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Apr 232015
 

This short Postandfly video of an area known as Peñas Cargardas (“Loaded Rocks”) in the state of Hidalgo is the perfect excuse to add to our posts about Mexico’s geomorphosites – sites where landforms have provided amazing scenery for our enjoyment. This area of Mexico is definitely one of my favorites, partly because it is crammed with interesting sights for geographers, including the Basalt Prisms of San Miguel Regla, only a few kilometers away from the Piedras Cargadas, and an equally-stunning geomorphosite.

A few minutes east of the city of Pachuca, the Peñas Cargadas (sometimes called the Piedras Cargadas) are located in a valley in the surrounding pine-fir forest. The rocks comprising the Peñas Cargadas have capricious shapes; some appear to be balanced on top of others. Their formation may well be due to the same processes that formed the Piedras Encimadas in Puebla, which are actually not all that far away as the crow flies.

The nearest town, Mineral del Monte (aka Real del Monte) has lots of interest for cultural tourists. Among many other claims to fame, it was where the first soccer and tennis matches in Mexico were played ~ in the nineteenth century, when the surrounding hills echoed to the sounds of Cornish miners, brought here from the U.K. to work the silver mines.

The miners introduced the Cornish Pasty, chile-enriched variations of which are still sold in the town as pastes. Real del Monte also has an English Cemetery, testament not only to the many tragic accidents that befell miners when mining here was at its peak, but also to the long-standing allegiance that led many in-comers to remain here to raise their families long after mining was in near-terminal decline. The town has typical nineteenth century mining architecture. The larger buildings retain many signs of their former wealth the glory.

pachuca-map

The following Spanish language video has some ground-level views, as well as more information about the scenery and the area’s flora:

How to get there

The Peñas Cargadas are about ten kilometers east of Pachuca (see map). From Pachuca, follow signs for Mineral del Monte, and then drive past the “Panteón Inglés” (English Cemetery) in that town on the road to Tezoantla. The Peñas Cargadas are about 3.5 kilometers beyond Tezoantla. This is a great place for a day trip from Mexico City.

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Apr 202015
 

The 2015 hurricane season in Mexico for Pacific coast storms starts on 15 May and lasts until 30 November. For Atlantic storms, the hurricane season extends from 1 June to 30 November, though most hurricane activity is concentrated in the months from July to September. Hurricanes are also known as typhoons or tropical cyclones.

The table shows the World Meteorological Organization’s official list of 2015 tropical storm and hurricane names. Note that male and female names alternate. Names are often reused in future years, with the exception of the names of any particularly violent storms, which are officially “retired” from the list for a long time.

2015 Hurricane Names for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean
AnaGraceLarryRose
BillHenriMindySam
ClaudetteIdaNicholasTeresa
DannyJoaquinOdetteVictor
ErikaKatePeterWanda
Fred

2015 Hurricane Names for the Eastern Pacific
AndresGuillermoMartyTerry
BlancaHildaNoraVivian
CarlosIgnacioOlafWaldo
DoloresJimenaPatriciaXina
EnriqueKevinRickYork
FeliciaLindaSandraZelda

In their early season forecast for this year, Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, researchers at Colorado State University,  expect hurricane activity in the Atlantic to be below the 1981-2012 average. They predict that in the 2015 season 7 named storms will form in the Atlantic: 4 tropical storms, 2 moderate hurricanes (1 or 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale), and 1 severe hurricanes (3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale). These forecasts will be updated on 2 June and 31 July.

saffir-simpson-scaleAs expected, Pacific Ocean hurricanes were more common than usual in 2014, because it was an El Niño year. In 2014, there were 22 named storms (the highest total for 22 years), including a record-typing 16 hurricanes, of which 9 were major hurricanes. Hurricane activity in 2015 is also expected to be higher than the long-term average.

