Tag Archive: geography

Animated Atlas of African History

New and interesting concepts of using maps to tell stories through animation.

“This map gives a year-by-year presentation of selected themes in the history of Africa between 1879 and 2002.”

MapStory : Animated Atlas of African History | Geospatial Human Geography | Scoop.it



Alaska is America’s last frontier.  The origin behind this nickname came from its isolation from the rest of the continental United States.  Alaska is a vast region with rugged terrain and harsh climates, bordered by Canada and several bodies of water.  Many resources can be found in this remote land, but one of these resources, oil, has started controversy among its environmental impact and as a result has plagued this region.
Approximately 50 years ago, Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of the United States.  Europeans first discovered this land in 1741 when a Danish-born navigator, Vitus Bering, who was serving in the Russian Navy, was on an expedition around the northern Pacific Ocean.  During this expedition, he sighted land on the southern coast of Alaska, in an area known as Kayak Island, in addition to the Aleutian Islands.  Another vessel, captained by Aleksei Chirikov, was sailing along side of Bering’s ship when a storm separated them.  Chirikov continued to explore and traveled to various points along Alaska’s coast until his crew became ill and the journey could no longer continue.  From this point, the Russian’s occupied the Alaskan territory; however much of it was unexplored.  On October 18, 1867, the land was purchased by the United States for approximately $7.2 million dollars.  Alaska has many geographic landscapes within its boundaries; some of which have helped its economy and others which may it difficult for settlements to survive.  Gold and oil have had a significant impact on Alaska’s geographical landscapes, while the climate has prohibited development in many places across the vast region.
Alaska’s economy has improved over time due to an abundance of resources.  Timber, oil, sea foods, and tourism have all contributed to this growth.  Furthermore, Alaska was first attracted to Americans by the gold rushes of Juneau, CircleCity, Klondike, Nome, and Fairbanksin the late 1800’s.  Over 30,000 people flocked to these areas in the hopes to strike gold; however, with the increase in population, Congress had to start applying laws to the territory to keep order.  After the gold rush had ended, many of the people who originally migrated to Alaskaended up staying there which resulted in Alaska’s population quickly increasing.  Small settlements grew into big towns, such as Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome.  Also, the development of a railroad system in Alaskawas built to connect mines throughout the territory to the port of Seward, located on the southern coast of Alaska, which allowed the flow of goods and resources to be dispersed.  The Alaskarailroad connected the towns of Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seward.  Eventually, as time progressed, the railway was growing with the increase of military personnel moving supplies and other resources in increasing demand.  The economic, cultural, and political geography of this land had transformed greatly after the discovery of gold.  Economically, the gold rush contributed to a growing economy that assisted in the establishment of many new settlements during the turn of the century.  Culturally, the area of Alaska with gold deposits was predominately Native Americans.  The gold rush expanded the culture with the massive amounts of people migrating to these areas.  New customs, religions, and beliefs contributed to the socio-economic way of life that was originally not available.    Lastly, the political geography of Alaskawas slowly changing in order to cater to the growing population.  Congress and the United States started recognizing Alaska; instead of being a vast open land, it was seen as an area of the United Stateswith an abundance of resources.  This observation provoked many changes in the laws of Alaska.
                   Figure 1: Map published in 1898 and covers areas abundant in gold and coal
Another major improvement to Alaska’s economy was the opening of vast oilfields in northern part of the state.  In the 1970’s, the United States authorized a pipeline to be built to transport the oil from the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay to the Gulf of Alaska at Valdez.  The pipeline, which is called the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, runs approximately 800 miles between these two areas and has transported over 15 billion barrels of oil since it was built.  In Valdez, the oil is then shipped from the port of Valdez to the mainland of the United States for further refining.  Supposedly, there is also a great abundance of oil that can be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee (ANWR), located in northeastern Alaskaand other areas of the Arctic; however, environmentalists continually fight the possibility of drilling in this tundra region.  In an article by Mitchell, he states “much of the debate over whether to drill in ANWR rests on the amount of economically recoverable oil, as it relates to world oil markets, weighed against the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the natural wildlife.”  Some of the animals, birds, and mammals in these habitats that would be affected include caribou, polar bears, walrus, and whales, among other species.  In addition to damaging the habitats of these animals, there is also political and cultural landscapes affected.  Politically, the Canadian government opposes anytime type of drilling in this area due to the shared boundary with the Yukon Province.  Two Canadian national parks, Ivvavik and Vuntut are located in the vicinity of the opposed drilling sites and also provide refugee for various types of animals, especially caribou.  These parks have banned any type of industry from developing these lands and expect the United States to treat these lands with the same respect.  Since the discovery of oil in Alaska, it has become a major revenue of the state, in addition to income for many Alaskans.  The residents of the state along with the Alaskan government are for the idea of drilling in these protected lands because it will increase profit and revenue for them from the oil leasing.  The Native Americans of the geographic region have split views on whether to drill or not depending on where they live.  For instance, the Inupiat Eskimos who live north of the mountains named Brooks Range, are for onshore drilling, but oppose to offshore drilling; where as the Gwich’in Indians, south of the Brooks Range, pose the drilling as a threat to their environment.  Other supporters of the drilling argue that the oil able to be salvaged beneath northern Alaska’s tundra could equate to many decades of importing oil from the Middle East.  This would decrease our dependency on oil from foreign countries and reinvest our money in our own economy vice in a foreign government.  Regardless, of the aforementioned pros and cons, there still has not been enough research to determine how the drilling would really affect the geographic landscape of northern Alaska.  Many of the geographic landscapes affected by the extraction of petroleum have had similar results to Alaska’s economy as in the gold rush.  Petroleum extracts make up the majority of revenue for the state of Alaska.
        Figure 2: Map published in 1999 by the State of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Division
The physical geography of Alaskais mostly mountainous with 14 ranges covering the majority of area within the state, along with hills, valleys, and rivers.  Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes are known to have helped shape the geography of Alaskaover the past millions of years.  In addition, Alaska is surrounded by water on three of its sides: Arctic Ocean to the North, Bering Sea to the West, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.  The total area of these three bodies of water consists for 43,887 miles of the coastline.  However, most of Alaska’s physical geography is very remote and inhabitable and covers approximately 590, 804 square miles.  It is extremely cold making it very difficult for any type of agriculture, cultivation, extensive development, or permanent settlement for most people.  The largest city, Anchorage, does not have more than 300,000 people residing in it.  Most of the northern lands are tundra and permafrost.  Permafrost consumes about 80% of Alaskaand impacts the physical infrastructure of Alaska.  Constructing buildings over permafrost could cause it to melt resulting in the buildings to partially sink.  Similarly, roads in permafrost areas can cause the subsurface to melt resulting in road depressions and expensive repairs.  Since it is so inhabitable, the region has not been explored in great detail; however, in addition to what has already been found, it is possible there may be even more resources in gold and oil that have not been found and which would be very beneficial to Alaska.
In conclusion, many industries have been established in Alaska.  Gold, copper, and coal mines have been created from the abundance of resources located within or near the various mountain ranges in this geographic region.  In addition, oil and gas pump stations have been created from various regions in the north.  Since the land is so remote, railroads and pipelines have been built to transport theses resources to other parts of the country, mainly through the ports of Valdez and Seward.  Unfortunately, between the northern and southern regions of Alaska, the land is extremely rugged and unstable, with three mountain ranges, permafrost, rivers and streams, and many migration paths for animals, in addition to active fault lines.  As a result, the geological activity between the north and the south has caused many problems for the pipeline, as well as the railroad, which does not travel as far north.

