Category Archives: OpenStreetMap

Will the sun shine on us?

Recently, in order to nicely plan ahead for a birthday lunch at the agritur Malga Brigolina (a farm-restaurant near Sopramonte di Trento, Italy, at 1,000m a.s.l. in the Southern Alps), friends of mine asked me the day before:

Will the place be sunny at lunch time for a nice walk?

[well, the weather was close to clear sky conditions but mountains are high here and casting long shadows in the winter time].


A rather easy task I thought, so I got my tools ready since that was an occasion to verify the predictions with some photos! Thanks to the new EU-DEM at 25m I was able to perform the computations right away in a metric system rather than dealing with degree in LatLong.

Direct sunlight can be assessed from the beam radiation map of GRASS GIS’ r.sun when running it for a specific day and time. But even easier, there is a new Addon for GRASS GIS 7 which calculates right away time series of insolation maps given start/stop timestamps and a time step: r.sun.hourly. This shrinks the overall effort to almost nothing.

1. Creating the direct sunlight maps

The first step is to calculate where direct sunlight reaches the ground. Here the input elevation map is the European “eu_dem_25”, while the output is the beam radiation for a certain day (15 Dec 2013 is DOY 349).

Important hint: the computational region must be large enough to east/south/west to capure the cast shadow effects of all relevant surrounding mountains.

I let calculations start at 8am and finish at 5pm which an hourly time step. The authors have kindly parallelized r.sun.hourly, so I let it run on four processors simultaneously to speed up:

# calculate DOY (day-of-year) from given date:
date -d 2013-12-15 +%j

# calculate beam radiation maps for a given time period
# (note: minutes are to be given in decimal time: 30min = 0.5)
r.sun.hourly elev_in=eu_dem_25 beam_rad=trento_beam_doy349 \
      start_time=8 end_time=17 time_step=1 day=349 year=2013 \

The ten resulting maps contain the beam radiation for each pixel considering the cast shadow effects of the pixel-surrounding mountains. However, the question was not to calculate irradiance raster maps in Wh/m^2 but simply “sun-yes” or “sun-no”. So a subsequent filtering had to be applied. Each beam radiation map was filtered: if pixel value equal to 0 then “sun-no”, otherwise “sun-yes” (what my friends wanted to achieve; effectively a conversion into a binary map).
Best done in a simple shell script loop:

[Edit 30 Dec 2013: thanks to Anna you can simplify below loop to the r.colors call thanks to the new -b flag for binary output in r.sun.hourly!]

for map in `g.mlist rast pattern="trento_beam_doy349*"` ; do
    # rename current map to tmp
    g.rename rast=$map,$map.tmp
    # filter and save with original name
    r.mapcalc "$map = if($map.tmp == 0, null(), 1)"
    # colorize the binary map
    echo "1 yellow" | r.colors $map rules=-
    # remove cruft
    g.remove rast=$map.tmp

As a result we got ten binary maps, ideal for using them as overlay with shaded DEMs or OpenStreetMap layers. The areas exposed to direct sunlight are shown in yellow.

Trento direct sunlight 15 Dec 2013 Animation

Trento, direct sunlight, 15 Dec 2013 between 10am and 5pm (See here for creating an animated GIF). Quality reduced for this blog.

2. Time to look at some details: So, is Malga Brigolina in sunlight at lunch time?

Situation at 12pm (noon): predicted that the restaurant is still in shadow – confirmed in the photo:


(click to enlarge)

Situation at 1:30/2:00pm: sun is getting closer to the Malga, as confirmed in photo (note that the left photo is 20min ahead of the map). The small street in the right photo is still in the shadow as predicted in the map):

malga_brigolina_direct_sunlight_15dec2013_14pm_foto(click to enlarge)

Situation at 3:00pm: sun here and there at Malga Brigolina:

malga_brigolina_direct_sunlight_15dec2013_15pm_3DSunlight map blended with OpenStreetmap layer (r.blend + r.composite) and draped over DEM in wxNVIZ of GRASS GIS 7 (click to enlarge). The sunday walk path around Malga Brigolina is the blue/red vector line shown in the view center.

