Archive for the ‘Matplotlib’ Category

Parsing USGS BIL Digital Elevation Models in Python

A false colour elevation map of the Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe

The USGS have a digital elevation model covering most of the US, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. If you use the National Map Seamless Server it’s possible to select a region and download a digital elevation model in a number of formats. One of these, BIL, is a simple binary raster file, which can be read quite easily in Python – in this, I’ll base this on code from a previous post.

Getting the data

  • Go to National Map Seamless Server
  • The map is fairly intuitive, but if you get stuck check out their tutorial
  • When you use the download rectangle tool, make sure to click on “Modify data request” and choose the BIL data format (BIL_INT16) rather than the default “Arc_GIS”
  • Choose zip or TGZ
  • You’ll then download a compressed archive – may take a while
  • The archive contains lots of files; look at the contents of output_parameters.txt. This tells you the dimensions of the file. Make a note of the sizes.
  • Extract the .bil file – this is what has the raw data.

Extracting the binary elevation data from the BIL file

# USGS Seamless Server BIL Format Parser

import struct

# get these from the output_parameters.txt file
# included in the download

# where you put the extracted BIL file

# unpack binary data into a flat tuple z
s="<%dH" % (int(width*height),)
z=struct.unpack(s, contents)

After running this, z is now a tuple of width*height elements, with data stored in raster order (entries in row 1 from left-to-right, then row 2 from left-to-right, and so on)

The struct module for reading binary data

struct is a fantastic Python library, it really makes reading binary files pretty easy. Say we have a raster-layout binary file of 50 rows by 100 values per row. We’d expect 5000 values. Each value is an unsigned short (H) and little-endian (<)

In this case, we build up a format specification like this

Plotting the end result

And optionally, if you have matplotlib and numpy libraries, you can get a quick preview of the resulting array.

from pylab import *
import numpy as np
import as cm

heights = np.zeros((height,width))
for r in range(0,height):
    for c in range(0,width):
        if (elevation==65535 or elevation<0 or elevation>20000):
            # may not be needed depending on format, and the "magic number"
            # value used for 'void' or missing data
imshow(heights, interpolation='bilinear',cmap=cm.prism,alpha=1.0)

Creating a pinboard map of geotagged photos in a flickr pool

January 14, 2010 1 comment

In this post I’ll show how to produce a simple pinboard map of geotagged photos in a flickr group pool, using Python and Basemap/Matplotlib. You’ll need:-

There are two short scripts here:-

  • A script to find the longitude and latitude of geotagged photos in the group pool
  • A script to generate the plot

The first script produces a CSV file; the second uses this CSV file to produce the plot.

Here’s the script to produce the CSV file with photo locations:-

# -*- coding: UTF8 -*-
Created on 12 May 2009
Based on beejs flickr API
Produce a list of photo locations for a given
group's pool on flickr
@author: Steven Kay

import flickrapi
import string
import datetime
import string
import time

# Enter your API key below
# You can apply for an API key at 
api_key = '' 

# paste group NSID below
group = '1124494@N22'

# sample... fetch your latest images with 
# a count of the views, faves and comments

if __name__ == '__main__':
    flickr = flickrapi.FlickrAPI(api_key)
    response_photos = flickr.groups_pools_getPhotos(group_id=group,per_page=500,extras='geo')
    if pages>8:
        # stop after 8 pages of 500 images
        # not sure if groups.pools.getPhotos has the same
        # 4000 image limit as
    print "Longitude,Latitude"
    for page in range(0,pages):
        response_photos = flickr.groups_pools_getPhotos(group_id=group,per_page=500,page=str(page),extras='geo') 
        for photo in response_photos.findall(".//photos/photo"):
                st="%s,%s" %(lon,lat)
                if not st=="0,0":
                    # ignore the odd buggy 0,0 coords
                    print "%s,%s" %(lon,lat)
                    fo.write("%s,%s\n" %(lon,lat))

You’ll need to find the NSID of the group as an input; you can find this with the flickr API call

Now, you have a simple CSV file with the latitude and longitude of each geotagged image in the pool.


This demo uses the Photography Guide to Scotland pool.

The next step is to plot the map.

Simple Matplotlib/Basemap pinboard map for
Flickr Groups.

Need to provide a CSV file in following format

.. etc..

Created on 10 Oct 2009

@author: Steven Kay

from basemap import Basemap 
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import matplotlib.pylab as pylab
import numpy as np
import string
import as cm

x=[] #longitudes
y=[] #latitudes


for line in fi:
    if linenum>0:
        line=string.replace(line, "\n","")

# cass projection centred on scotland
# will need to replace with a projection more suited
# to the group you're plotting

m = Basemap(llcrnrlon=-8.0,llcrnrlat=54.5,urcrnrlon=1.5,urcrnrlat=59.5,
m.drawmapboundary(fill_color='cyan') # fill to edge
m.drawrivers() # you may want to turn this off for larger areas like continents

plt.title("Photography Guide to Scotland in FlickR") # might want to change this!

This script uses a projection centred around scotland; you’ll need to change the following line…

m = Basemap(llcrnrlon=-8.0,llcrnrlat=54.5,urcrnrlon=1.5,urcrnrlat=59.5,

…to something more suitable for your needs. Basemap provides an intimidating list of projections which should meet your needs.

world endangered species map

October 25, 2009 Leave a comment

visualizing the number of endangered species worldwide.

Outer circle represents number of species in total; green inner circle is the proportion that are plant species.

sources of data – Guardian Data Blog. Country locations from CIA World Factbook. Plotted using python/matplotlib with baseline extension.

Categories: Basemap, Infovis, Matplotlib

homicide rates

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

homicide rates

Originally uploaded by stevefaeembra

A visualisation of the homicide rates across the world.

Scatter plots with Basemap and Matplotlib

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

A while back I used the flickr api to map 24 hours worth of geotagged photos.

My previous attempts needed some manual Photoshop work to superimpose the plots on a map. The next logical step is to do the whole process – from start to finish – in code, and remove the manual steps.

To do this, I tried the awesome Basemap toolkit. This library allows all sorts of cartographic projections…

Installing Basemap

Basemap is an extention available with Matplotlib. You can download it here (under matplotlib-toolkits)

I installed the version for Python 2.5 on Windows; this missed out a dependency to httplib2 which I needed to install separately from here.

Getting started

Let’s assume you have 3 arrays – x, y and z. These contain the longitudes, latitudes, and data values at each point. In this case, I binned the geotagged photos into a grid of degree points (360×180), so that each degree square contained the number of photos tagged in that degree square.

Setting up

from basemap import Basemap 
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import string
import as cm


Now, you need to populate the x,y and z arrays with values. I’ll leave that an exercise to you 🙂 All three arrays need to be the same length.

Now, you need to decide which projection to use. Here, I’ve used the Orthographic projection.

m = Basemap(projection='ortho',lon_0=-50,lat_0=60,resolution='l')

Here is the secret sauce I took a while to work out. That’ll teach me not to R the FM. This line transforms all the lat, lon coordinates into the appropriate projection.


The next bit, you can decide which bits you want to plot – land masses, country boundaries etc.

m.drawmapboundary(fill_color='black') # fill to edge

Finally, the scatter plot.

plt.title("Flickr Geotagging Counts with Basemap")