Case Study Proposal:

The identification of 25 potential sites to construct cell phone towers around the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area
This study will examine the potential for a design of a project in regards to a wireless phone company who is interested in expanding their communication network to receive better coverage in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   The project will consist of sorting through many datasets available online via http://www.mass.gov/mgis/massgis.htmand then downloading key features that may assist in the creation of geodatabases.  Ultimately, this will align the various analyses of determining which datasets will reveal ideal locations for the new cell towers.  Furthermore, new developments have boosted the population in and around Boston creating a greater demand for communication technologies, especially as the networks are expanding into 4G standards.
The following layers will establish a base foundation dataset in order to perform several different types of analyses.  Some of these datasets may be repetitive (i.e. some of the data will be downloaded for awareness) or may only be used as a reference and not in the actual analyses  (which are located immediately below).
·         Shaded Relief (1:5,000)
Census/Statistical Data
Ground Suitability Data
·         Impervious Surface (raster to vector conversion)
Conservation/Recreation (merge into one shapefile)
Other Facilities (merge into one shapefile)
Physical Resources
Water Features (Merge into one shapefile)
Additional layers can be found at http://wireless.fcc.gov/geographic/index.htm– it is important to understand the current cell tower infrastructure in identifying gaps in coverage or where they may lay in regards to more population density in one area over another.  Also, major thoroughfares need to have consistent connectivity for travelers as well as be able to handle the influx of users on a cellular network.  This site provides maps showing FCC licensing data, regulated towers, and market area boundaries.  These maps then need to be converted into a raster file and eventually digitize to extract the generated information on the map into vector files.  Another website I would extract data from would be www.cloudmade.com.  There are no guarantees on what type of data will be available, but cloudmade.com allows you to download various shapefiles of landmarks, infrastructure, and other user-generated data that has been uploaded to openstreetmaps.com.  Acquiring traffic data will also be of value for this project in order to identify high trafficked areas of cars along major thoroughfares.
There are several types of analyses I would use within ArcGIS in order to conduct this project.  Proximity analysis is useful in several different ways.  First and foremost, in this project the geographic constraint is 25 miles outside of the Boston city limits.  I will create an extent polygon in order to clip out each of the attributes of my shapefiles that fall outside of this area.  This will allow me to use smaller datasets and not have to be concerned with highways and schools (including colleges and universities) outside of the constraint, among many other shapefiles’ attributes.   On the other hand, some of the features are not necessarily that important by themselves.  For example, there are various types of water features or conservation/recreation layers that do not need to be standalone files.  Merging these various datasets in order to eliminate unnecessary cluster is important so there is less data to work with.  The important factor as a result is that at least the water features and conservation layers are captured since building a cell tower is not an option within these locations.  Another type of proximity analysis is buffering.  In order to identify build zones, a 1 mile buffer must be conducted around the MassDOT Roads (attribute: highway) shapefile and then the lines must be dissolved in case several highways are in close proximity to one another.   In addition, buffering must be done with a radius of 1 mile around all schools.  Once the new shapefiles are generated as a result of the buffering tool, I will overlay each of the buffer files and delete from the highway buffer, wherever the school buffer file overlaps to minimize the amount of ideal locations.
Besides proximity analysis, other types of analyses will be useful in finding ideal locations for the new cell towers.  Towers need to be located in areas where population density is higher than normal to cater toward the influx of people utilizing the network.  As a result, a population density analysis must be conducted based from census data.  Elevation data can assist in terrain analysis in order to identify any hills or peaks above and beyond 250’ above sea level.  Once this area is identified, soil and hydrographic analysis will be conducted in order to determine the ground suitability for building the tower to ensure it is placed in a strong foundation.  Lastly, since cell towers need to be in a close proximity to other cell towers, the next type of analysis I will conduct is a Line of sight analysis to ensure the newly identified locations are within a certain distance from other towers and there are no vertical obstructions and to identify the potential cell coverage. 
The results of this project should determine what areas within the Greater Boston Metropolitan region are ideal in order to build new cellular towers.  The additional datasets from the FCC website will help to alleviate any overlapping towers in order to improve the communications network.  Geospatial data of the amount of users per cell towers in and around the ideal locations would probably improve this study.  Since urban and rural areas have different needs in regards to cell tower use, towers need to be located in ideal locations, but since cell towers are known to possibly cause health issues, towers must stand clear of schools and recreational areas.
This most anticipated roadblock will be the accuracy of all of the data.  Not all the data in the files being used has been captured in the past year.  Therefore, some of the data may be missing components crucial to a full and complete analysis of identifying ideal locations.  Further research needs to be done to confirm the validity of all the data.  For example, have any schools closed down since the shapefiles were generated or have new school been built would be questions that need to be answered.   Also, an urban legend about cell towers is often told that they cause cancer and serious health risks.  Cellular technology is a relatively newer technology and the health community is unable to confirm this suspicion as of yet; however, the public still has some reservations about them being erected nearby to residential areas.  Lastly, the wireless company may have to pay rent for the location of the tower especially if it’s close to residential areas because of the depreciation of property that it will affect the neighborhoods the towers are being built around.

Territorial boundaries drawn by past empires, who have had little regard for geographic realities, often become major sources of conflict.

Throughout history, empires have chosen specific boundaries based on mainly cultural and physical geographic areas.  The British Empire, which controlled many geographic areas in various continents throughout the world, was notably known for performing choosing specific boundaries.  Frequently, in the news I see Israeland its territorial disputes with its neighbors; therefore, I have decided to focus on Israel’s sources of conflicts based on its boundaries.  I will begin with a brief geographic history of Israel for an understanding of its current events. 

The land now known as Israelwas once called Palestineis considered a holy land to the Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Ancient Hebrews that lived in this region called the area Caanan.  After 1000 B.C., this area was split into two different kingdoms which were called Israel and Judah and were invaded by other empires constantly, some of which were the Egyptians, Macedonians, Romans, Persians, and the list continues.  Most of the original Hebrews who settled the region were then forced to emigrate elsewhere.  Afterwards, Palestinebecame a center of Christian pilgrimage after the emperor Constantine converted to that faith.  Hundreds of years later, the Arabs gained control of Palestine from the Byzantine Empire and Muslims continued to rule this region until the 20th century.  Throughout this period, Hebrews started to settle back into Palestine. During World War I, British forces defeated the Turks in Palestine and governed the area until they officially withdrew in 1948, which formed the State of Israel.  In the following days, Muslim forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded the new formed nation.  As a result, Israel had increased its original territory by 50%, taking western Galilee, a broad corridor through central Palestineto Jerusalem, and part of modern Jerusalem.  Almost a decade later, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and forbidden Israeli shipping to travel through the newly created canal.  This led Israel to seize the area known as the Gaza Strip located on the Sinai Peninsula.  Another decade later, Israel made simultaneous attacks against Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian air bases, totally defeating the neighboring Muslim nations which tripled the size of Israel’s territory.  The areas controlled by Israel were the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, Jerusalem’s Old Cityand the Gaza Strip.

