Monthly Archives: January 2009

Shred! Investigating Ski Areas With GIS, Part 3

We have been discussing how to analyze ski areas in Colorado using ArcGIS (Part I, Part 2). Because ski areas are 3-D phenomena, taking advantage of the 3-D capabilities of ArcGIS Explorer is another excellent tool to analyze them spatially. Opening the colorado_ski_areas.nmf inside ArcGIS Explorer and looking south, the white outlines of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass are visible. It shows that all three are predominately north-facing ski areas.

Which area appears to be largest? Identify each one and compare your visual assessment to the number of acres in the attribute table. Was your visual assessment correct? Which area looks like it has the largest vertical drop? Compare it to the elevation and vertical drop data for selected ski areas on Use the form on to analyze whether the vertical drop distance influences the percentage of beginner, intermediate, and advanced ski runs that a resort has, and if so, how and why. Examine the annual snowfall in conjunction with your maps. Which resort listed receives the highest amount of snowfall, and where is it located in the state? Next, examine a web camera to visualize the ski resorts that you have been exploring on

Colorado has the most skiable terrain of any state or province in North America, with nearly 39,000 acres. In ArcGIS, sort the ski area attribute table on the field “acres.” Does the name of the largest ski area surprise you? Aspen Mountain comes in as the smallest. However, go back and examine the map. Which adjacent areas increase the combined skiable terrain near Aspen?

With minimal effort, rich data sets can be used to investigate spatial patterns with GIS. After your GIS analysis is done, get out there and hit the slopes! But remember to bring your GPS so you can map your runs after you are through

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Essays on Geography and GIS (reprise)

Looking for a document that can help people understand spatial thinking and why geotechnologies are so valuable? In this new GIS Best Practices booklet [PDF-4.99 MB], you can read essays from a number of thought leaders and academics from the world of GIS, geography, and geosciences. Download the booklet. [PDF-4.99 MB]

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One-Year ArcView 9.3 with Extensions Software for Students

The one-year ArcView 9.3 with extensions software for students has become a very popular and important part of ESRI’s educational offerings. Its popularity has more than doubled in the last year.  Learn more about this software option at the Higher Education F.A.Q.

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GIS workshops at AAG 2009 Annual Meeting

Interested in learning more about GIS? ESRI will offer three workshops at the AAG 2009 Annual Meeting, March 22-27 in Las Vegas, NV. See the AAG Conference web site for more information or to register.

The Geographic Approach and Spatial Literacy – Workshop # 25, Thursday, March 26
As GIS professionals and geographers, we all understand the value of geography. However, how well do we employ a geographic approach to problem solving? Are we capable of thinking spatially and seeing relationships and patterns in multi-dimensions? The more we understand our own skills and raise awareness of the geographic approach and spatial literacy, the more we can help our organizations achieve success. Explore and increase your abilities to think spatially through a different look at geographic problem solving around the world with this interactive collaborative workshop.

Teaching with ArcGIS Network Analyst – Workshop # 9, Monday, March 23
This workshop introduces tools for transportation analysis and routing with hands-on exercises. We will explore several types of network analysis, including finding the most efficient route, finding the closest facility, defining service areas based on travel time, and mulit-modal routing (ie using multiple types of transportation – car, subway, walking, etc.). This workshop is appropriate for educators in urban planning, transportation geography, logistics, and emergency management, or anyone with an interest in transportation networks.

Spatial Analysis with ArcGIS Spatial Analyst and Spatial Statistics – Workshop # 10, Monday, March 23
ArcGIS includes a variety of tools for spatial analysis, including the ModelBuilder framework for creating analytic and geoprocessing models, the Spatial Statistics toolbox, and the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension for raster processing. This hands-on workshop will explore these tools, emphasizing suitability analysis and basic spatial statistics. Educators in all areas of geography will find the workshop beneficial.


