Speaking the “Language” of Spatial Analysis via Story Maps

Last update: September 25, 2018
Spatial analysis has always been a hallmark of GIS, the “numerical recipes” which set GIS apart from other forms of computerized visualization and information management. With GIS we can pose questions and derive results using a wide array of analytical tools to help us understand and compare places, determine how places are related, find the best locations and paths, detect and quantify patterns, and even to make spatial predictions.
As Chris Cappelli duly notes: “The greatest potential for change and success occurs when we all understand and speak the same language—-the language of spatial analysis.” (see related post on the power of spatial analysis). What better way to speak that language than via a story map? As people continue to explore and share their world using the medium of story maps, some are venturing beyond the simple map tour mode of points linked to photographs, toward “stories” that examine, explore, and showcase the results of a spatial analysis. We’ll likely see more of these analytical stories as the story map medium is introduced into more GIS courses, particularly at the university level.
As you explore the story of spatial analysis, please see below a small catalog of analytical story maps. Be sure to visit again as I will try to add to this page throughout the year!
New! Unlocking Information from Imagery in ArcGIS, with use cases and analytical workflows showing how ArcGIS provides an end-to-end experience for doing artificial intelligence (AI) with imagery.
Esri’s Applied Analysis site includes a Story Map Gallery of Analytic Case Studies.
Esri’s Applied Analysis and National Government Sciences Team’s Scientists Communicating with Story Maps Gallery.
A story map with both ANALYTICS and suggested societal SOLUTIONS: Take Action: Tools to Understand and Prepare for Extreme Heat.

Lauren Scott Griffin’s “Analyzing Traffic Accidents in Space and Time” uses the Story Map Cascade to analyze automobile crash data in Brevard County, Florida using ArcGIS Pro. The study addresses important questions such as where are traffic accidents increasing (including as specific hot spots within a road network), and when are the most dangerous times to be driving. You can also download the data, follow the complete ArcGIS Pro workflows, and access additional resources on ArcGIS Online.

Lauren Bennett’s “Drought Impact Assessment” uses the Story Map Series – Side Accordion Layout to guide the viewer through four stages of an analysis, culminating in a map of statistically significant decreases in soil moisture over a 35-year period, as part of longer term monitoring effort. See the demo of the story map at the 2014 Federal GIS conference (minute 2:14). In addition, this video at minute 6:28 is an example of using Python to schedule a task that can grab data from the United States Drought Monitor and recreate it as a live service that might be inserted into a story map.

The USDA Forest Service’s Restoration Story Map Atlas uses the same format to show the results of analyses for the Pacific Northwest ranging from identifying the percentage of a watershed that could be effectively treated through active forest thinning, prescribed fire, or use of wildfire, to the results of a bivariate rendering of burn probability by conditional flame length.

The Center for Research in Water Resources at the University of Texas at Austin uses the Map Journal app to tell the story of flood risk in and around Huarez City, Peru as based upon hydrodynamic modeling results. See the related blog post about this research.

Other great analytical examples include:

Winners of the 2016 Global Content Challenge, who were required to use spatial analysis and submit entries as a Story Map Journal:



Analysis in the field, or stories of data collected in the field as inputs for spatial analysis, are also very important:

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