Monday, November 28, 2011

Free imagery for WA

Earlier this month I reported on the release of new, free 30m DEM and Dynamic Land Cover data for Australia. And now there is new free imagery for Western Australia that will be of great use for mining and exploration industry: Satellite ASTER Geoscience Map of Western Australia.

Quoting from media release, “ASTER, Japanese imaging instrument flying on the US TERRA satellite, launched in December 1999, has 14 spectral bands spanning wavelengths sensitive to important rock forming minerals, including: iron oxides, clays, carbonates, quartz and “Hydrothermal” minerals such as muscovite and chlorite.”

“ASTER geoscience maps provide new mineral information not available from other current technologies. This new mineral information is valuable for more accurate mapping of the regolith cover that blankets much of Australia and finding those often small islands of bedrock materials, such as greenstones that may be associated with gold.”

The project was a collaboration between the Department of Mines and Petroleum’s (DMP) Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) and the Centre for Three Dimensional Mineral Mapping Centre of Excellence (C3DMM) and was led by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO).

The State ASTER maps have been carved into 1:1,000,000 mapsheets with individual file sizes reduced to ~100 MB each and can be downloaded for free in JPG2000 GeoTIFF format from CSIRO. The complete data set (~500 Gigabytes), is available from Geological Survey Western Australia product sales.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Coal seam gas exploration map

The topic of coal seam gas is very popular in media in recent months due to well publicised protests by farmers and overall uncertainty of the impact of coal seam gas exploration on the environment, and ground water in particular. Australian national broadcaster, ABC created an online, interactive educational guide that explains key issues under debate. It is titled Coal Seam Gas – By The Numbers.

As a part of this resource, ABC published a map containing information about location of wells and exploration leases granted to private companies so users can assess what activity is undertaken in their immediate neighbourhood.

Interestingly, it is not only rural areas that experience the coal seam gas rush. As reported by ABC, there are more than 100 wells at Camden, 60 kilometres south of Sydney. The NSW Government, unlike Queensland, has not moved to create no-mining buffer zones around urban areas. However, exploration lease over entire Greater Sydney, granted to Macquarie Energy Pty Ltd, appears to have expired on 22-Oct-11…

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bushfire season is on

Bushfire season 2011/12 started late but with venging – at least 30 properties have now been confirmed as damaged or destroyed by the fire which started about midday yesterday in Margaret River region of Western Australia. More than 400 fire fighters are battling the fire. Hundreds of people were evacuated but fortunately no fatalities.

Wet weather on the East Coast gave hope that it may be another quiet summer but unfortunately, West Coast doesn’t get much of that rain…

External link: map of current bushfires in Australia

Monday, November 21, 2011

New elevation and land cover data

Last week Geoscience Australia released a couple of new free data products for Australia: Digital Elevation Models (DEM) at 1 second (30m resolution) derived from the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (previously restricted only for research purposes) and Dynamic Land Cover, the first nationally consistent and thematically comprehensive land cover reference with 250m resolution.

The following are excerpts from respective media releases and posts on the Geoscience Australia web site:

“The new 30m DEM products improve our understanding of the national topography by producing digital elevation models at more than eighty times the resolution of the current national 9 second (250m) DEM”.

“The models were produced as part of a collaboration between Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology (Bureau), the CSIRO and the Australian National University who have produced a number of derived products for applications such as surface water management and floodplain mapping.”

“Geoscience Australia and the Bureau are already working on phase 3 of a national scale dataset that will integrate the new DEM with regional scale (best available) topographic data. The end result will be a more accurate determination of water course activity across the country enabling communities to better prepare for water related natural hazard .”

DEM data can be downloaded for free from the National Elevation Data Framework Portal administered by Geoscience Australia (limit of 400MB per download apply).

Land cover is the observed biophysical cover on the Earth’s surface including trees, shrubs, grasses, soils, exposed rocks and water bodies, as well as anthropogenic elements such as plantations, crops and built environments.”

“Produced in partnership with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), the land cover map and dataset will allow users to compare vegetation over time, at a national and local level, to monitor trends associated with short term changes brought on by cyclones, long term drought and bushfires, as well as cropping and broadacre agriculture.”

“Future updated versions of the map will identify actual changes in the land cover which could provide evidence of a need for action in areas such as water management and soil erosion, or that patterns of land use are changing due to economic, climatic or other factors.”

Grasslands are the dominand feature of Australia’s landscape, covering more than one third of the land area (37.1% or 2.8 million square kilometers).  Tree dominated landscapes cover 32.1%  or 2.5 million square kilometers. Shrubs cover 1.6 million square kilometers (20.7%) and intensive agriculture, including irrigated and rainfed cropping and improved pastures, cover less than 10% of Australia’s land area.

