Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Alaska Map Resources

Nerds don't just like time and date formats, we also like Neal Stephenson novels, spicy food, and maps.  By far the best-known and most widely-used online maps are Google maps and Bing maps, but by no means are they the only ones.  In addition to free online topo services (for example, mytopo.com), we've got an excellent Alaska-specific online mapping service that not only includes road maps and topo maps, in a few areas it also has higher-resolution satellite imagery than you'll find on Google or Bing.  It's the Alaska Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative and it's a cooperative project between the University of Alaska, the Division of Natural Resources, and other state agencies.  I live in Two Rivers, AK and spend a lot of time in the Chena River State Recreation Area and the difference in quality is pretty remarkable.  Here's what we get if we try to look at the confluence of the middle fork with the Chena with Google Maps:

Middle fork of the Chena, Google maps

Now, check out the same area from Alaska Mapped:

Middle fork of the Chena, Alaska Mapped

It varies by region but I have yet to come across an area in which Google has higher-resolution pictures but there are some where Alaska Mapped does, so the latter is always the first place I go when looking for satellite images of Alaska.  Also, it's got a topo layer, so it's trivial to pop back and forth among satellite images, road maps, and topo maps.  I'm not going to go into the various data services they provide because I think they'll tend to be less interesting to the casual user, but it's a fun site to explore and play around with if you like maps.

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