As a result, the dispute over the territories controlled by Israel has created a sense of instability in the region.  The land that was provided to the Hebrews from Great Britainis now in constant turmoil.  The Palestinians, who are of Arab descent, are now looking to regain control of their land.  Constant upheavals in the area known as Gaza continue to rise.  The primary issue that continues to instigate this conflict is the attempt to maintain an ethnically preferred state which is inevitable considering the majority of people in Israel are now Jewish.  This region once was mainly settled by Muslims; however, they are now prohibited from returning to their homes because the state proclaims Judaism.  Furthermore, Israel’s military occupation over the aforementioned regions that were seized prior to the 1970’s is still burdensome to the Palestinians who have minimal control over their lives and live in disarray daily.  Peace efforts continue to try to resolve this conflict, but Israel refuses to give the controlled land back to its rightful owners who were forced out.  Obviously, when the original borders were implemented, no one took into consideration that people would be forced out and not have anywhere to go.  Hopefully in the future, Israel will resolve this issue by giving back the Gaza, West Bank, and the other areas they have taken control of especially because it is a constant battle to keep these lands for Israel.  

For the record, I have no bias toward either side; I am just stating my observables.

There are two main international concerns with respect to South Asia: Terrorism and Nuclear War.  Both concerns can be originated from a mountainous geographic region known as Kashmir, in northern India.  I will begin with a short history of the region for an understanding of its cultural and political geography.

The former state known as Kashmir has been disputed for over 50 years between India and Pakistan.  The conflict started shortly after the British Empire gave independence to Indiaand Pakistanwhich was around August of 1947.  Immediately following the independence, the Marharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, contemplated which country would be more advantageous for his state to join.   Both, Indiaand Pakistan were divided by the British due to their religions and Kashmirwas left to make a decision to transfer their power peacefully.  Singh was torn between his religion, Hindu, and the majority religion of his people who were mostly Muslim.  Since there was a larger Muslim population than Hindu, Pakistanand the people of Kashmir wished to become part of Pakistan.  In addition, Pakistanfeared that Indiawould cut off their water supply coming from this region.  Kashmir has a diversity of different religions throughout its region.  In the 1940’s, the total population was just over 4 million people, approximately 77% were Muslim, 20% Hindu, 1.5% Sikh, and 1% Buddhist.  However, the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh, practiced Hindu beliefs; therefore, creating a religious conflict.  This resulted in extensive violence in the region between Hindus and Muslims.  Overall, Singh’s conflicting dream was to continue ruling Kashmir as an independent nation. 
A few months later, the Pakistani army and Pashtun tribesman from Pakistan invaded Kashmir in hopes to seize the land for Pakistan.  They pillaged towns, looted, and raped Kashmiri women.  In response, Singh annexed Kashmir to India in return for military aid from the Indian army which would defend Kashmir.  Shortly thereafter, the United Nations ordered a ceasefire at the end of the first Kashmir war.  As a result of the invasion, Pakistanoccupied a substantial part of the Kashmirvalley, totaling approximately 36,000 square miles.  In 1963, Pakistanceded an area known as Trans-Karakoram Tract to China; however, India still claims this area because they do not recognize Pakistan’s region of Kashmir.  Since turmoil continued to affect the region in two more wars, the United Nations has attempted to resolve the conflict by enacting new resolutions.  However, this region of South Asia has caused much violence contributing to this conflict, due to its sparse and different cultural geography.  Kashmir is on the brink of a nuclear war due to this conflict between Pakistanand India.  Moreover, many terrorist groups are being harbored in this region that is also in support of Al Qaeda, among other groups.  This has created much indifference between Pakistanand Indiaresulting in several wars and instability in the region.  As a result of the unstableness in this geographic region, the international community is extremely concerned of what the outcome might be.
Separatist violence in Kashmir has been increasing as time has progressed.  India continues to blame Pakistan-based militant groups for many deadly attacks against Indian civilians, in addition to Indian government security forces.  Most of these militants have ties to Islamic terrorist groups as well.  In March 2003, the chief of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency reported that “70 Islamic militant camps are operating in Pakistani Kashmir. In May 2009, the Indian Defense Minister claimed that about 3,000 “terrorists” were being trained in camps” on the Pakistani-controlled region of Kashmir.  In addition, it is thought that Al Qaeda may be active in Kashmir as well (Kronstadt 2003).  Indian authorities are also urging that the U.S. and international community pay closer attention to anti-India terrorism originating from Pakistan.  Another international concern between these two countries is the possibility of nuclear war.  In 1998, Pakistanand Indiaboth tested nuclear bombs; thus escalating a minor conflict into a possible nuclear conflict.  Since then, there have been concerns over if the two countries would resolve the conflict by nuclear resolution.  Both countries also have their own extensive nuclear policy.  Pakistan’s nuclear policy is “is to act in a responsible manner and to exercise restraint in conduct of its deterrence policy.”  Their nuclear policy also does not want their capabilities to affect non-nuclear weapon countries within in the region; therefore, Pakistan’s nuclear policy seems to allow a nuclear attack only on the defensive.  On the other hand, India’s nuclear policy stands on the offensive.   Its policy will have nuclear involvement only if Indiais reacting to a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack that affects their land or citizens.

