Mapping the World: Wikimedians and Biomes

Map of the World by Wikimedians

In the weeks since we released internationalized maps to all wikis, volunteers are mapping everything from subway stations in Korea to football stadiums in Italy. See a sample on this page.

The resulting maps are fascinating — and not just because of their size! Check out the Map Improvements 2018 project page to learn more.

Biomes

The game uses various biomes for terrains. Each one has its own unique flora and fauna, though some resources can be found in more than one biome. Animals, such as beefalo, usually spawn in a savanna or forest biome.

Besides the standard world map, the map features a detailed depiction of Africa and Asia, influenced by Ptolemy. However, Jerusalem is not located in the centre of Asia and Paradise is not depicted.

With version 5.0.0 the tundra, taiga and coniferous forests were overhauled. They now feature new styles of pine trees and ferns. Additionally, sandstone strata was added to the desert biome, and kelp and rooted coral were introduced in the oceans. This allowed the biomes to be pinned with Wikipedia articles using the wikidata= and wikipedia= tags. The pinned articles are displayed automatically when the player hovers over the corresponding point on the map. This is the same functionality used by AndroidGeo2ArticlesMap and other geo-aware apps.

Net Radiation

Net radiation represents the amount of energy that reaches Earth’s surface from sunlight. This energy influences the Earth’s climate and human comfort.

These maps of net radiation were created based on data from the Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. Places with more incoming energy than outgoing energy (positive net radiation) are yellow; places with less incoming energy than outgoing energy (negative net radiation) are red.

The monthly variations in net radiation illustrated in these maps can be explained by seasonal changes in incoming and outgoing energy. In particular, the net radiative imbalance becomes strongly positive at the solstices in December and June, when one hemisphere is tilted toward the sun and the other away from it.

These maps were produced using an in-house software program. The code is available on this Wikimedia page, along with an explanation of how it works. Eventually, we hope to use the program to allow articles about geographic features such as rivers or long streets to be enhanced by map images linked from OpenStreetMap.

Fires

Whether caused by human activity (agriculture, logging) or lightning strikes, wildfires can be devastating to ecosystems. Fires produce large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and can unintentionally degrade the soil. But in many biomes, like boreal forests and grasslands, plants have co-evolved with fire and need periodic burning to reproduce. These maps show the locations of fires on a monthly basis, as detected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite.

Each pixel represents a count of fires in a 1,000-square-kilometer area. White areas have the highest counts, while red ones have the lowest.

There is a global pattern of burning that repeats each year.

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