In 2015, for the Pacific coast, Mexico’s National Meteorological Service (Servicio Metrológico Nacional, SMN) is expecting 19 named storms: 8 tropical storms, 7 moderate hurricanes (1 or 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale), and 4 severe hurricanes (3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale). The SNM publishes regular updates on hurricane activity (in Spanish) on its webpage and via its Twitter account: @huracanconagua.

How accurate was the 2014 forecast?

The early season (May) prediction for 2014 (last year) was for 9 named storms in the Atlantic: 6 tropical storms, 2 moderate hurricanes and 1 severe hurricanes. This prediction proved to be the fairly accurate. In reality, the 2014 Atlantic season had 8 named storms: 2 tropical storms, 4 moderate hurricanes and 2 severe hurricanes

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 Posted by at 6:29 am
Apr 162015
 

An art exhibition entitled “Mexican Volcanoes” is opening in Mexico City next week. The show opens on Tuesday 21 April, at noon, at the offices of the Mexican Society for Geography and Statistics (Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística) at Justo Sierra #19, in the Historic Center of the city. The Society is one of the world’s oldest geographic societies, having been founded 18 April 1833. (The Royal Geographical Society in the U.K. was founded in 1830; the National Geographic Society in the USA was founded in 1888).

Invitacion frente

This exhibition, which will close on 29 April, is being arranged by Lewinson Art, a Mexican art firm that specializes in promoting artists via a virtual gallery and exhibitions. Artists were invited to submit works (paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs) relating to the subject “Mexican Volcanoes”.

Detail of lithograph by Casimiro Castro of Railway near Orizaba, Veracruz

Detail of lithograph by Casimiro Castro of Railway near Orizaba, Veracruz, with Pico de Orizaba in the background

Historically, Mexico’s volcanoes have been especially fertile ground for Mexican artists, from the great landscapes of José María Velasco to Casimiro Castro and the colorful and energetic “aerial landscapes” of Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo).

dr-atl-paricutin

Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo): Paricutin Volcano

Artists represented in this interesting exhibition include:

Agustín Aldama, Mercedes Arellano, José Luis Briseño, Rosi Calderón, Argelia Castañeda, Becky Esquenazi, Gabriela Estrada, Tere Galván, Gabriela Horta, Ana Gabriela Iñiguez, Débora Lewinson, Manuel Martinez Moreno, Nadine Markova, Ausberto Morales, Francoise Noé, Merle Reivich, Fernando Reyes Varela, Homero Santamaría, Arcelia Urbieta, Ariel Valencia , Primo Vega and Lucille Wong.

The volcanoes depicted in the show include Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, Cofre de Perote and the Nevado de Toluca (Xinantecatl).

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Apr 132015
 

An agreement between the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and Google means that many of Mexico’s most famous archaeological sites can now be explored using Google’s Street View. Perfect for the armchair traveler!

The system allows for viewers to rotate street level views the full 360 degrees horizontally, and 290 degrees vertically to take a “virtual walk” through such major sites as Teotihuacan, Xochicalco, Monte Albán, Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Palenque, Tula and Paquimé.

Sites included in INAH/Google system

Sites included in INAH/Google system

Google’s images were captured by specially-designed equipment on bicycles that could navigate the paths and ruins without causing damage to the ancient structures.

Google Street Views can be accessed via either Google Earth or Google Maps.

The INAH/Google system includes the following sites in the Maya World region (Mundo Maya):

Dzibilchaltún
Uxmal (Street view) – Uxmal (article)
Kabah
Ek Balam
Chichén Itzá (Street view) – Chichén Itzá (article)
Kohunlich
Dzibanché
Chacchoben
Tulum (Street view) – Tulum (article)
El Rey
El Meco
Cobá
Becán
Palenque (Street view) – Palenque (article)
Bonampak
Comalcalco (Street view) – Comalcalco (article)

It also includes these noteworthy sites in other parts of Mexico:

Teotihuacan  (Street view) – Teotihuacan (article)
Xochicalco (Street view) – Xochicalco (article)
Monte Albán (Street view) – Monte Albán (article)
Mitla (Street view) – Mitla (article)
Yagul (Street view) – Yagul (article)
Peralta
Plazuelas
Tzintzuntzan (Street view) – Tzintzuntzan (article)
Tajín
Paquimé (Street view) – Paquimé (article)
Cuicuilco
Cholula, Puebla (Street view) – Cholula (article)
Xochitécatla
Tula

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Apr 092015
 

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has published its Mexico Peace Index. The following excerpts come from the Executive Summary of the Mexico Peace Index Report 2015:

The Mexico Peace Index provides a comprehensive measure of peacefulness in Mexico from 2003 to 2014. The 2015 report aims to deepen the understanding of the trends, patterns and drivers of peace in Mexico while highlighting the important economic benefits that will flow from a more peaceful society.

Mexico Peace Index, 2015

Mexico Peace Index, 2015. Credit: Institute for Economics and Peace.

The map above shows the relative values of the MPI by state, where dark blue means the most peaceful states and dark red the least peaceful (most violent) states.

Improvement since 2012

According to the report, Mexico’s peace has improved 10.5% since 2012, continuing the trend from 2011; however, 2014 saw very little improvement, improving only 0.7%. It is too early to determine whether this is a new trend. Mexico’s level of peace in 2014 approached 2007 levels, when homicide and violent crime began to increase rapidly.

The MPI indicators registering the largest improvements in the last two years were the homicide rate, which fell by 30%, and the level of organized crime, which improved by 25%. All three measures in the organized crime indicator (extortion, kidnapping and narcotics offenses) improved. There was also a significant reduction in the violent crime rate, which fell by 12%.

Furthermore, the recorded increase in peacefulness was widespread. In the last two years, 26 out of the 32 states saw improvements in peacefulness, with all of them recording reductions in the violent crime rate and 23 states recording reductions in the homicide rate. The biggest improvements were recorded in the least peaceful states; contrary to the overall trend, the most peaceful states became slightly less peaceful. These diverging trends resulted in a substantial narrowing of the gap between the least peaceful and the most peaceful states.

In contrast, during the same two-year period, weapons crime increased significantly and was up by 11%. The three other indicators that make up the MPI (justice efficiency, incarceration and police funding) have plateaued or slightly deteriorated and are now at record highs.

The justice efficiency indicator continued to decline, which is very concerning, with the number of homicides relative to the number of prosecutions doubling from 1.45 in 2006 to 3.43 in 2013. The justice efficiency indicator measures the ratio of homicide convictions to homicides in a given year and is used as a proxy for impunity.

Additionally, the rate at which people were sentenced to prison fell from 210 per 100,000 people to 104 from 2003 to 2014. Combined with the deterioration in the justice efficiency indicator, this is a troubling trend that highlights the urgent need to fully implement the current justice reforms.

It should be noted that the declines in homicides and gang-related violence do not necessarily mean that criminal organizations are less powerful; they may have become more circumspect in their activities. This reflects a paradox in Mexico: while indicators of peacefulness have greatly improved in the last four years, many Mexicans still report high perceptions of criminality. Additionally, officially recorded rates of homicide and violent crime are still very high by global standards.

Under-reporting of violent crime and other criminal activities is a serious issue in Mexico, with IEP estimating that rape is reported only eight percent of the time and assault only 23%. To create a more accurate index, IEP has adjusted all indicators for under-reporting rates.

For many, these concerns create doubt about the reliability of criminal justice statistics. To determine the veracity of the official data, IEP compared various alternative datasets and victimization surveys against the official data. The results tend to support the trend towards higher levels of peace, but with some qualifications.