I came across the following site that has a wealth of free information on Geographic Information Systems'(GIS)-related information by Berry & Associates // Spatial Information Systems (BASIS).  Map Analysis is a great subject for anyone interested in analyzing maps especially through GIS. A link to the material is http://www.innovativegis.com/basis/

There are presentation slides in the "Online Books and Materials: Map Analysis Workshop Materials" by Joseph K. Berry that go over various topics in the workshops presented such as Introduction and Data Considerations, Spatial Analysis Techniques and Considerations, Spatial Statistics Techniques and Considerations, GIS Modeling Approachesand Considerations , among others.

There is also a free online book which can be downloaded that covers a wealth of topics such as Spatial Interpolation Procedures and Assessment, Where Is GIS Education?, Analyzing Accumulation Surfaces, Linking Data Space and Geographic Space, Analyzing Landscape Patterns, Applying Surface Analysis,  Human Dimensions of GIS, Overview of Spatial Analysis and Statistics, Spatial Data Mining in Geo-business and much more.
A link to the book can be found here: http://www.innovativegis.com/basis/mapanalysis/

Happy Reading!
Recently, I came across a book called the Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington which takes a look at people’s cultural and religious identities and argues that this will be the primary source of conflict in the 21st century.
I believe that the clash of civilizations seems to be a very broad statement in the use of Huntington’s thesis.  Personally, I have mixed feelings towards Huntington’s theory.  On one hand, it is possible to picture the validity of the clashing of civilizations; however, on the other hand, I am in agreement with an article by Amartya Sen (2006) titled “What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn’t destiny” that states that “the increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that any human being has and to try to classify individuals according to a single allegedly pre-eminent religious identity is an intellectual confusion that can animate dangerous divisiveness.”  When comparing civilizations, a civilization can be reduced down to a small scale, it doesn’t necessarily have to be compared to historic civilizations such as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, and so on.  
When comparing people from different parts of the United States such as Texans, Californians, New Englanders, and Georgians, all who are classified as Americans; however, each has their own distinct cultures within the United States.  But what is an American?  An American is not only somebody from the United States, but somebody in Mexico, or Costa Rica.  Back in 2005, I had taken a trip to Costa Rica to immerse in the culture.  One thing I noticed from the people there is that they were offended when Americans were only referred to the people of the United States.  With that said, single classifications can be very misleading.  If civilizations are divided by particular cultures, then Iraq, a majority Islamic state, could be broken up into three different cultures: The Kurds, Sunni Muslims, and Shiite Muslims, but Iraq is also home to other minorities such as Christians (Chaldeans), among many other ethnic groups.  
For Huntington to state that the world is divided into nine different civilizations is a misnomer.  The truth is that Huntington uses only one type of classification which is based off of religion; however, the different cultures within religious groups, classes, societies, and beliefs are other classifications that can be used to distinctly separate people from one another.  In many nations or states throughout the world, conflict usually arises within their own political boundaries as a result of some sort of clash.  It can usually be defined as cultural differences, but not all conflicts are solely violent.  Some may be political or even economical.  I do not believe Huntington is wrong for his ideology, but he is only looking at conflicts within global politics as one possible perception and is not looking outside the lines of religious/cultural classifications.  This sort of realignment that Huntington predicts has occurred throughout history.  
More recently, globalization is now mixing the various different cultures and civilizations throughout the world together and leading these different cultures and religions to share many commonalities than ever before.  On a separate note, Huntington discusses clashes between western civilizations and Islamic civilizations.   The majority of people in western civilization are Christians; therefore, in my opinion, Huntington goes on to discuss the conflicts between these two cultures as a future problem that needs to be considered in foreign policy.  I disagree with his views on this because Christians and Muslims have been fighting for thousands of years and it should already be in our foreign policies.  This is not only a future issue, but a past and present issue as well.

I believe all factors will come into play when conflict occurs, not only cultural factors like Huntington states. Every year, the world is becoming more and more global with technology, especially the internet. Many cultures that were once isolated years ago are now sharing many traits with other cultures because it is becoming the “norm” globally. Immigrants that live in repressed or poor regions of the world are now increasingly migrating to Western countries because they believe it will lead them to more opportunities and a better life. The mixing of cultures is becoming more and more acceptable; however, tensions of cultures worldwide will always have some sort of conflict. Huntington’s thesis is inaccurate when it breaks the world into eight different civilizations. Many states and nations within these “8” civilizations have conflicts daily and even within their political boundaries. Therefore, I believe the world is becoming more economical and countries of different cultures are now uniting with other countries of the world for these reasons. The main conflicts will be more of an internal conflict than a worldwide conflict of cultures.

So let’s take a step back for a moment at all the major conflicts since the 21st century.  Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Sudanese Civil War, Russo-Georgian War, Arab Uprising revolutions, and radical Islamist jihads.  With the exception of radical Islam, none of these other conflicts were really based on religious ideology.  They were either political, economic, or over territory in my opinion.  

