Climate change and wildfire | Alum wins SAG at esri | Do we have your address?


Roger Bannister SAG winner at Esri 2016

One of our MGIS alumni was part of a group that won a Special Achievement in GIS award at the Esri User Conference— a big deal in the professional scene. The photo here shows the alumnus Roger Bannister (center) with Doug Miller (right) and Pat Kennelly (left), two of the professors he worked with.


• Cindy Brewer gave a presentation at The Village at Penn State as part of the Conversation with Colleagues Colloquium on June 23.

• Send your good news and travel photos to We want to hear about your new jobs, new babies, new awards, new travels, new publications, etc.

• Do we have an up-to-date postal mail address for you?  We will be mailing out the department newsletter in a few weeks. If you’re not sure, email your name and current postal address to

• The Department of Geography Speakers Committee is accepting names for Miller Lecture and Coffee Hour speakers for the upcoming academic year.  Send your suggestions to Guido Cervone by July 31.


From Climate Central
Climate Change is Tipping Scales Toward More Wildfires
The 2016 wildfire season has barely begun and dozens of large wildfires have already raged through Western states, with hundreds of thousands of acres burned. This comes on the heels of a 2015 wildfire season that was the worst on record in the U.S., with more than 10 million acres burned.

These are not just random events. Climate change is producing conditions ripe for wildfires, tipping the scales in favor of the dramatic increases in large wildfires we have seen across the West since the 1970s. Snowpack is melting earlier as winter and spring temperatures rise, and in most states an increasing percentage of winter precipitation is falling as rain, meaning there is often less snowpack to begin with. Summer temperatures are rising, particularly in Southwestern states, where the number of extremely hot days is steadily increasing, creating more days where forests and grasslands are dried out and ready to burn.

From Fast Company
The Geek Behind Google’s Map Quest
Ed Parsons, Google’s geographer-in-chief, is leaning over an 18th century woodcut map from the Chonhado, the Korean atlas of the world. Here, on thin parchment, the earth is a wobbly blue watercolor dot centered around the sacred Mount Meru, close to a large red circle representing Beijing. China and Korea make up the large part of the map, while the foreign lands beyond their borders are like afterthoughts, represented only by a thin peripheral strip of land.


Inferring Censored Geo-Information with Non-Representative Data
By Zhang, Yu and Yang, Tse-Chuan, and Matthews, Stephen A.
In Machine Learning and Data Mining in Pattern Recognition: 12th International Conference, MLDM 2016, New York, NY, USA, July 16-21, 2016, Proceedings
Doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-41920-6_17
The goal of this study is to develop a method that is capable of inferring geo-locations for non-representative data. In order to protect privacy of surveyed individuals, most data collectors release coarse geo-information (e.g., tract), rather than detailed geo-information (e.g., street, apt number) when sharing surveyed data. Without the exact locations, many point-based analyses cannot be performed. While several scholars have developed new methods to address this issue, little attention has been paid to how to correct this issue when data are not representative. To fill this knowledge gap, we propose a bias correction method that adjusts for the bias using a bias factor approach. Applying our method to an empirical data set with a known bias associated with gender, we found that our method could generate reliable results despite the non-representativeness of the sample.

Critical pedagogy and the fierce urgency of now: opening up space for critical reflections on the U.S. civil rights movement
By Joshua F. J. Inwood
In Social & Cultural Geography
This manuscript engages with the U.S. civil rights movement and offers reflections on how critical scholarship and pedagogy can benefit from a robust engagement with the African American freedom struggle. While widely studied in other disciplines and despite the work of some very committed geographers, the U.S. civil rights movement has enjoyed less critical scrutiny within the broader discipline. More specifically, I outline a set of broader concepts that can be utilized and which illustrate the power of grass-roots social movements to change oppressive social conditions. This has implications not only for social and cultural geography, but also for the ways we engage in the hard and often unrewarded work of classroom engagement and teaching.

A Geolinguistic Approach for Comprehending Local Influence in OpenStreetMap
By Sterling Quinn
In Cartographica
OpenStreetMap (OSM) thrives on allowing anyone in the world to contribute features to a free online geographical database, thereby allowing international mixes of contributors to create the map in any given place. Using South America as a test area, I explore the geography of OSM contributors by applying automated language identification to the free-form comments that contributors make when saving their work. By cross-referencing these languages with users’ self-reported hometowns from their profiles, I evaluate the effectiveness of language detection as a method for inferring the percentage of local contributors versus the percentage of “armchair mappers” from elsewhere. I show that most English-speaking contributors to the South American OSM are from outside the continent (rather than multilingual locals). The percentage of English use is higher in poor areas and rural areas, suggesting that residents of these places exercise less control over their map contents. Finally, I demonstrate that some features related to daily needs of health, education, and transportation are mapped with higher priority by contributors who speak the local language. These findings give researchers and organizations a deeper understanding of the OSM contributor base and potential shortcomings that might affect the data’s fitness for use in any given place.

High Latitude Dynamics of Atmosphere-Ice-Ocean Interactions
By Spengler, T., I. Renfrew, A. Terpstra, M. Tjernström, J. Screen, I. Brooks, A. Carleton, D. Chechin, L. Chen, J. Doyle, I. Esau, P. Hezel, T. Jung, T. Kohyama, Lüpkes, K. McCusker, T. Nygård, D. Sergeev, M. Shupe, H. Sodemann, and T. Vihma
In Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.
doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00302.1, in press
Scientists from 13 countries involved with modeling and observing the coupled high-latitude weather and climate system discussed our current understanding and challenges in polar prediction, extreme events, and coupled processes on scales ranging from cloud and turbulent processes, from micrometers to a few hundred meters, to processes on synoptic-scale weather phenomena and pan-Arctic energy budgets of hundreds to thousands of kilometers. Workshop participants also evaluated research needs to improve numerical models with usages spanning from uncoupled to fully coupled models used for weather and climate prediction.

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