100 years after Scott

This week marks the 100 year anniversary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. I would imagine that you all know who Scott was and what happened on his final attempt to reach the South Pole before Amundsen, if you need a quick refresher then take a look at the excellent article on the BGS website.

Image courtesy of The Scott Polar Research Institute – Image Ref – P2005/5/1704

To mark this anniversary i thought i would compile a list of Antarctic related geospatial resources.  Any excuse to delve back into polar science.


  • Sharegeo – there are a couple of datasets of interest on Sharegeo such as the 2012 inventory of glaciers and a Global Permafrost map.
  • World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) – compiles the annual inventory of glacier mass balance and maintains a number of other ice related datasets. Not specifically Antarctica focused, but a good global resource.
  • RAMP – Radarsat Antarctic Mapping Project (RAMP) created a high-resolution DEM of Antarctica.  DEMs are available with a 1km, 400m or 200m cell posting and are provided as ARC/INFO and binary grids. The 1Km and 400m grids are also available in ASCII format. RAMP DEM was created and is hosted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
  • GLIMS – The GLIMS glacier database is a searchable database of glacier information. GLIMS makes it easier to find out the physical attributes of glaciers around the world.
  • Community Ice Sheet Model – This project, run by the University of Montana, pulls together data that could be used to model the Antarctic ice sheet. It also supply’s code that allows you to run scenario models on the present ice sheet. Data is generally in grid (NetCDF) format.
  • NOAA – NOAA Paleoclimatology gateway provides access to ice core data for Antarctica.  Ice cores are available for a range of locations across the continent and there are some pre-processed comparissons of the asynchorny of Antarctica and Greenland.
  • ESF Research – ESF provides access to data such as global surface seawater dimethylsulfide, biological data (bacterial biomass, bacterial productivity, and UV irradiance data.

Data/Metadata Discovery Portals:

  • National Snow and Ice Data Center – NSIDC is a huge resource and i could spend hours sifting through data.  There is little point trying to list everything NSIDC hold, or make available but highlights include RAMP (see above), searchable database of glacier photos, MODIS imagery and the GLIMS glacier database.
  • Australian Antarctic Data Centre: a massive resource that contains satellite images, maps, ecology, biology and marine data.  Licence restrictions vary depending on the data type and source. In terms of getting your hands on the data itself, the best section to head to is the Data Navigator.  You need to register an account but this is free and takes 2 minutes.
    Some of the other data sources, such as the satellite data is not available to download directly from the AADC, the search facility gives you the metadata that should point you at the data custodian.  I would say that the site could usefully provide links to the data custodians but at least for satellite imagery they don’t appear to do so.
  • British Antarctic Survey (BAS) – BAS have a metadata discovery system which allows ou to explore their data spatially, temporarily and by category.  There are a few datasets in the discovery service but most are just the metadata.
  • SCAR Geoscience Map Catalogue – Jointly hosted with BAS, the SCAR Geoscience metadata catalogue provides a pretty extensive listing of maps of Antarctica.  No preview of the the sheet is provided so this is really a starting point for maps searches as you at least find out what is available, when it was created and at what scale.
  • AMRC & AWS – hosted and maintained by the University of Wisconsin – Madison, this portal contains the latest meteorological and atmospheric observations as well as a selection of satellite images of Antarctica.
  • Cool Antarctica – a fairly comprehensive source of climate data for Antarctica. This site is run by an enthusiastic ex-BAS employee

The list is not exhaustive and I will have to leave it there for this week. I will keep adding to this list, if you find any relevant resources please feel free to add a comment pointing to the resource and i will add it o the list.


Image generated using http://kartograph.org/showcase/projections/#stereo

Connecting archives with linked geodata – Part II

This is part two of a blog starting with a presentation about the Chalice project and our aim to create a 1000-year place-name gazetteer, available as linked data, text-mined from volumes of the English Place Name Survey.

Something else i’ve been organising is a web service called Unlock; it offers a gazetteer search service that searches with, and returns, shapes rather than just points for place-names. It has its origins in a 2001 project called GeoCrossWalk, extracting shapes from MasterMap and other Ordnance Survey data sources and making them available under a research-only license in the UK, available to subscribers to EDINA’s Digimap service.

Now that so much open geodata is out there, Unlock now contains an open data place search service, indexing and interconnecting the different sources of shapes that match up to names. It has geonames and the OS Open Data sources in it, adding search of Natural Earth data in short order, looking at ways to enhance what others (Nominatim, LinkedGeoData) are already doing with search and re-use of OpenStreetmap data.

The gazetteer search service sits alongside a placename text mining service. However, the text mining service is tuned to contemporary text (American news sources), and a lot of that also has to do with data availability and sharing of models, sets of training data. The more interesting use cases are in archive mining, of semi-unusual, semi-structured sets of documents and records (parliamentary proceedings, or historical population reports, parish and council records). Anything that is recorded will yield data, *is* data, back to the earliest written records we have.

Place-names can provide a kind of universal key to interpreting the written record. Social organisation may change completely, but the land remembers, and place-names remain the same. Through the prism of place-names one can glimpse pre-history; not just what remains of those people wealthy enough to create *stuff* that lasted, but of everybody who otherwise vanished without trace.

The other reason I’m here at FOSS4G; to ask for help. We (the authors of the text mining tools at the Language Technology Group, colleagues at EDINA, smart funders at JISC) want to put together a proper open source distribution of the core components of our work, for others to customise, extend, and work with us on.

We could use advice – the Software Sustainability Institute is one place we are turning for advice on managing an open source release and, hopefully, community. OSS Watch supported us in structuring an open source business case.

Transition to a world that is open by default turns out to be more difficult than one would think. It’s hard to get many minds to look in the same direction at the same time. Maybe legacy problems, kludges either technical, or social, or even emotional, arise to mess things up when we try to act in the clear.

We could use practical advice on managing an open source release of our work to make it as self-sustaining as possible. In the short term; how best to structure a repository for collaboration, for branching and merging; where we should most usefully focus efforts at documentation; how to automate the process of testing to free up effort where it can be more creative; how to find the benefits in moving the process of working, from a closed to an open world.

The Chalice project has a sourceforge repository where we’ve been putting the code the EDINA team has been working on; this includes an evolution of Unlock’s web service API, and user interface / annotation code from Addressing History. We’re now working on the best way to synchronise work-in-progress with currently published, GPL-licensed components from LTG, more pieces of the pipeline making up the “Edinburgh geoparser” and other things…