Islamist radicalists can blend in with any society, no matter where it is to cause harm toward others.  In Huntington’s thesis, they are mostly concentrated as one civilization, “Islamic civilization.”  Regardless, there are no boundaries to these non-state actors and they have developed cells all over the world in many other civilizations than the Islamic one. I would think this would be the closest example that would tie into the thesis.  Yet still, they also fight within their own “civilization” and against other Muslims.  Their interpretation of Islam is very different than other interpretations within the culture.  Not all Muslims believe what these radical Islamists believe in; Islam is supposedly a peaceful religion, this just comes to show that it is not possible to divide the world into civilizations.  

I welcome everyone’s thoughts and comments on this posting.  I would like to initiate a respectable discussion.

Maps can tell a great story without words, especially by showing a temporal depiction of the change of cultures and boundaries. Throughout history though, various empires conquered many lands across most of Asia and left behind many cultural influences that have molded today’s ethnic groups and languages in the region.

There are three main language families in this region depicted in the below map: Semitic (Yellow), Indo-Iranian (Orange), and Turkic (Green).

Semitic language roots trace back to the days of the Sumerians and Akkadians estimated around 2400 BC. These languages have evolved over time into the most commonly known languages of Arabic (commonly used in all Arab States), Hebrew (commonly used in Israel), Amharic (commonly used in Ethiopia), and Tigrinya (commonly used in Eritrea).

Indo-Iranian language roots trace back to 6th century BC. Indo-Iranian is most commonly known today as the Persian language family consisting of mainly Kurdish, Farsi, Pashto, Tajik, and Dari. Other Indo-Iranian languages are located in Pakistan and India.

Turkic language roots trace back to the early Middle Ages (around 8th century AD). Before the Turkic expansion occurred, most Turks were located in the Area known as Mongolia today. In the years following the early Middle Ages, the Turks expanded in all parts of Asia from Siberia to India to Turkey covering a vast land mass and influencing many cultures along the way. Today, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and the languages of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia make up what is part of the Turkic family.

The following maps are courtesy of the Gulf/2000 Project funded by Columbia University:

Linguistic Composition of Southwest Asian States: Present Day

The following group of maps reveals historic changes as a result of the various conquerors, empires, and cultures from 1450 to 2000 AD. Throughout the years, the only long standing empires have been the Ottoman/Turkey and Persia/Iran.

