GIS Monthly Maps 2021
The Teagasc spatial analysis unit use data from a number of sources to assist farming. The sources used include the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, the Central Statistics Office, and Earth observation satellites, and remote sensing technologies.
In creating the 'Map of the Month' the unit takes the most interesting map produced in each month to present it to a wider audience to promote discussion and debate on the contribution of spatial analysis to Irish agriculture and food and on the specific maps produced. Maps can be viewed in interactive and pdf format. Read more about map of the month here
- Saint Patrick in Ireland: Names and places
- North-facing slopes: Topography and the start of spring
- The development of soil mapping in Ireland
June - Red sky at night, shepherd's delight: Weather and agriculture
Cartographers: Jesko Zimmermann, Rob O'Hara & Réamonn Fealy
View map here: Red sky at night, shepherd's delight
Continuing the theme from last month's map, we take a broader look at the Irish climate and how weather has been crucial to agriculture since days immemorial. This interactive map touches on the history of predicting the passage of seasons, and the recording of weather, gives an overview of the current climate and how it influences agriculture in Ireland, and takes a closer look at a specific colloquialism.
For the full story follow the link above.
Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Azucena Jiménez-Castañeda
View map here: Radar blocking topography: What Shannon cannot see
Weather forecast is a complex task involving climate models, as well as monitoring of current conditions. Besides the networks of weather stations across Ireland, recording a multitude of parameters such as temperature, rainfall, relative humidity, wind speed, and others, Met Éireann apply weather radars. Radar is an acronym for "Radio Detection And Ranging". It is a military technology developed in the 1940s. It has been rapidly applied to meteorology, as it detects hydrometeors with a high spatiotemporal resolution. However, ground radar beams can be totally or partially blocked by orography, human-made structures and others, resulting in weakening or losing the signal. It compromises the quality of data from the radar.
The maps shows the radar beam blockage in a 100km radius around the Shannon Airport weather radar station. The blockage is layered on top of an exaggerated topography map of Ireland. And it shows very well how hills and mountains block the radar beam. As seen on the map there are two aspects of the topography that drive the blockage. Firstly, the orientationof the obstacle. Secondly, the proximity of the obstacle to the source of the radar beam, in this case Shannon Airport. Even lower obstacles can obstruct a large proportion of the beam if they are close to the radar emitter.
April - Wildfires in Ireland
Cartographer: Dr Stuart Green
View map here: Wildfires in Ireland (PDF)
The wildfires in the Killarney National Park are devastating to the environment, farmers and tourism businesses. But they are not the only fires currently being tackled around the country. The ongoing dry spell has left many areas vulnerable.
The fires are so large they are detectable by satellite and online services are available that automatically detect and map "thermal anomalies". The red areas on the map are thermal anomalies detected by the VIIRS sensor on the NOAA-20 satellite on 25th April 2021. The map is updated twice daily and available on NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management Service. Find it here https://firms2.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/
Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Dr Rob O'Hara
For Saint Patrick’ Day we have a special map, dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint. The static map provides an overview of the townlands and settlements deriving their names from Saint Patrick, including a short summary of the mythology, while the interactive map is a journey to the places most famously associated with Ireland's patron saint.
View interactive map here
View map as a pdf here: Saint Patrick in Ireland: Names and places (classic static version)
Saint Patrick is associated with hundreds of places around Ireland, from towns and townlands, to hills and lakes, to street names and buildings. There are several well-known stories about Patrick, but what’s real and what’s legend? What we actually know about Patrick is sparse. He was born into a religious family in post-Roman Britain in the late fourth century, and taken to Ireland by Irish slavers when he was 16. He escaped, returning years later to proselytise the pagan Irish in the northern half of Ireland.
His writings make no reference to shamrock, nothing on snakes, no mention of Paschal Fires or fights with kings. These were all later embellishments to a narrative of Patrick written centuries later to support the hegemony of his cult and the See of Armagh above others, for example those of Bridget in Kildare or Ciaran in Clonmacnoise.
This month’s map takes us on a journey of the real-world sites associated with Patrick’s legend. The static map shows the townlands and settlements across the island of Ireland referencing Patrick in their names, and provides insights into the features these names refer, of which the majority are churches and wells
The interactive story map provides a journey to the most important places in the myth of Saint Patrick, providing insights to famous places associated with Patrick, such as Slemish, Croagh Patrick, and Armagh.
We wish you all a happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh.
Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Dr Stuart Green
As last month's map, the February Map of the Month will be presented as both a the classic static PDF map, and an interactive story map.
View interactive story map here
View map as pdf here:
Topography describes many aspects of the physical landscape we live in. The topography is also intrinsically linked to the natural forces that shape the surface of the earth, as well as human life (as shown in an earlier Map of the Month, showing how elevation is linked to stocking density).
With regard to the natural forces, topography is both defined by, and defines how these forces interact with the land. Climate and hydrology, for example, have shaped the surface through weathering and erosion, where rivers cut deep valleys into the ground, and even mountains are slowly ground down (impressively shown in the Burren). Parts of Scandinavia are still rising, after being pushed down by the sheer weight of the glacial ice sheets of the last ice age.
