University of California
Informatics and GIS Program

Posts Tagged: history

Sonoma County Vegetation Map Project using historical Soil Veg maps

Nice post from Mark Tuckman regarding the use of the recently digitized historical Soil-Vegetation maps from Sonoma County. Great story map too!


Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 3:36 PM
Tags: history (12)

Summary of our pilot Soil Vegetation Map digitization project in Sonoma County

Between the years 1949-1979 the Pacific Southwest research station branch of the U.S. Forest service published two series of maps: 1) The Soil-Vegetation Maps, and 2) Timber Stand Vegetation Maps. These maps to our knowledge have not been digitized, and exist in paper form in university library collections, including the UC Berkeley BioScience and Natural Resources Library.

Collection Description

The Soil-Vegetation Maps use blue or black symbols to show the species composition of woody vegetation, series and phases of soil types, and the site-quality class of timber. A separate legend entitled “Legends and Supplemental Information to Accompany Soil-Vegetation Maps of California” allow for the interpretation of these symbols in maps published 1963 or earlier. Maps released following 1963 are usually accompanied by a report including legends, or a set of “Tables”. These maps are published on USGS quadrangles at two scales 1:31,680 and 1:24,000. Each 1:24,000 sheet represents about 36,000 acres. See Figure 1 for the original index key.

The Timber Stand Vegetation Maps use blue or black symbols to show broad vegetation types and the density of woody vegetation, age-size, structure, and density of conifer timber stands and other information about the land and vegetation resources is captured. The accompanying “Legends and Supplemental Information to Accompany Timber Stand-Vegetation Cover Maps of California” allows for interpretation of those symbols. Unlike the Soil-Vegetation Maps a single issue of the legend is sufficient for interpretation. See Figure 2 for the original index key.


We found 22 quad sheets for Sonoma County in the Koshland BioScience Library at UC Berkeley.


Using a large format scanner at UC Berkeley’s Earth Science and Map library we scanned each original quad at a standard 300dpi resolution. The staff at the Earth Science Library completes the scans and provides an online portal with which to download. Current library recharge is at $10 per quad sheet. Coordinating the release of the maps from the UC Berkeley BioScience library and subsequent transfer to the UC Berkeley Earth Science and Map library currently requires a UC member with valid library privileges to check out the maps. 


Georeferencing of the maps was done in ArcGIS Desktop using the georeferencing toolbar. For the Sonoma county quads which are at a standard 1:24,000 scale we were able to employ the use of the USGS 24k quad index file for corner reference points to manually georeference each quad. We used Upper Right, Upper Left, Lower Right, Lower Left as our tie points. The USGS quads are projected in polyconic NAD 1927 UTM Zone 10 projection so we adjusted our data frame to match this original projection and register the image. For a step by step description of this process see “Georeferencing Steps in ArcMap”.

Error estimation

The georeferencing process of historical datasets often produces error. We capture the error created through this process through the root mean squared error (RMSE). The min value from these 22 quads is 4.9, the max value is 15.6 and the mean is 9.9. This information must be captured before the image is registered. See Table 1 below for individual RMSE scores for all 22 quads. 

Table 1: Quad original name, quad name from the downloaded USGS 24k file, and the RMSE of the georeferencing process. 

Quad Name                      Quad Name                    RMSE (m)

60A-3                                Whispering Pines            7.48705

60B-3                                Asti                                 12.7461

60B-4                                The Geysers                    6.84357

60C-1                                Jimtown                          7.66811

60C-2                                Geyserville                      6.60752

60C-3                                Guerneville                     14.8663

60D-12                              Mount Saint Helena       10.7671

61A-3                                Big Foot Mountain          9.77075

61A-4                                Cloverdale                      9.37442

61B-3                                McGuire Ridge               7.90499

61B-4                                Gube Mountain              15.3223

61C-1                                Annapolis                       5.66674

61C-2                                Stewarts Point                 14.8612

61C-4                                Plantation                       4.91229

61D-1                                Warm Springs Dam         15.562

61D-2                                Tombs Creek                   12.995

61D-3                                Fort Ross                         9.06434

61D-4                                Cazadero                        13.0045

62A-4                                Gualala                          11.1405

63A-1                                Duncans Mills                 7.44373

63A-2                                Arched Rock                   5.55524

64B-2                                Camp Meeker                 8.91102


Posted on Friday, October 14, 2016 at 4:44 PM
Tags: history (12)

Aerial photography archives

Notes on where to find historical aerial imagery (thanks to Kass Green): The USDA has an archive of aerial imagery in Salt Lake City at APFO  There is a ArcGIS online map of the  tiles and dates of this photos. Search in ArcGIS online for the AFPO Historical Availability Tile Layer. USDA is in the process of scanning these photos, but you can order them through a manual process now (which can take a long time). 

