The biggest mapping fun at Christmas time is NORAD’s Santa tracking. The tracking started back in 1955 when a Sears department store misprinted the number children could call to get updates on Santa’s whereabouts. The number instead went through to the Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. The then Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, instructed his staff to provide radar based updates to those calling in about Santa locations. The tradition of providing updates continues to this day. The application uses GIS technology to track Santa starting on December 24th. Using NORAD’s radar system called the North Warning System, visitors can log on to the website to track Santa’s movements as he leaves the North Pole. Santa tracking can be done in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese. The site offers a mobile app to also track Santa with Google Maps for mobile.
Google Santa Tracker
This year Google launched its own Santa tracker. Users will be able to track Santa’s movements via both Google Earth and Google Maps starting at 2:00 a.m. PST on Christmas Eve. Santa can be tracked on mobile devices as well:
In addition, with some help from developer elves, we’ve built a few other tools to help you track Santa from wherever you may be. Add the new Chrome extension or download the Android app to keep up with Santa from your smartphone or tablet. And to get the latest updates on his trip, follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
Santa Against Zombies Map
For some quirky GIS analysis relating to Christmas, the floatingsheep blog (the same researchers that created the popular Zombie Google searches map) looked at tagger Flickr photos and geotagged Google Maps annotations to compare the prevalence of the word “Santa” against the word “Zombie” to see which word dominates geographically. Mapped out onto a gridded system, the map mostly shows a preference for “Santa” as denoted by the green dots:
[T]he map below clearly shows that while most of the country is all keen about Santa, a few pockets including just outside the San Francisco Bay and Seattle and the cities Houston, Dallas and Austin in Texas have a lot of zombie angst.
A post from the “Parallel Divergence” blog from December 22, 2006 entitled “How Google Earth Killed Santa” discusses the potential harm that being able to see the reality of the world’s geography does to children’s beliefs in santa Claus.
You Sleigh Me!
Google Sketch Up! Santas, reindeer and sleighs.
Geography of Christmas
According to U.S. Census 2010 statistics, place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,117); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,481); Santa Claus, Ga. (165); Noel, Mo. (1,832); and — if you know about reindeer — the village of Rudolph, Wis. (439) and Dasher, Ga. (912). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,590) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss. (7,699) and Mount Holly, N.C. (13,656). This Google Maps project by Virender Ajmani maps out all the locations with Christmas themed names (Christmas, Noel, Santa Clause, etc.) for the United States.
So what’s the probability of a white Christmas? This map (created back in 2001) from NOAA maps out the likelihood of areas around the United States having snow on Christmas based on information from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). More maps and tables about predicted snow level conditions are here.
A World of Good Wishes at Christmastime
This feel good map dating from 1950 was created by the General Drafting Company and recently a scanned version was posted to Flickr by the American Geographical Society Library of UW Milwaukee. The map is filled with Santas doing all kinds of activities including fleeing dinosaurs, hunting, fishing, skiing, and playing the piano.