Category Archives: Storytelling with Maps

National Park Service Second Century of Service Starts with WebGIS

By Stephen K. Bryce, Esri Federal Government Expert

Since August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, and continuing on through June 24, 2016, when the NPS added its 412th site, Stonewall National Monument, maps have communicated the importance of the nation’s most valued treasures. For a century NPS has created maps for survey, preservation, conservation, planning, tourism, search and rescue, facilities management, and more. Beginning its second century of custodial care, the NPS is modernizing web flows by bringing web GIS services into the mainstream of its map production.

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Seeing Beyond the Visible

The electromagnetic spectrum

In the early history of powered aircraft, aerial photographs—pictures of the earth from above—began to be found useful for military and scientific applications. Quite quickly, imaging professionals and scientists realized that it was possible to detect beyond what is visible to the unassisted human eye. Deeper and richer information could be revealed by detecting waveforms from beyond the rainbow of visible light, into the invisible. As it turns out, these hard-to-detect realms of the spectrum offered some of the most meaningful insights. Hidden in these signals were previously unknown facts about Earth that have enabled us to understand our world far more effectively than had been possible.

Many of these sensors measure bands across the electromagnetic spectrum and are known as Electro-Optic (EO) sensors. They record energy wavelengths from the sun that are reflected off or emitted from everything on the ground. These electromagnetic signals include visible light, infrared, and other frequency bands across the reflected energy spectrum.

Multispectral imagery: Enabling extrasensory perception

One of the most extraordinary types of imagery collected by remote sensing is multispectral imagery. Each image is composed of data from a series of onboard sensors that collect small slices (or bands) across the electromagnetic spectrum. The table below shows the complete list of wavelengths (expressed as bands) that are collected by the Landsat 8 imagery according to what they capture. The images below are examples of what you “see” by combining different bands into red, green, and blue electronic displays or hard-copy prints.

Image bands for Landsat 8 can be combined to create a number of scientific data layers used for research and analysis. For details, visit USGS Landsat online.

Natural color

The Natural Color (bands 4, 3, 2) combination of red, green, and blue is well suited for broad-based analysis of both terrestrial and underwater features and for urban studies.

Color infrared         

Color infrared photography, often called false color photography because it renders the scene in colors other than those normally seen by the human eye, is widely used for interpretation of natural resources.

Land and water interface

Landsat GLS Land and Water Boundary (bands 4, 5, 3) emphasizes the edges between land and water.

Vegetation analysis

This 6, 5, 4 band combination shows irrigated vegetation as bright green. Soils appear as tan, brown, and mauve.

Multispectral band combinations

Multispectral imagery measures different ranges of frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. One way to think of these different frequencies is as colors, where some colors are not directly visible to human eyes. These frequency ranges are called bands. Different image sensors measure different band combinations. The longest-running and perhaps most well-known multispectral imaging program has been Landsat, which began Earth image collection in the 1970s. By assigning data from three bands of the sensor to the red, green, and blue channels of an electronic display (or printer for a hard copy), color visualizations are created. Here are some examples of various alternate band combinations and their applications.


Panchromatic imagery, commonly known as pan, is typically recorded at a higher resolution than the multispectral bands on any given satellite. It remains a critical source for many GIS applications as a reference for basic interpretation and analysis. Pan is often combined with other bands through a process called pansharpening to generate higher-resolution scenes.


In the Agricultural band (combination 5, 4, 1) vigorous vegetation appears bright green, healthy vegetation appears as a darker green, and stressed vegetation appears dull green.

Moisture index 

The Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI) estimates moisture levels in vegetation where wetlands and vegetation with high moisture appear as blue growing to dark blue for higher moisture levels, and drier areas appear as yellow to brown shades. Image analysts often apply a formula to combine the selected multispectral bands to calculate various indexes.


This post is excerpted from The ArcGIS Imagery Book: New View, New Vision. Imagery is suddenly a big deal, and those who are adept at finding it, analyzing it, and understanding what it actually means are going to be in demand in the years ahead. The purpose of this book is to help everyone from GIS professionals to app developers, and web designers to virtually anyone how to become smarter, more skillful, and more powerful appliers of image data. The book is available through and other booksellers, and is also available at for free.

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World Humanitarian Day – August 19 “One Humanity”

By Raquel Perez

We are seeing the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time! Are you willing to answer the call to action?

World Humanitarian Day (WHD), August 19th, celebrates and recognizes humanitarian aid workers who risk their lives to improve the lives of others. This day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the anniversary of the 2003 bombing at the UN Headquarters in Bagdad, which killed 21 UN workers including Serio Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq. See the story map to learn more!