Islamic States ca. AD 1450
Islamic States ca. AD 1510
Islamic States ca. AD 1550
Islamic States ca. AD 1625
Islamic States ca. AD 1700
Islamic States ca. AD 1750
Islamic States ca. AD 1800
Islamic States ca. AD 1840
Islamic States ca. AD 1850
Islamic States ca. AD 1900
Islamic States ca. AD 1925
Islamic States ca. AD 1950
Islamic States ca. AD 2000
This will be my last post in this series of my Military Geography awareness postings.  I had fun researching and writing this topic.  In this last posting, I want to highlight the effects of weather, climate, and terrain on military forces and how geography plays an instrumental role in this.  A couple of years ago, I read book entitled Battling the elements: weather and terrain in the conduct of war by Harold Winters.  This book was not only intriguing to me, but also interesting at the same time in how it depicts various scenarios on how geographies played a crucial role in winning or losing battles.  This posting is a conglomeration of my thoughts with historical facts contained within this book.
Military operations have continuously been effected by various climates that have posed many problems for militaries in foreign lands.  Ground, naval, and air forces each are affected by climate in different ways, but also have some similarities among them.  Those forces that conduct an offensive battle in another climate have usually resulted in a decisive loss.  In order to counter the threat that the climate poses in a foreign land, military strategists and climatologists must do their part to educate their own military force to be effective.  This can be done by understanding the seasonal changes and how terrain and soil will be impacted by the temperatures and precipitation.  Though no strategy will be completely perfect since the weather within the climate may change from year to year, individuals can still study the historical commonalities over time to establish trends and patterns that will benefit their military force.  The impact of a climate in a foreign land has had devastating results on the movement and logistics of a military.
Intruders into a foreign region may be deceived by the weather in an area and not understand the long-term climatic effects.  Climatic factors that have affected historic campaigns consisted of temperature and precipitation as the primary forces.  Ultimately, these effects of nature have disintegrated armies in the past.  In Russia, temperature levels greatly rise in the summer months, but as the year progresses, the temperatures fall drastically.  In the past 300 years, three armies attempted to invade Russia regardless of its climate.  The Swedes, French, and Germans have all suffered greatly as a result of Russia’s weather and climate.
Temperature can be broken down into extreme heat and cold.  Each extreme affects military forces in several different ways depending on the climate the invading country originated from previously.  Extreme heat is preferably more favorable than cold.  For example, most military campaigns against Russia have began in the summer months since the movement of ground forces was somewhat more formidable than in the winter.  The climate in Western Europe relies mainly on air that originates from the nearby ocean which allows for more moderate temperatures.  This climate is very different than in Eastern Europe, where the ocean cooling and heating occurs at a slower rate since it is further inland.  In addition, Russia is a vast territory in size which allows for four major climates that affect its physical environment: tundra, subarctic, continental, and temperate.
Moreover, extreme cold temperatures create hazards for military forces that are unprepared when traveling from less extreme climates.  For example, the lack of seasonal uniforms that were worn by the Germans during their invasion of Russia forces major delays in their advancement into Russia’s heartland, because of their need to warm their troops and equipment.  In addition, soldiers can become frost bitten which allows soldiers to be more susceptible to death, injuries, disease, or desertion if they are inadequately dressed.  Therefore, climatic temperature can have a great impact on a military forces’ physical and mental well-being when traveling across great distances.
On the other hand, precipitation and moisture can cause damage to any military force regardless whether it’s hot or cold.  In summer months, continuous thunderstorms cause the soil to loosen which results in the ground turning to mud.  Climates that rapid cooling occurs in leads to temperatures dropping dramatically; therefore, colder regions of the world endure large quantities of snow.  In Russia, the large amounts of snow cover allows for reflection of the sun’s energy, ultimately prolonging the arrival of spring.  These conditions were quite different than in Western Europe’s winter and both the German and French armies were not prepared for the Russian winter.
The aforementioned climatic factors have ultimately decided the outcomes of military campaigns.  Every military force that decides to invade or fight against another nation in a different climate needs to understand the geographic setting and how the weather will impact their mission.  In addition, historic military forces typically have not been prepared with plentiful supplies, resources, and vehicles in order to carry out their mission in an efficient capacity.  A prime example of military forces that have operated from one climate zone to another during a seasonal change was the German and French invasion of Russia.  These two military invasions based their planning and operations during summer and fall months for their movement into Russia in the hopes for a short battle.