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Fun with GIS using AEJEE #13: Exploring Oceans

While reading about oceans and climate, I wondered about a way to explore depth using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool. I typed “gis data oceans” into an Internet search, clicked a link, and saw a reference to the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I clicked “Bathymetry, Topography, & Relief” and, from there, the link for “Create Custom Grid“. Jackpot!

I wanted to create depth around the Hawaiian Islands, using the “ETOPO2 2-minute Global Relief”, so I named my grid “HI2MIN”. I entered the bounding coordinates: 23-N to 18-N and 161-W to 154-W. I chose the most extreme grid cell size: 2 minutes (or 30 divisions per degree). I requested an output grid format of “XYZ(lon,lat,depth)”, chose “No header”, and asked for commas as delimiters. After clicking the “Submit” button near the top and, on the new page, “Compress and Retrieve Your Grid” (skipping options to include other items), a compressed file was ready for me in seconds. I downloaded it, unzipped it, and extracted the “.xyz” file.

The “.xyz” file is just a large ASCII file, so I opened it up in Word. Even though the file was almost 600 pages long, I was able to use a global replace to change all spaces to nothing in just a few seconds. I inserted the line “LONG,LAT,DPTHELEVM” at the top. I saved the file as “HI2MIN.csv” (using the quote marks to make sure Windows didn’t add “.txt” to the name).

I opened AEJEE and chose the “us_gn.axl” project, to have a basemap drawn for me, then zoomed in to Hawaii. I used AEJEE to convert the .csv file to a shapefile (as described in the AEJEE Tutorial Lesson #4), then classified the data into 20 classes with a 6-point dot, tweaked the classes into a more pleasing interval, and changed the colors. Voila! You can see the deep canyon between the Big Island and Maui, and the “protected shallows” around Maui where whale mothers like to bear their young.

GIS is not just “buttonology.” It involves having a vision for a spatial pattern, which generates a question. Then it’s a matter of finding data, which sometimes means being able to see it before it’s there. Then comes the chance to tinker with the data in order to address a question or vision. Simple tools accomplished this task: browser, file compression, word processor, and AEJEE.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI K-12 Education Manager

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AGX Blog: Live GPS task now available from ArcScripts

From the ArcGIS Explorer Team blog:

A Live GPS task, written by Edan Cain of the ArcGIS Explorer team, has recently been posted on ArcScripts. You can download it directly from the ArcGIS Explorer section of ArcScripts, or by choosing ArcScripts from the Explorer Resource Center.

The task allows you to capture a live GPS location, or optionally start tracking your location based on a specified time interval. The locations are stored as results, and the result popup window displays the XYZ values and time stamp at each location, along with any additional information you may want to add. Other options allow you to dynamically center the map on the GPS position, and change the speed units from kilometers to miles. Additional details can be found in the task summary.

More information.

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Shred! Investigating Ski Areas With GIS, Part 2

We have been exploring ski areas in Colorado with GIS  (Part I). Use the measurement tool to determine the closest ski area to metro Denver. Buffer Denver by 100 miles. How many ski areas are within this buffer? How many ski areas are within 100 miles of Aspen? What percentage of Colorado ski areas are along Interstate Highway 70? What does this mean for traffic congestion along the highway? On which other highways would you expect to encounter ski traffic? If a traffic jam occurred on the highway to your favorite ski area, what are the alternate routes? What are the problems with alternative routes in mountainous terrain?

Where is the highest concentration of ski areas in Colorado? Draw a 50-mile or 50-kilometer buffer around each ski area. Which ski area is closest to the greatest number of other ski areas? Why do you suppose that some mountain ranges have no ski areas? Which ones are they? If you were planning a new ski area, where would you locate it, and why? What sorts of considerations (forest permits, road access, snowfall, and others) would you have to grapple with?

Examining the spatial pattern of ski areas is also valid at a larger, zoomed-in scale: What type of terrain are ski areas on? What direction do most ski areas face? Turning on the rivers layer will help differentiate ridges from valleys and therefore the direction of slope.

In the northern hemisphere, north-facing slopes receive fewer direct rays from the sun and retain snow longer, making them ideal ski slopes. This discussion incorporates Earth-Sun relationships into the lesson.