Main findings of the Mexico Peace Index 2015

  • Mexico has experienced a large decrease in violence since 2011, with the national level of peace improving by 16%.
  • Progress in peace plateaued last year; it is too early to determine if this is the start of a new trend.
  • The level of peace as measured by the 2015 MPI is still 18% lower than in 2003.
  • The most peaceful state in Mexico is Hidalgo, followed by Yucatán, Querétaro, Campeche, Tlaxcala and Chiapas.
  • Of the 76 largest metropolitan areas of Mexico, the most peaceful is Orizaba in Veracruz, and the least peaceful is Culiacán in Sinaloa.
  • The eastern region remains the most peaceful in Mexico, while the northern region is still the most violent, although the gap between the north and the other regions is now at its lowest point since 2004.

Trends in Peace

Peace improved in the majority of states in Mexico in the last two years, with 26 out of 32 states improving. The largest improvements were in the northern region, which improved 17.8%. The gap in the levels of peace between the least and most peaceful states is now at its lowest point since 2006.

Over the last two years, the largest decreases in violence have been in the homicide rate, which fell almost 30%, and the level of organized crime, which fell by 25%.

The only indicator that recorded a significant deterioration in the last two years is weapons crime, which increased by 11%. The police funding indicator and the justice efficiency indicator recorded very slight deteriorations, reaching their worst levels in 2014.

The fall in the homicide rate is mainly due to a reduction in homicides related to organized crime, as the biggest reductions were recorded in the states with the worst levels of drug cartel activity.

While there is some doubt about the accuracy of government crime statistics, multiple data sources do support a decline in the homicide rate over the last two years. This strongly suggests the progress in peace is real.

On an international comparison, Mexico fell 45 places in the Global Peace Index between 2008 and 2013. It remains the least peaceful country in Central America and the Caribbean.

Economic Value of Peace in Mexico

The total economic impact of violence in Mexico in 2014 is estimated to be $3 trillion pesos or US$233 billion, equivalent to 17.3% of GDP. This represents $24,844 pesos, or almost US$1,946, per citizen. This is a 16.7% decrease from 2012, when the total economic impact of violence in Mexico was $3.57 trillion pesos.

The states with the highest per capita economic impact from violence are Guerrero, Morelos, Baja California and Tamaulipas, with the economic impact in Guerrero at $43,666 pesos/person. If the 16 least peaceful states in 2003 had experienced the same economic growth as the 16 most peaceful states in 2003, then the Mexican economy in 2014 would be $140 billion pesos or 13% larger.

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Apr 062015
 

Even though most people have never heard of it, Cueva Chevé is one of the deepest cave systems in the world. In 2003, a team led by American speleologist Bill Stone, explored Cueva Chevé, located in the mountainous, pine-clad Sierra de Juárez region of Oaxaca, to a depth of 1484 m (4869 ft). The Cueva Chevé system is thought to have some tunnels (as yet unexplored) that extend even further, to depths beyond 2000 m (6500 ft). By way of comparison, at present the world’s deepest known cave is the Krubera Cave, in the Republic of Georgia, which has a maximum explored depth of 2197 m (7208 ft).

Profile of Cueva Cheve

Profile of Cueva Cheve

How deep might the Cueva Chevé be?

In 1990, colored dye trace experiments showed that there was a hydrological connection between the Chevé Cave and a distant spring (resurgence). This shows that the Cueva Chevé system (including parts not yet explored) has a total vertical fall of 2525 m (8284 ft) over a distance of (north to south) of almost 19 km (11.8 mi).

Because the major risks in exploring any cave system include the possibility of sudden rises in water level, or unexpected water flows through the caves, expeditions to this region are limited to the middle of the dry season (ie February-April). When an expedition gets underway, staging camps are set up underground at intervals, but only in locations believed to be well above flood stage water levels.

Cueva Chevé (see cross section) is shaped like a giant L. The vertical shaft is about 910 m (3000 ft) deep and roughly 3.2 km (2.0 mi) of passages are required to get to the bottom. The remainder is a long, gradually sloping passage that goes on for another 3.2 km and drops roughly 605 m (2000 ft). The cave’s deepest known point is about 11 km (7 mi) from the entrance, where explorers have so far failed to get past a terminal sump.

