Problem set #1 responses:

Here are the interesting data sets that people found available:

  1. Mark F: transportation data for San Diego
  2. Andrea M: Canadian environmental data in Arc/Info export .e00 format
  3. Karl H: Summary report on area of Hanford, WA. There are many data types discussed, as this is a major environmental cleanup site because of the plutonium processing done here.
  4. David OB: Weather radar maps and raw data from ocean buoys from NOAA
  5. Ruigang Y: Map of Shanghai from Expedia
  6. Charles P: Satellite images from terraserver.
  7. Stephen E: crime data from the UVAs repository of GIS data
  8. Yuqian J: Maps of North Carolina from the National Atlas of the United States
  9. Ajith M: Mapquest and weather maps of Mangalore, India
  10. Jack S: North Carolina data sources


  1. Mark F: transportation data for San Diego
  2. Well, I'm originally from here, but I'm going to use San Diego, where
    I went to grad school before. I present

    which gives a freeway map of San Diego, permitting you to click on the
    names of freeways and major roads and view a list of current traffic
    speeds at different locations along those roads.

    Since a lot of the data is computer generated, a computer can answer
    most of the same straightforward questions you could. But questions
    requiring you to use the map would stump it.

    Here are some example questions:

    * What's the fastest way to get from La Mesa (east of downtown on 8)
    to the 5/805 merge right now? (Requires geographic knowledge.)

    * How fast is traffic flowing on Southbound 5 at Carmel Valley Rd?

    They used to have aerial (satellite?) views of the major freeway
    interchanges, but I couldn't find them.

    Mark Foskey (919) 962-1827 Department of Computer Science, CB 3175 UNC-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3175


  3. Andrea M: Canadian environmental data in Arc/Info export .e00 format
  4. Here are some canadian links (I got the first two at the conference in


    - "distributes free geospatial data"
    - tons of links on their link page

    CCRS Earth Observation Catalogue (CEOCat):
    - search satellite photos, etc.

    - looks like it will eventually have data, but nothing yet. There are
    some links.

    Most of the data I found was visual. A person could use this data to
    determine geographic features (ie lakes) and weather patterns (cloud
    formations), or get information on things such as forest fires on a
    certain date. Although there is information there to be found, the way
    the web pages are organized makes manual search tedious.

    Computers would also have difficulty processing this information. They
    would need to use image analysis techniques and some form of artificial

    On the GeoGratis web page there is also data in Arc Export format, but I
    have not used ARC/INFO, and so could not say what a computer could extract
    from the data.

    I am fed up with the speed of the browser/computer, so I might give you a
    better answer tomorrow after I have another chance to surf the web. ;)

    Andrea Mantler

    My second attempt at finding data on the web led me to the ERSI web page:
    They have an "ArcData Online" section that has data that you can download:
    as well as an online "Quick Map" page:
    You can view maps at different levels of detail for the US, Europe, and
    the world. The Canadian data doesn't get very detailed, but I was able to
    locate my street here in Chapel Hill using the US data.

    Unlike the other sources of data I found, this data is in a format that is
    easier to process and answer questions using a computer.

    With the necessary data, here are questions computers could answer:

    1. Given topology, watershed, and rainfall, etc., data, which areas of
    Chapel Hill are likely to flood? (Given the signs I have seen posted on
    streets, someone should have done this a while ago. ;) )

    2. City planning/graph theory question: given a current network of
    streets, what is the most efficient (def?) way to increase connectivity of
    streets...increase the amount of traffic that can flow from one point to
    another, etc.? (Things to consider include buildings in the way,
    creeks/rivers that would need expensive bridges, etc.)


  5. Karl H: Summary report on area of Hanford, WA. There are many data types discussed, as this is a major environmental cleanup site because of the plutonium processing done here.
  6. Hope this isn't too far off base ...