However, interesting exceptions often exist when using real-world data. Why do some areas such as Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, and Crested Butte face a direction other than north? Do any ski areas face due south? If so, do their higher elevations compensate for the increased solar radiation, or do you think there are other factors involved?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Traveling to Antarctica with ArcGIS Explorer, Part 3

Robyn Johnson’s adventure continues. For approximately a week, she and others on a National Geographic expedition have meandered through the geography of the Antarctic Peninsula—on board ship, in Zodiacs and kayaks, and on foot. She has been documenting their various landfalls, anchorages, and rambles among islands, mainland, and ice. We can use ArcGIS Explorer (AGX) to further expose the places these travelers have experienced by building on the Antarctic project begun two installments back.

Robyn’s blog entries point to the following features…and where visible in the entry, a latitude and longitude reading.


Jan 15: Brown Bluff, Antarctica, -63.51314, -56.87544
Paulet Island, Antarctica, -63.57021, -55.79310
Jan 16: Snow Hill, Antarctica, -64.35038, -57.00257
Weddell Sea, Antarctica
Jan 17: Half Moon Island, South Shetlands, -62.58085, -59.78329
Deception Island, Antarctica, -62.98458, -60.56251
Jan 18: Cuverville Island, Antarctica, -64.78774, -62.79688
Paradise Bay, Antarctica
Channel, Antarctica
Booth Island, Antarctica
Jan 19: Antarctic Circle, Antarctica, -66.59133, -67.15952
Scott Island, Antarctica
Jan 20: Neko Harbor in Andvord Bay

First order of business is to clean up my project. I’m going to be adding more Results, so I decided I need a series of folders (Right click in Results). I isolated earlier items into three folders and nested another inside a folder titled “Antarctica.” This one will house the newest “peninsular” Results.

While I could use the “GeoNames Search” Task to locate name only features (and their coordinates) as done in Part 1, or create a CSV with lat/lon data and import as done in Part 2, I chose to only pinpoint a handful of locations using the “Go to Location” Tool—creating a result and adding a camera symbol for each.

To make these more meaningful in the Table of Contents (TOC), I renamed each—adding date and feature name to the lat/lon. I date-ordered these results inside the Peninsular Expedition folder. To round out the folder, I right clicked its name and added a link to Web content about the peninsula (for easy access to added information inside my project), and subsequently, added two new views (map bookmarks) so I can quickly return to a particular vantage regardless of where I might navigate later inside my map.

Here’s my latest map with an assortment of Robyn’s GPS readings and her blog links. (Note her Deception Island entry. It points to geothermal activity which makes a nice match to the Smithsonian KMZ volcano data for the Peninsula added in Part 2. Likewise, her Snow Hill post points out an early 20th century Swedish expedition. So, I added a link in the TOC as part of the Snow Hill result. I did the same with her Antarctic Circle reading.

The combination of Robyn’s location information and text/imagery combined with the AGX geographic perspective and added geographic content are weaving together nicely to create a good geo-story. Stay tuned.

- George Dailey, ESRI K-12 Education Manager

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2009 SkillsUSA Geospatial Competition

Applications for the 2009 National SkillsUSA secondary and postsecondary geospatial student competitions will be available in February 2009 from Digital Quest Inc., an ESRI business partner. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry professionals working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. The 45th SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, June 21-26, 2009. Prizes will be awarded to the top three geospatial competitors in both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The 2007 SkillsUSA Secondary Exam is downloadable from ArcLessons. Educators needing more information about the SkillsUSA Geospatial
Competition may contact Scott Weller at Digital Quest.

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ESRI U.S. Community Atlas

Schools and youth groups in the United States are submitting Community Atlas projects for the 2008-09 school year. These projects earn participants software, maintenance, books, or instructional materials. Projects are small profiles, consisting of 10-20 maps and 1,000-2,500 words that follow a set of guidelines, created by youth about their communities. Groups can submit projects at any time until May 22, 2009. See the Community Atlas.

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