The air in the cave is relatively warm, with temperatures ranging from 47-52̊ F (8-11̊ C).

Chambers so far explored have been given prosaic names such as “Cuarto de las Canastas” (the Basket Room), “Cuarto del Elefante Negro” (the Black Elephant Room), and “Cañon Fresco” (Fresh Canyon), while named cave formations include the “Taller de Santa Claus” (Santa Claus Workshop). Several parts of the cave system have been found to contain human artifacts, the earliest dating back at least several hundred years.

How to get there

Cueva Chevé is about 140 km (86 mi) north of Oaxaca City via highways 190 and 131.

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Apr 022015
 

This index page has links to our most important posts about Mexico City. Other index pages include:

Mexico City background / physical geography / hazards

Water supply / drainage

Sewers / Drainage

Aztecs – Food supply

History / Urban growth / Urban morphology / Housing

Megalopolis?

Mexico City air quality in 1980 (Photo: Tony Burton)

Mexico City air quality in 1980 (Photo: Tony Burton)

Traffic, taxis and air pollution

Metro/subway system

Sustainable Transport / Cable Cars

Airport

Urban revitalization

Other

Map of Mexico City urban system:

Map of Mexico City urban system

Map of Mexico City urban system. Click to enlarge. (Geo-Mexico Fig 23.1; all rights reserved).

Spatial growth of Mexico City Metropolitan Area:

Mexico City Metropolitan Area (Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

Spatial growth of Mexico City Metropolitan Area (Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

Locations in Valley of Mexico with high incidence of ground cracks:

Mexico City cracks map

Locations in Valley of Mexico with high incidence of ground cracks. Cartography: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

General posts about Mexico’s urban geography

Mar 302015
 

In a departure from our usual style, this post considers some of the more striking gifts available on the web that would surely please any Geo-Mexico fanatic. (Sadly, we do not receive any commission or recompense for making these recommendations, though we are always open to offers!)

First up is this framed, 5″ x 7″ stainless steel laser-cut map street map of Guadalajara:

Stainless steel, laser-cut map of Guadalajara

Stainless steel, laser-cut map of Guadalajara

Next is this stunning Mexico City Map, by modern artist Jazzberry Blue, reproduced as a Giclée Fine Art Print:

Mexico City street map by Jazzberry Blue

Mexico City street map by Jazzberry Blue

This map is available in four sizes, 13″x13″ (includes a 1″white  border); 17″x17″ (includes a 2″ border); 22″x22″ (includes a 2″ border); and 28″x28″ (includes a 2″ border). There is a similar, though less colorful, map of Guadalajara.

Alternatively, how about this Mexico typography map?

Mexico typography map

Mexico typography map

This more conventional Landform Map of Mexico, drawn by Erwin Raisz, is an absolute classic. Erwin J. Raisz (1893-1968) was an internationally renowned cartographer. The map is a hand drawn, pen and ink map, based on field observations and aerial photography.

raisz-map-mexicoThis incredibly detailed map is a bargain at $12 plus shipping, but is 28″ by 41″ in size and will cost you several times that to frame.

The online gifts site Etsy has many other arts and crafts maps related to Mexico. Which is your favorite?

 Posted by at 6:19 am  Tagged with:
Mar 262015
 

The ND-GAIN Index, a project of the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), aims to help businesses and the public sector better prioritize investments for a more efficient response to the immediate global challenges ahead.

The ND-Gain Index summarizes two key characteristics of a country:

  • its vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges, and
  • its readiness to improve resilience.

Both characteristics are compound indices, based on numerous indicators, scored on a scale of 0 to 1. For vulnerability, lower scores are better; for readiness, higher scores are better.

Vulnerability measures a country’s exposure, sensitivity and ability to adapt to the negative impact of climate change. ND-GAIN measures the overall vulnerability by considering vulnerability in six life-supporting sectors – food, water, health, ecosystem service, human habitat and infrastructure.