The EROS data center in Sioux Falls also has an archive of high altitude photos for the US from the 1980s.  Also check out  and .  These photos are available digitally, but are not terrain corrected or georeferenced.

Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 12:55 AM
Tags: history (12), imagery (2)

Historical data and the NRS

Just got off a call with a group of people focusing on historical data discovery at the Natural Reserve System (NRS). This process is part of the recently funded Institute for the Study of Ecological Effects of Climate Impacts (ISEECI). People in the group include:  

Of particular note was the introduction of the Online Archive of California, which is a collection of metadata about historical archives. Peter is adding all his data to the OAC. His work was funded through a Research Opportunity Fund grant through UCOP, and a NSF grant.  The process the NRS has used is different than what we have done with the REC data. They have assembled metadata from the research reports from the stations, and full digitization can be opportunisic and focused on particular questions. There is a Zotero database of publications that have resulted from the reserves. 

Posted on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 3:40 PM
Tags: data (1), history (12)

10-year anniversary for the GIF


I'm musing, contemplating and writing on the decade 2005-2015, as this is the GIF's 10-year anniversary. What a decade it was. Here I'll post and add to some of the key events that helped transform mapping (and the GIF) in the last 10 years.

Key background events

  • 1996. Mapquest launched.
  • 1997. Skynet becomes self-aware.
  • May 2000. Selective Availabilility on GPS turned off, leading the way for GPS in smartphones.
  • The Scan Line Corrector (SLC) on the Landsat 7 ETM+ instrument failed May 31, 2003.
  • 2004. Open Street Map founded.
  • March 2004. Yahoo! maps launched, first slippy maps (click and drag to pan and zoom the map).
  • 2004. NASA releases WorldWind.
  • October 2004. Google acquires Where 2 allowing AJAX map tiling to a desktop client.
  • October 2004. Google acquires Keyhole.

What made 2005 such a crazy year

  • Google Maps launches in February, and goes mobile in April.
  • The first mashup: Paul Rademacher's His original post on Craigslist asking for feedback:
  • Google Maps API launches in June.
  • NASA's Blue Marble Next Generation released.
  • Google Earth launches in June.
  • Hurricane Katrina hits in August. Simple webmaps for the disaster proliferate, and ESRI and GE get on the scene.
  • Kellylab's first blog post in September.
  • GIF launches and hosts our first GIS Day in November with Michael Jones, formerly of Keyhole.
  • The back-up solar array drive on Landsat 5 began failing and was not able to provide the power needed to charge the batteries. November 26.

Where we are in 2015

We've gone through a number of transitions in the world of mapping:

  • Data have transitioned from being siloed, and found in clearinghouses to being open and provided through APIs.
  • We’ve moved from desktop computing to cloud computing.
  • Webmaps have transitioned from using proprietary stacks to networks with multiple open and proprietary options.
  • We’ve moved from imagery gathered monthly or seasonally to daily; footprints are smaller, and our focus has shifted from local focus to global coverage.
  • Our planimetric 2D view is changing with lidar and radar sensors.
  • Visualization has moved from static cartography or simple animations to dynamic interactive visualization.
  • Finally, mapped content is no longer anonymous or regulated, but highly personal and narrative.

Key GiF milestones:

  • 2005 GIIF (Geospatial Imaging and Informatics Facility) launches
  • 2006 OakMapper changes from ArcIMS to Google Earth API
  • 2008 GIIF becomes GIF
  • 2008 OakMapper 2.0 launches
  • 2008 SNAMP website launches
  • 2011 Cal-Adapt goes live
  • 2013 EcoEngine/HOLOS goes live
  • 2014 LandCarbon launches
  • 2014 GIF and Cal-Adapt go to the White House
  • 2014 goes live, built from the HOLOS API
  • 2015 Spatial Data Science bootcamp in May

Onwards and upwards!

Attached Files
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Posted on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 8:58 PM
Tags: gif (1), history (12)

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