Data can be viewed online using 3D World Wind application (relevant Java framework has to be installed on the computer in order to view the application) or can be dwonloaded free of charge in GeoTiff format (~500MB).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sydney House Prices

On Monday Housing NSW published the latest set of housing related statistics – median rents and median sale prices - for postcodes in the Greater Metropolitan Region as well as for Local Government Areas. The information value of this dataset can be greatly enhanced by presenting it on a thematic map. For example, mapping median values allows to highlight the distribution of costly and less expensive areas within the largest capital city in Australia. And the picture is quite interesting… Explore by clicking on coloured polygons!

Direct links:
Sydney Median Prices Jun'11 by Postcode
Sydney Median Rents Sep'11 by Postcode
YoY Change in Median Prices Jun'11

Although this dataset does not attract any media headlines, it can prove quite invaluable for those hunting for a house (to buy or to rent), or for research into housing affordability and alleged property prices exuberance. Its main limitation is timeliness since sales stats refer to June quarter (so, are at least 5 months old) but rental stats are as current as you can get (ie. cover the latest September quarter). The main advantage of this dataset is that, unlike widely publicised median prices that relate to entire cities, it contains information on what is happening within small neighbourhoods around the city. The only housing related information I am aware of that covers small neighbourhoods and is published on a map, is Property Investment Map from

The maps above are the result of a quick exercise in matching attribute data (ie. Housing NSW data distributed in non-spatial format) with spatial boundaries (ie. ABS Postal Areas, 2011 edition), and presenting it visually using Google’s Fusion Tables and Google Map API. And although I haven’t put much effort into defining ranges in a more scientific way, they give a pretty good picture of what is happening with rental and property prices around the city.

Related Posts:
Maps and property investment
WA housing affordability index

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mapping Australian social diversity

In July I published a set of four maps presenting social diversity in the State of NSW. My post also included basic outline of the concept behind Socio Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) - a measure developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to describe socio-economic diversity of population residing in various localities throughout Australia. Today I would like to share the results of yet anther experiment with Google’s Fusion Tables – SEIFA indexes for all of Australia on a shareable map.

Mapping the distribution of values of different SEIFA measures gives quite an insight into the composition of population in various localities around Australia. Such maps could be used for all sorts of customer, market, business and policy analysis. Data is getting dated but is still the official version until the results from Census 2011 are released in the second part of 2012. Explore and see how your postcode is ranked against the neighbourhood!

Links to individual maps:
SEIFA’06 - Advantage/ Disadvantage
SEIFA’06 - Index of Disadvantage
SEIFA’06 - Index of Economic Resources
SEIFA’06 - Index of Education/ Occupation

For description of “what it all means”, please refer to may earlier post: Mapping social diversity in NSW.

I am testing Fusion Tables capabilities for creation of dynamic choropleth maps (ie thematic maps) so this time round, the shading of polygons is generated on the fly based on SQL query of attributes. Fusion Tables are quite responsive once it is all setup properly. There are still some issues with creating Fusion Tables with complex geometries and from several input files but that’s a topic for a separate post. I will only mention some frustration with data getting corrupted in Fusion Tables, even if they are not edited – I had to recreate all the boundaries since previous input table suddenly became “full of holes” with no apparent reason.

[UPDATE: Census 2011 version of SEIFA]

Related posts:
Postcode Finder featured by Google
Making maps with Fusion Tables
Shp data and Fusion Tables
Fusion Tables yet to ignite

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple 3D mapping quest

Online and mobile mapping apps is one area where, to date, Apple’s presence is practically non existent. So far the company is relying on mapping tools and technologies provided by competitors, such as Google. However, with the acquisition of a third company with mapping related IP over a period of 24 months, Apple seems to be determined to change this situation sooner rather than later.

Mapping and GIS capabilities are an integral part of any location based service (LBS) solution and underpin a plethora of mobile applications. The company needs its own set of mapping and GIS tools to further extend its success with the mobile devices, such as iPhone and iPad. It is therefore inevitable that Apple will become a formidable player in this field at some stage.

The acquisition of C3 Technologies, a Swedish company spun out of top secret military related capabilities developed by SAAB, has been kept under wraps for almost 3 months and only now some details emerged as to the buyer. In 2009, Apple bought Placebase, which specialized in customization and layering information on maps, and just last year Poly9 with a Google Earth-like application.

The attractiveness of the newly acquired by Apple technology is best illustrated with the following video.

It is not the first of its kind on the market but definitely the most attractive due to a very high resolution of processed 3D objects. I believe Yell was the first to create a browser based application to supplement its 2D online maps. Ordnance Survey has also declared its intention to create Map of the Future using a similar approach. And Microsoft’s Photosynth offers a “consumer grade” version of the technology that anyone can play with. Let’s see what Apple can do with it…