Situation at 4:00pm: we are close to sunset in Trentino… view towards the Rotaliana (Mezzocorona, S. Michele all’Adige), last sunlit summits also seen in photo:

rotaliana_direct_sunlight_15dec2013_16pm_foto(click to enlarge)

3. Outcome

The resulting sunlight/shadow map appear to match nicely realty. Perhaps r.sun.hourly should get an additional flag to generate the binary “sun-yes” – “sun-no” maps directly.

trento_direct_sunlight_15dec2013_15pm_3DDirect sunlight zones (yellow, 15 Dec 2013, 3pm): Trento with Monte Bondone, Paganella, Marzolan, Lago di Caldonazzo, Lago di Levico and surroundings (click to enlarge)

4. GRASS GIS usage note

The wxGUI settings were as simple as this (note the transparency values for the various layers):


Data sources:

Using the 25m EU-DEM for shading OpenStreetMap layers

Inspired by Vaclav Petras posting about “Did you know that you can see streets of downtown Raleigh in elevation data from NC sample dataset?” I wanted to try the new GRASS GIS 7 Addon r.shaded.pca which creates shades from various directions and combines then into RGB composites just to see what happens when using the new EU-DEM at 25m.

To warm up, I registered the “normally” shaded DEM (previously generated with gdaldem) with r.external in a GRASS GIS 7 location (EPSG 3035, LAEA) and overlayed the OpenStreetMap layer using WMS with GRASS 7’s An easy task thanks to University of Heidelberg’s Indeed, they offer a similar shading via WMS, however, in the screenshot below you see the new EU data being used for controlling the light on our own:

OpenStreetMap shaded with EU DEM 25m

OpenStreetMap shaded with EU DEM 25m (click to enlarge)

Next item: trying r.shaded.pca… It supports multi-core calculation and the possibility to strengthen the effects through z-rescaling. In my example, I used:

r.shaded.pca input=eu_dem_25 output=eu_dem_25_shaded_pca nproc=3 zmult=50

The leads to a colorized hillshading map, again with the OSM data on top (50% transparency):


OpenStreetMap shaded with r.shaded.pca using EU DEM 25m (click to enlarge)

Yes, fun – I like it 🙂

Data sources:

50th ICA-OSGeo Lab established at Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM)

We are pleased to announce that the 50th ICA-OSGeo Lab has been established at the GIS and Remote Sensing Unit (Piattaforma GIS & Remote Sensing, PGIS), Research and Innovation Centre (CRI), Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM), Italy. CRI is a multifaceted research organization established in 2008 under the umbrella of FEM, a private research foundation funded by the government of Autonomous Province of Trento. CRI focuses on studies and innovations in the fields of agriculture, nutrition, and environment, with the aim to generate new sharing knowledge and to contribute to economic growth, social development and the overall improvement of quality of life.

The mission of the PGIS unit is to develop and provide multi-scale approaches for the description of 2-, 3- and 4-dimensional biological systems and processes. Core activities of the unit include acquisition, processing and validation of geo-physical, ecological and spatial datasets collected within various research projects and monitoring activities, along with advanced scientific analysis and data management. These studies involve multi-decadal change analysis of various ecological and physical parameters from continental to landscape level using satellite imagery and other climatic layers. The lab focuses on the geostatistical analysis of such information layers, the creation and processing of indicators, and the production of ecological, landscape genetics, eco-epidemiological and physiological models. The team pursues actively the development of innovative methods and their implementation in a GIS framework including the time series analysis of proximal and remote sensing data.

The GIS and Remote Sensing Unit (PGIS) members strongly support the peer reviewed approach of Free and Open Source software development which is perfectly in line with academic research. PGIS contributes extensively to the open source software development in geospatial (main contributors to GRASS GIS), often collaborating with various other developers and researchers around the globe. In the new ICA-OSGeo lab at FEM international PhD students, university students and trainees are present.

PGIS is focused on knowledge dissemination of open source tools through a series of courses designed for specific user requirement (schools, universities, research institutes), blogs, workshops and conferences. Their recent publication in Trends in Ecology and Evolution underlines the need on using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for completely open science. Dr. Markus Neteler, who is leading the group since its formation, has two decades of experience in developing and promoting open source GIS software. Being founding member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (, USA), he served on its board of directors from 2006-2011. Luca Delucchi, focal point and responsible person for the new ICA-OSGeo Lab is member of the board of directors of the Associazione Italiana per l’Informazione Geografica Libera (, the Italian Local Chapter of OSGeo). He contributes to several Free and Open Source software and open data projects as developer and trainer.

Details about the GIS and Remote Sensing Unit at

Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2006 whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open source geospatial technologies and data.

International Cartographic Association (ICA) is the world authoritative body for cartography and GIScience. See also the new ICA-OSGeo Labs website.