    The site is
    and continues on

    I grew up in Pasco, WA, which is right next to a government site called
    Hanford, where plutonium for the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan
    during World War II was developed. Afterwords, Hanford was responsible
    for producing plutonium for the nations nuclear arsenal during the cold
    war. Now that the cold war is over, there is a considerable mess to
    clean up, that resulted from plutonium production activities. One large
    environmental concern is what to do with the large, buried tanks of
    nuclear waste, some of which have been found to be leaking into the
    soil, potentially entering the aquafer and the rivers of the area.
    Therefore, extensive study has been done to evaluate this risk and
    potential consequences. The site I found, is a section from an
    envronmental impact statement for deciding how to proceed with the clean
    up effort. Information included in "picture" form: maps for general
    orientation, geological information, groundwater elevations, water
    sampling locations, distribution of contaminants in the aquafir, census
    tracts, future and existing land use, recreation and wildlife areas,
    potential viewing areas, and road and railway systems. There are also
    text and tables of populations (human and wildlife), occupations, and a
    lot more. This information was used to determine how to manage and
    dispose of tank waste and its derivatives (cesium and strontium

    The information is presented in a form for analysis by a person, rather
    than a computer. Although data usable by computers exists (e.g. I was
    in a group that did groundwater modelling using geographical and
    geological information, and assessment of radation dose due to
    dispersion of radioactive particles into the air using site geographical
    and meterological information), this information is not provided here.
    Also, this version of the data has only a rough scale of distances and
    sketches of landmark locations as information for orientation.

    Karl Hillesland


  7. David OB: Weather radar maps and raw data from ocean buoys from NOAA

  8. I found a large amount of varied data all under the umbrella organization
    of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of the
    dozens of database links on their main page ( I
    looked at two:

    1. Weather radar maps. The latest national map is updated at while more comprehensive area
    maps are found at

    These are digitized maps of radar reflection strengths. A guess of the
    resolution of the area maps is several hundred meters per pixel. Assuming
    the geographic location of each pixel is fixed, a computer would be more
    able to answer specific questions such as what is the cloud cover over a
    specific location or to interpolate between points. However, the data on
    the maps is reported only in ranges of 5 DBZ. If a corresponding database
    were available showing urban development, a computer should be able to do
    a decent job filtering out 'ground-clutter' In fact, I beleive these maps
    already do such filtering.

    However, a computer is going to have a hard time looking at a national
    radar image and make weather predictions for the next day in NYC. It
    would be difficult to program the knowledge of an experienced
    Meterologist. (On the other hand, we all know the inaccuries of
    traditional weather forecasts.)

    National Data Buoy Center

    They deplore several types of buoys in large arrays in both inland and
    ocean waters taking data on both atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Some
    very good data. However, the format is scattered over hundreds of text
    files and in its present form needs reworking before either human or
    computer can make much sense out of it. Assuming it's cleaned up, we have
    a similar situation to the weather. For example, a computer could note
    subtle change in the pattern of water level that might signal, maybe, a
    tidal wave long before traditional methods of prediction from siezographic
    data. (I think such a system is under construction.) However, for long
    range prediction say of rain fall in a certain area, an experienced human
    might more readily make predictions based on a shift in ocean currents.



  9. Ruigang Y: Map of Shanghai from Expedia

    I tried to find the map of Shanghai, China, the place where I was born.

    mapquest only has a city level map of China,

    MSN's map contains more detail, but still less than I expected. There

    are some scanned maps, but most of them are quite fuzzy. Finally, I

    decided to send the map from expediamap, which is a compromise between

    contents and clearness.

    From that map, I can know where Shanghai is in China (by zooming out). I

    can know the distances to Shanghai's neighboring cities (the scale is

    given), I can find where I live in SH.

    Computer can understand little directly from this pure image map.

    However, if we digitize the map, including the

    vectorization of major roads and the recognition of different lengends,

    the above questions can be answered by a computer too.




  11. Charles P: Satellite images from terraserver.


Even if your an anti-MS person like myself, it is kind of fun to browse
around. The data on the server comes from satelite images created
by the United State Geological Survey. Since the data is simply a set of
images, human users can answer more questions than a computer could.
There are no extra data points associated with each image for a computer
algorithm to use. For instance, the computer has no knowledge of where
the roads are, and for that matter which roads are which. An intelligent
human user however can use his or her knowledge of the data to navigate
and find information. A user that is familiar with wisconsin, like
myself, could locate Lambeau Field (see below).


  1. Stephen E: crime data from the UVAs repository of GIS data


I found some crime data at:

But more generally I found UVA's repository of GIS data:

The crime data is only a subset of all the social data they have online.
This is in the interactive data part of their archive so I don't really know
the format. But it is viewable (supposedly) online.