Both militaries expected to return to their respected home countries prior to the arrival of winter.  As a result, each army did not plan for the harsh winter which became their ultimate demise.  Regardless, both armies traveled eastward during the pleasant weather conditions in Western Europe in the summer months.  As the early autumn months arrived, harsh thunderstorms created mud conditions which drastically slowed down the army’s trafficability.  In 1812, autumn was shortened by frigid temperatures as well as extreme cold and snowy conditions.  In 1941, the Germans encountered a long wet autumn which then transitioned into similar harsh conditions that the French faced.  Inadequately equipped soldiers and limited shelter became more damaging to the invaders than any other force.  Overall, both armies were forced to retreat because the French and Germans were not match for the brutal climate in Russia.
Militaries have traveled great distances into unfamiliar climates throughout history in order to gain territory or show superiority to another region of the world.  During a campaign under these pretenses, militaries encounter dust, mud, frost, chill, and hot conditions.  Each of these climatic factors can weaken soldiers and their trafficability as well as affecting their logistics.  These factors also impact the maintenance and functionality of weapons and equipment.  Visibility can often be impaired by such climatic conditions for ground and air operations.  Moreover, air warfare is also impacted by cloud coverage and fog which also contributes to reduced visibility, especially in geographic regions where this type of atmospherics are prevelant.  In combining these factors along with the terrain, many foreign armies can expect conditions harsher than in an actual battle.
All climatic factors impact ground forces’ movement and maneuverability in several different ways.  The effects on trafficability change considerably with the progressions of the seasons.  Climates throughout the world vary in the levels of precipitation that is accumulated over time.  Some climates are mainly dry, while others can be consistently wet or change in the amount of rainfall every year.  The physical environment ultimately determines how a climate will impact military movement.  Constant rainy conditions often cause a muddy setting.  Mud almost always reduces travel time, and stalls machinery, vehicles, and soldiers usually by the unfavorable conditions mud creates in the ground.  This seemed to be a huge obstacle for the German and French armies when traveling into Russia.
Operation Barbossa
In higher latitudes, winter conditions also effect movement greatly.  Countries located in these climates have an edge because they are used to the harsh weather.  Foreigners that are not familiar with these types of conditions usually are unprepared in many ways.  Also, these climates have excessive snow amounts which impede wheeled vehicles and persons especially when the snowfall exceeds 12 inches.  Either of these conditions can completely halt or slow down movement, which was the case for the Germans in Operation Barbossa, and were forced to travel 12 miles in 2 days as a result of the foreign climate.  On the other hand, a benefit of higher latitude climates is when the ground freezes on open terrain, faster movement will occur because of the hardened soil which is ideal for ground forces.
Lastly, climatic conditions also have a huge impact on the logistics of an army.  For example, in June 1812, the French army traveled over the Niemen River in modern-day Lithuania and became stuck in a series of prolonged thunderstorms.  These thunderstorms caused the ground to become so muddy that they had to leave behind many heavy wagons filled with many supplies and equipment needed for the journey to Russia.  Assuming they would return to France prior to the start of winter, the French also brought a limited amount of supplies with them and as a result, the late summer and autumn months became very troublesome.  In the winter months, logistic necessities such as fuel, food, and water became scarce an armies had trouble acquiring the necessary supplies because of the harsh conditions and distance from friendly supply depots.  In addition, this results in a decrease in supplies and ammunitions and access to resources.  Since the higher latitude conditions are not favorable in winter months, most foreign armies are forced to retreat.  Overall, militaries that do not plan effective routes and a plentiful amount of supplies usually succumb to the forces of nature in foreign lands that have significantly different climates than in their homeland.
Lastly, another good book for anyone interested in getting an overview of military geography is Military geography for professionals and the public by John Collins.
Everything happens for a reason.  At least that is what a mentor told me years ago when I was just walking into the real world for the first time.  Culture is the basis behind every action throughout the world.  All people do things for a reason and this has a lot to do where one is raised or lives.  In the anthropology field, this is called a person’s “Worldview” – A person’s worldview ties into their geography greatly.  In addition, this carries over not only in our everyday lives, but for the militaries across the world.  Moreover, Military Geography is not only used by the military, but also by academics and politicians in order to understand the geopolitical sphere through a militaristic lens.
