloads page.

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.

 

September 2017 Geo-Challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

The winner of August’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge is Minoek Van Dorp from Van Dorp Engineering. Minoek will be receiving a copy of Global Mapper after his name was randomly selected from those who correctly identified the five geographic locations. Check out the answers here to see how well you did. This month, another copy of Global Mapper will be handed out to one lucky entrant.

See complete terms and conditions here. 

 

BMUC presentation

Events | Blue Marble User Conferences and More

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 approach 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 industries 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.

Upcoming Events

Visit with Blue Marble at the following events:

GIS in the Rockies | Denver, CO | September 20 – 21

INTERGEO | Berlin, Germany | September 26 – 28

Blue Marble User Conference | Portland, ME | September 29

Illinois GIS Association 2017 Annual Conference | Normal, IL | October 2 – 4

Pipeline Week | Houston, TX | October 3 – 4

Drone World Expo | San Jose, CA | October 3 – 4

Texas Municipal League Annual Conference & Exhibition | Houston, TX | October 3 – 6

2017 AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition | Washington DC | October 9 – 11

NYGEO Conference | Lake Placid, NY | October 17 – 19

Global Mapper & LiDAR Module Training | Ottawa, Canada | October 17 -19

Maine GIS User Group Meeting | Bangor, ME | October 20

2017 Texas GIS Forum | Austin, TX | October 23 – 27

Commercial UAV Expo | Las Vegas, NV | October 24 – 26

What’s in a Name? | The North American Terrestrial Reference Frame of 2022 is Replacing NAD83

Four new reference frames of 2022Chelsea Ellis

There are going to be four new reference frames that will be introduced in 2022: One each for the Continental US/Canada/Mexico; the Mariana [tectonic] plate; the Pacific plate; and the Caribbean, each with similarly abbreviated names.

For the past five years, the folks at the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) have been speaking at events around the country and around the internet about the 10-year plan under which they are operating. Among the items on the list are a few that we in the geospatial industry need to start thinking about. We’ve been hearing presentations on GRAV-D, HTDP Replacement, NSRS Modernization, and many other acronyms. A couple months ago, there was a new one: NATRF2022. This was one of the main takeaways from the NGS Geospatial Summit, held in Silver Springs, Maryland near the agency’s headquarters. The NGS folks say NATRF2022 as “Nat-reff” in a way that makes you think “National Reference but that’s not actually what it stands for. Let’s dig in.

Why Terrestrial Reference Frame and not Datum?

NATREF2022 stands for “North American Terrestrial Reference Frame of 2022”. It is going to be the new national reference, replacing NAD83. So why “Terrestrial Reference Frame”, and not “Datum”? On the NGS web site, the page that has all the information about the new systems is titled “New Datums”, so one might infer that they mean pretty much the same thing; they do. The difference is at an academic level. Geodesy is an interesting field because there are subtle nuances to word definitions, and slight differences to how those words are used in other mathematical sciences such as geometry. “Datum” in a mathematical sense, is simply a singular form of “data”. In geodesy, this indicates a single point from which to begin measurement in a relative measure. Classically, our geodetic datums are formed from the location of a single place of reference such as an astronomical observatory. In modern systems, they are formed by a network of points that are geometrically related into a single collective, a sum of many parts, rather than relying on the single point as an anchor definition. So rather than defining it by a single point out of many, it is recognized as a geometric network, and the reference that network provides is a Geometric Reference Frame.

I’m going to say it: Conceptually, a geometric reference frame is just a new datum.

To the GIS practitioner, map maker, or surveyor, they provide the starting point and context for our relative descriptions of location. Geometric Reference Frame is currently the popular term in geodesy. It is academically appropriate and conveniently serves as a way to make the new name different from the old, which in this case I can get behind. Can you imagine reading someone’s sloppy handwritten field notes of NAD27 vs NAD22? It would invite disaster. Sometimes, change for the sake of change is not a bad thing. So aside from a mouthful, what are we getting?

From “Fixed” to Time-Based Reference Frames

There are actually going to be four new reference frames: One each for the Continental US/Canada/Mexico; the Mariana [tectonic] plate; the Pacific plate; and the Caribbean, each with similarly abbreviated names. We’ve never had that kind of unified coverage before, so that’s pretty cool. Each of these frames will be plate-fixed, but also, at the time of realization, geocentric. This gets right to the heart of why this is happening now. As it turns out, NAD83 wasn’t as geocentric as intended when it was created. That is to say, the middle of the datum should theoretically have been at the geocenter but it wasn’t; it was off by about two meters.

NAD83 diagramChelsea Ellis
The middle of the datum NAD83 should theoretically have been at the geocenter when it was created, but it wasn’t. It was actually off by about two meters. As tectonic plates moved over time, the effect of this offset grew and could no longer be ignored.

Over time, with tectonic motion, the effect of this offset grew and its effect on surface positions could no longer be ignored. What does that mean? Well, most of our positioning work in modern times is done based on GNSS devices (Global Navigation Satellite System), GNSS by nature is geocentric since the positions are calculated from satellites which orbit the center of mass of the planet. If our national reference frame is not geocentrically related, then it is not directly compatible with GNSS. As motion continues into the future, the new models will acknowledge this and will dynamically change over time following the rotations and motions of the plates. This is necessary because if we are working on the surface of a plate that is moving relative to the geocenter, we need to track that motion if our survey devices stay with the geocenter. So once again, the new models are fundamentally different from the old and a significantly different name will really help to acknowledge that. This is going to require a new mindset for a lot of GIS users. Right now, many still deal with coordinates in “fixed” reference frames where we may acknowledge a reference epoch (date), but that date isn’t actually used for anything other than metadata. Time-based coordinates are inevitable in the future, so it’s time to start getting comfortable with them.