From viewing the graphical output, I would most likely be able to tell where
most of the crime is happening and where the most severe crimes were happening.
I could give recommendations on changing various aspects of life in the high
crime areas to reduce crime in those areas. Recommendations for sizes of
police forces and allocated money could also be made.

The computer could be used to extrapolate into the future to predict the
number of crimes of each type that would take place next year in each place.

Stephen A. Ehmann Office: Sitterson Hall 332
Graduate Student Phone: 919-962-1797
Department of Computer Science E-mail:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Web:

(( A man's life is but a breath. -- SPOKEN ))

  1. Yuqian J: Maps of North Carolina from the National Atlas of the United States

I use the maps of North Carolina here since I did not find some
satisfatory maps or GIS systems for the place I come from - Beijing.
Some maps are too simple and one good GIS site is closed .

The site is

=> from that site, choose North Carolina to zoom in

There are a lot of data there reflecting different aspects of information
about this area, such as Biology, Environment, Geology, Transportation,
People and Water etc. And they represented using different layers which
you can open or close depending on you objective to study the map.

Since there are many aspect of information presented there, I just take
the people and geology informatio as examples.

For me:
From the Geology information I can see that there are a few earchquakes
in the west part of the state and almost no in the east. And by zooming
out to the whole country, I can compare this figure with other part of
the country and realized that we are very fortunate to have a really small
number of earthquakes comparing with some other parts of the country such
as some part on the west coast. And there is no volcanoes here .
For the computer
I can not be sure what kind of internal representation they use to provide
this map. But I guess the information about earth and volcanoes is
recorded in the computer by tags and its related corrdinates, so I think
the computer can answer the same question as I do, but it will do it in
a different way by using a lot of calculation.


From the map I know about the median income of families. And I can see the
distribution and realize that the income in much higher in big cities such
as Raleigh that other parts of the state. But this information is only
ordinal, and I only know the range not the exact digit.
But I think the computer can do better than me if it stores the numbers,
and can be more precise on the comparation.

well, I think the above is some scalar information. There are also some
vector information on the map such as the road map
layer, but I am also not sure about its internal representation. If
vector, then the computer can know almost as much as I do only through
more complicated computation. But if in raster, it will be difficult for
it to answer some question such as "how can I get from A to B ".

Yuquan Jiang

  1. Ajith M: Mapquest and weather maps of Mangalore, India
  2. I'm from a town called Mangalore in India. Mapquest has a map of Mangalore

    with some areas around it. I was surprised to find some places in the map

    about which I've never heard of. I guess they could be misspelt names.

    The link is:

    The map shows surrounding areas and one can get a rough idea of the

    relative distance between places. There's the standard distance measure in

    the right top corner. The map has facilities for increasing

    the size of the region and this provides a larger map with more places.

    This looks cluttered and ofcourse adds to the confusion because of the

    spellings. A Seperate options called 'map level' has a + and - sign. On

    clicking the + sign several of the place labels disappear perhaps in an

    attempt to provide a more clearer picture.

    The map shows the main highway running through Mangalore.

    For a computer to answer questions about the map using the data as is

    would be difficult. Perhaps with a representation of the roads connecting

    the different cities as a graph a computer would be able to find out the

    shortest paths, distances involved etc.

    Another map I came across was at the site

    I searched for a satellite image of Asia after failing to find anything on

    Mangalore. The following link

    gave me a color coded weather image taken by a Geo Stationary Operational

    Environment Satellite. The color went from Red for hottest to

    a light shade of blur for coldest. Cloud cover was also visible as white

    and grey areas. A seperate link shows a table that provides a mapping

    between the colors and the temperature ranges associated.

    For a human, this maps provides a coarse grained idea of the climatic

    conditions at a particular region. The areas are not labelled, hence it is

    difficult to be accurate. A computer can provide a more accurate idea of

    the temperature using the color to temperature table and possibly some

    interpolation for color values not in the table. The map could do with

    some location information over and above the boundary lines superimposed

    on the map.




  3. Jack S: North Carolina data sources


USGS NC District GIS resources page:

NC Center for GIS:

NC Corporate Geographic Layer Listing:

Water Resources of North Carolina:

NC Environmental Links from EPA:

EPA Surf your Watershed:

Enviromapper Java applet: