This is a beautiful site.
The Atlas of the Biosphere, a service of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a wonderful resource for global and regional maps of environmental data. The maps cover four broad categories: human impacts, land use, ecosystems, and water resources. Global and continental maps are available for each subject, all approximately 1600x1200 in size (making them perfect for desktop backgrounds). The map description pages include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data for ESRI ArcView, the widely-used GIS software, allowing the creation of new mapsets.
The maps give country-based information for most human activity subjects (such as infant mortality, proportion of population under the age of 15, and per capita oil use) and more precise gridcell-based information for most environmental subjects (such as net primary productivity, built-up land, and lakes and wetlands).
Beyond the maps, the Atlas of the Biosphere also has a set of system schematics, in Flash format, showing processes such as the carbon cycle and the Earth's "radiation budget." The SAGE group takes advantage of the SWF format for animation, which is nice, but not for interactivity. Perhaps in the next iteration.
SAGE describes the Atlas as an "ongoing project," and they encourage suggestions for additions.
What a nice surprise to see our web atlas featured on World Changing!
I would like to stress that we would *love* some feedback on this effort, since we hope to launch a much more ambitious follow-on activity in the next year or two (provided we can secure some funding for it).
Any ideas, suggestions, or criticisms would be most welcome. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks! Jon Foley
Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE)
University of Wisconsin, Madison
There is a powerful movie, created by Navin Ramankutty from SAGE, of cropland expansion over the past 300 years. It clearly shows the expansion and intensification of humanity's transformation of the biosphere.
Great resource! Combining Garry and John's comments: where historical data sets are available, how about an option for automatically creating time-lapse movies?