One question I heard directed to the NGS at the Summit was along the lines of, “If we’re just going to have to update again in a few years, why don’t you fix the problem at 2022 so we don’t have to deal with it again?” The problem here is not with the system that needs to be updated (with the implication being that it is flawed now), but in our understanding of the system we’re moving to. We are currently using a system in which we don’t acknowledge that things move and a lot of people have come up through their careers comfortable with there being a fixed relationship between any two given coordinate systems. We are moving to a system where time is not only a factor, but is fully acknowledged as necessary in a moving system. Data epoch is no longer optional. We need to know where our data was and when it was there in order to know where it is a few years later.

Under the hood of this new name NATRF2022, we are adding an entire dimension of measurement, and that’s far more exciting than adding a few new words in the name of the datum.

Preparing for the New Reference Frames of 2022

Over the next few years, we will need to make a few fundamental changes to GIS in order to be ready. First and foremost, we need to make sure our colleagues are comfortable with the new terminology and the concepts of time itself as being an important part of position. After the new systems are in place, we will likely also have new projected coordinate reference systems to deal with. It is very likely that we will have new versions of the US State Plane coordinate system zones. Furthermore, many states are undergoing a push to support new Low Distortion Projections such as the efforts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Iowa, and others.  With 4 new plate models, we’re also going to have new Coordinate Transformations to relate them to each other and the older systems, the new reference frames will require it.

As a key player in the geospatial software industry, Blue Marble is already working on changes to our software in preparation for the upcoming new reference frames. Much of this will be invisible in our tools for the time being, while other components are already there, such as epoch settings, transformations that are not stuck to WGS84, and the ability to dynamically bring in new parameters to the database. We have been paying attention and are ready for the coming changes and will strive to help our users be ready, too, as we all learn exactly what these new reference frames will look like over the next five years. As an industry, we have grown very comfortable and perhaps complacent with our systems and transformations in the US for some time. Change is coming, and the time to prepare is now.


Sam Knight


Sam Knight is the Director of Product Management for Blue Marble Geographics. With Blue Marble for over 13 years, Sam has lead hundreds of GIS and Geodetics courses and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, trying to make tricky geodetics concepts accessible at a practical level.

Estimating Property Modifications in Global Mapper

Connecting to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.
Connecting to the US NAIP high-resolution imagery.

 

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.

Finding Data in Global Mapper

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.

Using the Digitizer tool
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.

Cleaning up LiDAR Data in Global Mapper

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.

Raw LiDAR Data
Cleaning up and improving the classification of LiDAR points with the Automatic Classification tool.

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.

Classified LiDAR Data
Note the edges of the property boundary in blue on the profile window. There are some trees on both sides.

Applying Colors to a Point Cloud in Global Mapper

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.

View From the House in LiDAR Data
Looking down at the Kennebec River from my property with 3D colorized LiDAR points.
CIR
False color infrared (IR) display of the points highlights the coniferous vegetation and other late autumn greenery in red.
House Profile in False Color IR
Profile of the false color IR with the house in the middle.

Estimating Property Modifications with Global Mapper

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.

Drainage area that flows through the house and garage
Drainage area that flows through the house and garage shown in pink.

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.

I create a line for a back drainage that would allow water to flow off of the property.

Finally, I measure the volume of soil to be removed, and calculate the benching and terracing for the back retaining wall.

Site Plan Volume
Measuring the volume of soil to be removed for the drainage plan.

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.

Cross sectional path profile view of property
A cross sectional path profile view shows the new drainage line compared to the original terrain and classified LiDAR data.

 

Modified Drainage Watershed
Flow modeling shows how the terrain modification improves the flow of water around the back of the house.

 

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
Katrina Schweikert


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.

A World of Free, Quality GIS Data: Global Mapper’s Online Data Access

The Online Service Now Includes Data for all 50 States

Global Mapper Online Data access
The Online Data access in Global Mapper™ provides streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps.

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?

Global Mapper’s Online Data Access

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.

Online terrain data in Global Mapper
What is unique about Global Mapper is that you also get access to multiple sources of streaming terrain data for the entire world.

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:

  • SRTM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (excluding polar regions)
  • ASTER GDEM 1-arc-second (30m) – Worldwide Terrain Data (including most of polar regions)
  • USGS NED 1/3rd Arc Second (10m) Resolution – Terrain for the Entire Continental US
  • [COMING SOON] US 3DEP 10m Resolution – Terrain for Entire US (Including Hawaii and Alaska)

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).

Online imagery in Global Mapper
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.

Add Your Own Data Sources to Global Mapper

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!

NOTE: For more blog entries on Global Mapper, see:
Got LiDAR? Now What?,
  Global Mapper for UAV Operations,  The Myth of Free GIS — A Lesson from Nelson


Mike Childs

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.

Blue Marble Monthly – August 2017 GIS Newsletter

Satellite Imagery

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

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.

Sun rising over Earth


Projections
  |  Blue Marble Supports Research on Climate Change

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.

 

Wind farm planning in Global Mapper


Blue Marble at Work
  |  Global Mapper for Wind Energy

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.

 

Shaded south-facing slopes in Global Mapper


Did You Know?
 |  Global Mapper’s Slope Shader

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.

 

Geographic Calculator Webinar


Webinars and Webcasts  |  Georeferencing in Geographic Calculator

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.

 

August geo-challenge


Where in the World? Geo-Challenge

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.

 

See complete terms and conditions here. 

 

BMUC presentation

Events  |  Blue Marble User Conferences and More

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.

Upcoming Events

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