At the same time, the surface influences the weather we experience, as clouds precipitate their excess water as rain as they cross mountain ranges, leaving the land beyond drier. Rivers follow the gradient of the landscape as defined by slope and shape, while at the same time imposing their influence on the land surface.
The island of Ireland was significantly defined and moulded by the last ice age, and is still rich in glacial land forms, including the rolling drumlins of the border counties, glacial lakes such as Coumshingaun Lough (Co. Waterford), glaciated valleys, and even a fjord on the coast of Co Galway. Beyond these, Ireland is also renowned for the many mountain ranges, and steep cliffs. And in many areas, topography has had a direct impact on the timing and practice of agriculture.
The specific measures of topography we are covering in this map are elevation, slope, and slope aspect (i.e. which direction the slope is exposed to).
Elevation and slope define the shape of hills and mountains. They can be high or low and steep or gentle. Elevation in particular has both a direct and indirect impact on the weather. The adiabatic gradient describes the increase or reduction in air temperature due to changes in air pressure, influenced by elevation. The changes in temperature and pressure also change the capacity of air to hold water. As air rises up a slope this capacity decreases, resulting in precipitation.
Slope also has considerable impact on the natural landscape. It determines the catchments of rivers, water retention, and influences nutrient and pollutant flows. It also impacts the ability of soils to form at a location, and determines the accessibility of landscapes to humans.
The aspect, or the cardinal direction of the slope, also has an important influence on local climate. In the northern hemisphere, north-facing slopes receive less direct exposure to the sun, therefore being generally cooler, and more humid, while south-facing slopes are warmer and drier. This has direct implications for agriculture, where south-facing slopes are generally preferable for growing a large variety of crops.
The particular example of the impact of topography on agriculture presented in this month’s map is the start of spring grazing. The driver of growth is soil temperature, and sufficient temperature is required for grass growth to occur. This is mainly seen in the change in cattle turning out date with latitude. Research has shown that the start of the grazing season in Ireland is delayed on average by a day for every 16km travelled northward.
But soil temperature is not only affected by latitude. As highlighted above, local climate is intrinsically linked to topography. Soil on higher, north-facing slopes will warm up slower, effectively slowing the start of spring. The effect has not been quantified on local scales. However, in this map we show areas with a slope greater than 5 degrees (or 8.75 %), facing northward (293 to 67 degrees), and greater than 100 m above sea level (in order to exclude micro relief in the midlands), where topography will likely have an impact on the optimal turn out dates for livestock.
Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Réamonn Fealy
From 2021 onwards, many of the monthly maps will also be presented in a new format. As well as the classic static format, we will be providing interactive online maps for a more engaging experience. The maps will be presented either as classic interactive web maps or, such as this month’s entry, as an ESRI StoryMap, which merge descriptive texts, images, and interactive maps into a single story.
As these interactive offerings require a stable broadband connection to function properly, we will continue to publish accompanying static maps in the classic PDF format.
Our first interactive map (and our first map of 2021) will focus on the dvelopment of soil mapping in Ireland.
View map in pdf format here:
Mapping soils has a long history in the Republic of Ireland. From the beginning on Teagasc and its predecessor organisation An Foras Talúntais have been central to the efforts to get a comprehensive picture of the soils in Ireland. Starting with the establishment of the National Soil Survey in 1959, a substantial effort has been put into building several national, regional and county soil maps.
In this month’s map we are looking at the main outputs of soil mapping projects in Ireland. These include three main campaigns. The first campaign was the already mentioned An Foras Talúntais National Soil Survey (NSS) which was established in 1959. The aim of the NSS was to create a national soil map, as well as, and building from, detailed county maps. Based on an extensive national sampling campaign, the NSS published the first national General Soil Map for Ireland in 1969 (https://www.rte.ie/archives/2019/0723/1064698-ireland-soil-map/). The county surveys continued until 1989, when the NSS was discontinued with about 44 % of the country covered.
In 1998 the Teagasc Spatial Analysis Unit was established. As part of the Irish Forest Soils project, the first national indicative soil map was created. The map incorporated existing information from the previous soil surveys, and used remote sensing and GIS techniques applied to a wide range of factors, including topography, land use, and bedrock, to create a predictive model of soil types.
The most recent soil map was created as part of the Irish Soils Information System (SIS) which was cofounded by the EPA and Teagasc. Published in 2014, the new national soil association map was initially designed to meet EU requirements for pan-European harmonised soil mapping. It was the first national soil map at a scale of 1:250,000. Similar to the Irish Forest Soils soil map, the SIS map was based on predictive modelling based on a broad range of spatial environmental information as well as a focussed soil sampling field campaign.
In addition to undertaking geographical analyses and producing maps for research projects, the spatial analysis lab responds to ad hoc requests for contributions. The latter may be for in-house purposes or to inform policy submissions. While dissemination is a key objective of research projects, maps produced in response to such requests rarely get a wider audience. We’ve decided that we’ll take the most interesting map we have produced in each month and to present it here to hopefully find a wider audience and promote discussion and debate on both the contribution of spatial analysis to Irish agriculture and food and on the specific maps produced.
Whilst this map can be shared please check with us before reproducing it in a publication. Many of the data sets we use are under licence with conditions attached.
For general enquiries contact Stuart Green or the author above for information on this month’s map.