An Animated Map of the Earth

This is one of the very few animated maps I made for my space cartography project! NASA publishes many Earth datasets at monthly time scales, and this GIF uses one frame per month to show the fluctuating seasons. The animation focuses mainly on data about Arctic sea ice and vegetation, but it was hard to choose - NASA has many other beautiful seasonal datasets, like fire, temperature, or rainfall.

The NASA Earth Observations website includes data on seasonal fire incidence (1), vegetation (2), solar insolation, or the amount of sunlight (3), cloud fraction (4), North Pole ice sheet coverage (5), and processed satellite images (6). My own map (7) combines the ice sheet data and the Blue Marble satellite images. The NEO database also has many more interesting datasets not shown here, like rainfall, chlorophyll concentration, or Carbon Monoxide.

To match the rest of the space map collection, I decided to emphasize the natural features of the Earth. So I didn’t include any country borders, country names, or other political information (though I did include large cities because I thought they counted as interesting physical features). Instead I tried to use colors and labels that emphasized the capes, oceans, deserts and forests of the world. I also used the bottom two corner maps to show the changes in cloud cover and temperature throughout the year.

In addition to data from NASA, I also used outlines and labels from Natural Earth. Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset with many useful features, and for this animation I used Natural Earth coastlines and labels for cities, ice sheets, lakes, and other large natural areas. I also used data from the USGS to map the Earth’s tectonic plates.

As an unrelated note, I’ve also gotten several emails asking for high-resolution digital wallpapers of my space maps - so here they are! These are completely free, and you can download the ZIP files of five different wallpapers for 4:3 resolution, 16:9, 16:10, and double monitors.

An Animated Map of the Earth