Mapping Merriment

Santa trackers, holiday traffic maps, and white Christmas weather reports


Children around the world are counting down the hours until St. Nick leaves his North Pole factory to deliver this year’s bounty of toys. To watch Santa’s journey and estimate when his sleigh will touch down in your neighborhood, North American Defense Command (NORAD) is once again offering its official Santa tracker.

Though the command’s tradition of tracking Kris Kringle has been upheld every year since 1958, the technology NORAD uses today yields far greater precision than in decades past. The Verge reports essential tools include the military’s Space Based Infrared System (which can locate Rudolph’s glowing nose), the North Warning Radar System along the Canadian coast, radar on naval ships, and fighter jet escorts.

In the spirit of following Santa’s global journey, National Geographic released a vintage map from 1955 that illustrates Father Christmas at hundreds of stops around the world—dodging crocodiles in West Africa, climbing the pyramids in Egypt, riding an elephant in India, and lounging on the beach in Florida.

Santa won’t be the only one traversing the globe. AAA projects more than 107 million Americans will travel for the holidays, a 3.1 percent increase from last year and the highest estimate ever.

In preparation of the country’s most active travel season, Esri published an interactive ArcGIS map of traffic trends surrounding the five busiest airports in the U.S. Using data collected for the last three years on Dec. 23 (a peak travel day) by mapping company HERE, the maps display a 24-hour cycle of how traffic will change over the course of the day. Animated GIFs show how far travelers will be able to drive in 60 minutes from LAX, Dallas Fort-Worth, O’Hare, JFK, and Hartsfield-Jackson airports at different times. Commuting to Connecticut from JFK, for example, could take 40 minutes at midnight or 80 minutes at 2 p.m.

For those hoping for a white Christmas, Vouchercloud developed maps and charts visualizing every country and U.S. state’s chances of seeing snowfall Dec. 25. Globally, Russia tops the list with a predicted 60.9 percent chance of snow, followed by Belarus and Finland. Stateside, Alaska predictably takes the crown with a 66.1 percent chance of snow. Most of the southern half of the U.S. won’t see a single snowflake, with the exception of New Mexico, which is an outlier at 23.4 percent. Each location’s chance of snowfall was calculated using December snowfall data collected by World Weather Online from 2009 to 2016.

Photo Credit: National Geographic

Posted in: got geoint?   Tagged in: GIS, Weather

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