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Map showing dominant soil classes of Ethiopia in bright colors
"Map Sheet #4" from Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:1,500,000," Universität Bern. Centre for Development and Environment, 2018. Geography & Map Division.

Visualizing 21st Century Ethiopia

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In this week’s blog post, I will spotlight a new Geography & Map Division digital acquisition, which is now available online — The MapServer Ethiopia: Thematic and Geographic Overview, Field and Base Map Series.

This set of born-digital map series visualizes Ethiopia at five different scales, and each scale-based set contains maps with multiple geographic themes. The maps were first published in 2018 as part of the MapServer Ethiopia project. According to project information provided on the map collars, the project aims to disseminate maps and geospatial data to “improve mapping and spatial understanding in the context of project management, natural resources governance, humanitarian aid work, and academic education.” MapServer Ethiopia is run by the Water and Land Resources Centre, which was established by the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Bern, Switzerland. The project also receives funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. All of the map sheets have Creative Commons 4.0 licensing and are georeferenced (more on the georeferencing later!).

The first map set shows all of Ethiopia in one map sheet (per theme) at the scale of 1:1,500,000 across seven different themes: Change in Forest Cover 2000-2015, Time of Travel to Regional Centres, Population Distribution 2016, Annual Precipitation 2017, Dominant Soil Groups, River Basins and Watersheds, and Rangelands. Below is the “Population Distribution 2016” map, which shows the density of population per square kilometer. On the map you can see the population center extending north and south from Addis Ababa, with low population levels dominating in the southeastern area of the country south of the Ethiopian Rift.

Map of Ethiopia showing population distribution, with high population levels shown in red
“Population Distribution 2016” from “Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:1,500,000,” Universität Bern. Centre for Development and Environment, 2018. Geography & Map Division.

Additional map sets are available at the scale of 1:1,000,000, which map the country across the same seven thematic categories, but in more detail. Each set covers the country in three map sheets, rather than just one. In the map below, Sheet 2 of the “Annual Precipitation 2017” map series, we can see high precipitation totals in the western region of Ethiopia.

Map of western Ethiopia showing high precipitation levels in dark blue
“Annual Precipitation, Map Sheet 2” from “Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:1,000,000,” Universität Bern. Centre for Development and Environment, 2018. Geography & Map Division.

The map sets rely on open geospatial data, with map data sources that include OpenStreetMap, the European Space Agency, Copernicus, NASA Earth Observation, Natural Earth, and USGS Earth Explorer, among others. There are three detailed map sets, including a 1:500,000 series which maps the country across 13 sheets with two different basemaps: one which utilizes Landsat imagery and another which uses a basemap created by the Water and Land Resources Centre.

Map sheet showing Ethiopia in true color
“Tile X2, Map Sheet 12” of Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:500,000, Landsat series, Universität Bern. Centre for Development and Environment, 2018. Geography & Map Division.

The 1:250,000 series maps the country across 28 sheets, and is available in three versions: Landsat, Sentinel, and a Water and Land Resources Centre custom basemap. The most detailed set is at the scale of 1:100,000, which maps the country across 153 sheets. This set is available in two different versions: one that uses Landsat imagery, and another that uses Sentinel. The Sentinel-based basemap are Sentinel False Color Infrared Mosaics from 2017. False color infrared mapping helps visualize vegetation density and the water in soils and plants. As seen below, the land south-east of Lake Awasa (one of the Rift Valley lakes) displays as red, indicating irrigated cropland or forested areas. The light gray areas west of Lake Awasa are indicative of areas with little to no vegetation, with the lightest gray demonstrating areas with dry soil, and the darker gray showing areas with wet soil.

Map sheet showing an area of Ethiopia in false color, with bright red and light gray areas
“Tile L6 of Field Map Series,” Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:100,000, Universität Bern. Centre for Development and Environment, 2018. Geography & Map Division.

As I mentioned earlier, every single map sheet is georeferenced, and can be downloaded in one of two ways. The first download option will be familiar to users who are well-acquainted with downloading maps or map sheets from the Library of Congress: when looking at a map, under the image itself will be a “Download” drop-down menu with options to download the map image at multiple levels of quality. With these georeferenced sheets, you will also notice that available to you in that drop-down are two text files: Text (PRJ) and Text (TFW). These auxiliary files are known as the projection file and the TIF World File, each of which stores georeferencing information for the sheet. By additionally downloading these two files, any map sheet should become spatially-enabled when loaded into Geographic Information System software.

We are also aware that geospatial users may be interested in not just one individual map sheet, but in downloading the full series run, including all of the related georeferencing files. As a result, we are excited to offer a new download option specifically for these georeferenced sets: when you click into the main item page for any of the sets, you will notice a series option called “Compressed ZIP packages”:

Screenshot showing Compressed ZIP Package download
Look for this “Compress ZIP packages” option to download a full map set and its related georeferencing files

Starting your download from the “Compressed ZIP packages” series will allow you to download an entire series (organized by scale and theme). Large packages may be split across multiple zip packages. Each package will list its full size for awareness before you download. I hope you’ll explore these map sets in full — you can use the following links to do so:

Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:1,500,000

Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:1,000,000

Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:500,000

Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:250,000

Ethiopia geographic base map : 1:100,000

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