Three vulnerability components are considered (each has several indicators):

  • Exposure: The degree to which a system is exposed to significant climate change from a biophysical perspective. It is a component of vulnerability independent of socio-economic context. Exposure indicators are projected impacts for the coming decades.
  • Sensitivity: The extent to which a country is dependent upon a sector negatively affected by climate hazard, or the proportion of the population particularly susceptible to a climate change hazard. A country’s sensitivity can vary over time.
  • Adaptive Capacity: The availability of social resources for sector-specific adaptation. In some cases, these capacities reflect sustainable adaptation solutions. In other cases, they reflect capacities to put newer, more sustainable adaptations into place. Adaptive capacity also varies over time.

Readiness targets those portions of the economy, governance and society that affect the speed and efficiency of absorption and implementation of Adaptation projects.

Three Readiness components are taken into account:

  • Economic Readiness: Economic readiness captures the ability of a country’s business environment to accept investment that could be applied to adaptation that reduces vulnerability (reduces sensitivity and improves adaptive capacity).
  • Governance Readiness: Governance readiness captures the institutional factors that enhance application of investment for adaptation.
  • Social Readiness: Social readiness captures the factors such as social inequality, ICT infrastructure, education and innovation, that enhance the mobility of investment and promote adaptation actions.
ND-Gain Index: Trends in Mexico's vulnearablity and readiness

ND-Gain Index: Trends in Mexico’s vulnerablity and readiness

In the case of Mexico (see image), from 1995 to 2013, vulnerability has steadily improved, from a high of 0.362 in 1996 to 0.315 in 2013. Mexico’s vulnerability has decreased for each of the six sectors except infrastructure.

Over the same period of time, readiness in Mexico has also improved, from a low of 0.387 in 1995 to a high of 0.464 in 2013.

The trends of lower vulnerability scores and higher readiness score for Mexico mean that while adaptation challenges still exist, Mexico is well positioned to adapt to future challenges. On the overall ND-Gain Index, Mexico is the 47th least vulnerable country and the 91st most ready country, for an overall rank of #74, of the 190+ countries in the rankings.

Mar 232015
 

Good news for Mexico’s “little sea cow”, the world’s smallest porpoise, known in Spanish as the vaquita marina, currently the most endangered cetacean in the world.

The federal government has approved a compensation plan designed to protect the vaquita marina, with a budget of 69 million dollars, spread over two years. Most of the funds will be used to pay 1,300 fishermen in San Felipe and Santa Clara in the upper Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California) not to fish.

There are thought to be fewer than 100 vaquitas remaining in the wild. Banning fishing in the main area where the little sea cows are found will eliminate the loss of further vaquitas as bycatch.

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

Besides paying compensation to fishermen in return for not fishing, some funds will be allocated to finance annual inspections and introduce surveillance drones to ensure compliance with the conservation plan and detect any illegal fishing. The unmanned drones will be managed by Mexico’s Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa).

Some funds will also go to research, with an emphasis on trying to develop a vaquita-safe shrimp net that can safely be used in the area.

Banning fishing for the 860 holders of fishing licenses in Santa Clara and the 494 licensed fishermen in San Felipe, may help the vaquita marina, but will bring some adverse consequences to the local economy since there no compensation is on offer for those workers, including many women, who are involved in fish processing and other parts of the production chain.

Not long enough

As Luis Fueyo, the head of Mexico’s National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) has said in recent press interviews, the vaquita marina cannot possibly recover in two years because they only reproduce every two years and only 25 of those remaining are of reproducing age. Fueyo says that the plan needs to look ahead 20 to 30 years in order to create a viable population of 5,000 vaquita.

So, while a two year ban is nowhere near long enough to achieve any measurable increase in the vaquita marina population, it is a good first step in the right direction. Hopefully, the federal government will allocate additional funding in future years to ensure that the world does not lose this critically endangered porpoise.

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