Knowledge and expertise of military geography is a critical factor in analyzing the enemy.  Military geography of a specific region is the discipline regarding geographic aspects that affect military planning and the execution of operations.  In addition, this discipline is divided into several sub-classes of study: cultural, economic, political, and physical geography.  Each one of the areas of study establishes the base for knowledge of a region or area.  The more expertise of a geographic region, the better suited an analyst will be in order to analyze raw intelligence and apply it to an analysis.  Outcomes regarding past U.S. conflicts have been determined by regional knowledge of military geography and have ultimately formulated standards of knowledge for today’s intelligence to be successful. 
Regional, area, and cultural expertise is vital knowledge required for understanding an enemy’s intentions and vulnerabilities.  Also, this knowledge can result in improved battle tactics by understanding the terrain, weather, soil, and lines of communication that are prominent in an area which may ultimately effect enemy movement.  Expertise in these areas allows for a commander, decision-maker, or analyst to establish an overall picture for planning and executing operations.  Understanding culture is becoming a more important factor for military operations across the world.  Unlike the days of the Cold War, enemies of the United States are now integrating into civilian societies.  These enemies may use certain key locations to take cover that are not allowed to be bombed or attacked to their advantage such as hospitals, schools, and mosques.  Therefore, the U.S. military needs to be cognizant of cultural and social norms within a region in order to identify any anomalies or something that is just not normal within a foreign society. 
Regarding military geography, cultural friction is one of the more significant causes of surprise in enemy action.  When in conflict with an opposing force, enemy intentions may be unpredictable, but it may be the culture of the enemy that is most often misunderstood in this sense.  This causes confusion among the friendly force because they are unfamiliar with the norms of their enemy’s society.  The expertise acquired in studying a certain region, area, or culture will overall determine the course that an operation must take in order to be successful, but at the same time limit civilian causalities.  In my opinion, regional expertise is more beneficial for strategic planning than tactical planning.  Understanding the military geography of an area is essential prior to executing enemy forces in a battle.  Knowing when, where, and how to attack an enemy is also influenced by this expertise and has a major effect on the planning stages of a military operation.
There have been several examples of this type of expertise not being utilized that have occurred throughout history.  A somewhat recent example of this took place in the 1990’s in the country of Somalia.  Somalia is a very unstable region that is in a constant state of conflict.  U.S. military forces where not very familiar with certain aspects of the area of Somalia where they were in conflict, in addition to not having basic knowledge of Somali society.  These aspects included the lack of decent geospatial intelligence.  Based on my overall knowledge of this conflict, I believe our forces attacked our enemy as ordered, but did not do their research prior to the battles in ensuring a successful outcome.  This opinion is based on the continuous failures during the conflict in the streets of Mogadishu that U.S. forces endured.  Overall, this was probably due to a lack of expertise in the region known as the Horn of Africa.  However, the United States has been in many other battles that have resulted in similar consequences that have forced U.S. troops to disband and leave the area of conflict.
In order for military forces to act successfully in a foreign land, they must be mindful of where they are located.  Furthermore, they must be reliant on intelligence analysts to supply them with accurate intelligence.  This ties into the that the United States continues to be involved more with asymmetric conflicts across the world, and fewer conflicts against political or organized entities similar to the past.  Military geography also allows for knowledge of an area to be applied to certain operations.  Tactical, operational, and strategic planning rely on this knowledge to avoid any uncertainties and create a successful battle plan.
Overtime, regional and cultural subject matter expertise continues to become a more substantial key component for intelligence operations.  Education, cultural appreciation, and regional experience of analysts are often insufficient for providing insight for an understanding of the enemy.  Also, there is little knowledge of any historical aspects that create social norms different than in the United States or even the language of the local population which can purely affect an overall analysis of a network’s true intentions.  Overall, this is unsatisfactory and proves why knowledge of military geography of a specified area is vital in understanding and analyzing the enemy.  This seems to be a common issue across the world and probably has led to initiatives such as human terrain analysis also known as human geography and other elements that cater more towards regional studies in academia.
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