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New Orleans at Esri UC – a Behind the Scenes Look and Repeatable Solutions

This year the City of New Orleans showcased their great work at the Esri User Conference Plenary. A major theme of their presentation was citizen engagement and creating a real two-way engagement enabling citizens to take in civic responsibility. New Orleans is doing outstanding work, and all of the solutions are configurations that can be repeated for any local government.

The first demonstration was the Property Survey solution in which we have enlisted User Conference attendees to help survey their properties for blight at This solution can be useful for a variety of applications such as code enforcement, emergency management assessment or tax appraisers. The Photo Survey Solution from the Esri Solutions gallery will allow you to process geo-tagged photos and an application to set up randomized surveys as New Orleans has done. Since 16,000 UC attendees were enlisted to help assess properties and shared on social media, Esri Managed Services was used to make sure the underlying infrastructure was ready for reliability and scalability.

New Orleans Property Survey

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Nine things you didn’t know you could do with Story Maps

There’s lots of unique and interesting ways to use Story Maps—some obvious, and some not so obvious

Story Maps let you combine authoritative maps with text, images, and multimedia content, and make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story. Story Maps can be used for a wide variety of purposes; for advocacy and outreach, virtual tours, travelogues, delivering public information, and many more. You can browse a large collection of examples by visiting the Story Maps Gallery.

Many of the ways you can use Story Maps are obvious, but others aren’t. Here’s a list of nine things you can do with Story Maps that you might not have thought of before. Click the image to open the Story Map. Continue reading

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Eight Ways Communities Can Make Elections Smarter

Empowering the Democratic Process with Intelligent Mapping

Elections are the foundation of democratic society. 21st century elections leverage technology at every step in the process to insure accuracy, openness, timeliness, and fairness.  From operations and public outreach to redistricting and campaigning, intelligent maps effectively serve the public and meet expectations.

Here are eight things you can do today to leverage the power of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to make elections smarter in your community.

1. Locate Early Voting Centers

Early voting centers allow participation by voters who may not be able to vote on the set Election Day. The availability and hours of operation for early voting centers can vary by jurisdiction, and registered voters are more likely to participate in a given election when they can find an early voting center located conveniently near their home or place of business. Continue reading

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Lifting the Veil on Cuban Trade

A new story map lets us see what has happened in the past, and what might happen in the future, as the US trade embargo with Cuba is lifted.

Finding itself under the magnifying glass of world economists after recent political changes, trade with Cuba deserves a fresh look. Almost a year has passed since the United States and Cuba announced that diplomatic ties would be restored after nearly half a century of trade embargo between the two countries. There are some interesting opportunities for the US and implications for other nations too.

One change many economists expect is that US agricultural exports to Cuba will increase, driving economic growth and an appetite for higher-value commodities that will benefit both economies.

Let’s take a look at Cuba’s trade through the years and see if we can gain some insight into the future by looking at information from the past. Working with partner Datamyne, we created a new story map to easily view trade statistics. Continue reading

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Story Maps: 5 Tips and Tricks

Story maps are a great way to harness the power of maps to tell your stories. Here’s 5 simple tips and tricks to help you maximize your use of this exciting platform for geographic storytelling.

1. Add YouTube Videos to Your Story Map Tour

The Story Map Tour supports the ability to use videos from a variety of sources. Here’s an overview of how you can add YouTube videos to your Story Map Tour.

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The Changing Face of Health, in Five Story Maps

Using GIS to Identify Gaps in Care, Increase Food Security, Combat Big Tobacco, and Much More

Complex health data is no longer restricted to static forms and tables. Today’s health and human services professionals interpret facts and figures in a geographic context. Interactive maps and spatial analysis help them prioritize spending, site service locations, identify vulnerable populations, and tell their stories.

The following five story maps illustrate some of the ways GIS is modernizing and transforming health throughout the world.

Mapping the Story of Health Disparities

Everyone deserves to be healthy. Unfortunately, factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and geographic location can prevent people from getting the care and resources they need. Unequal differences in health status and gaps in care, known as health disparities, put vulnerable populations at a higher risk for preventable diseases and health conditions.  Continue reading

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Journalists Embrace Story Maps

Advancements in mapping and GIS technology have created a new medium for interactive storytelling and reconnecting people to place.

Maps have long been a valuable tool used by journalists to illustrate and enhance written stories. And with new advancements in mapping and GIS technology, the use of maps in the media now has even more potential for engaging with audiences.

Story maps let you combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content. They make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story.

Journalists are already starting to embrace story maps as a powerful new medium that lets them tell engaging stories.  And it’s easy, too. There’s absolutely no programming required to build a story map: simply choose the best application template for telling your story and start building it interactively.

Let’s take a look at how some journalists have leveraged the power of story maps to help tell their stories. Continue reading

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