Breathing Earth: How and Why

Breathing Earth: How and Why

Breathing Earth
This project surprised me in a number of ways, not least of which was the response.  It has become the most visited item around this site and I thought it would be fun to show how it was made, with the hopes that it sparks some makiness in you.

Accidental Zoetrope
One day last summer I had the opportunity to show Joshua Stevens, a cartographer I really admire, how I make severe basemaps using NASA imagery.  When I pulled up the NASA Visible Earth page (a great resource for beautiful per-month satellite imagery mosaics of earth) and scrolled down, I noticed the thumbnails dance like a zoetrope of polar ice creeping up and down.
Mental bookmark, this could be a fun project and it shouldn’t take long.  As I found out later, I wasn’t the first to think of this, not surprisingly.  But I was the first to do it this way.

Spatial Resuscitation

So I downloaded all twelve months and georectified them so that they were spatially aware and I could play with warping them into all sorts of geographic projections.  I ultimately chose an Azimuthal projection, centered over the North Pole, because it was sphere-like but I also benefited from not loosing all of the coverage of mid-latitudes at the horizon (which I would have if I’d used a truer spherey projection).  And the fact that the projection made Earth look a little trippier than if you were just seeing it as a globe was a plus.
I used ArcMap to re-project and export the images.  ArcMap has a lot of export options, including the ability to define a transparency color and define any crazy resolution you want.

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