Exporting the Sun

Plans are afoot to harness the power of the sun in the deserts across northern Africa. The electricity generated in Morocco is planned to turn on light switches in Madrid and throughout the rest of Europe.

The Guardian created a map to show how the solar facilities could be connected to each other and to other renewable power sources in Europe—from Icelandic geothermal plants to North Sea wind turbines to Alpine hydroelectric plants.

Renewable Power Map
Renewable Power Map

Credit for the piece goes to Christine Oliver.

The Bottom of the Ocean (and the World)

There have been a lot of interesting maps of late that map out continents and planets, but today is one for the sea—the bottom of which we know less about than the surface of the Moon.

According to a story covered by the BBC, the US State Department backed an exploration of the Mariana Trench, a subduction zone where one oceanic plate is slipping underneath another. The result is an inward-folding crumple and then a bunch of volcanos—the Mariana Islands. The US wants to know if it can extend its economic zone further, but can only do so if certain geographic conditions are met. Hence, the study.

The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep
The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep is the deepest, lowest point on the planet. Though one can argue that because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, points in the Arctic and Antarctic may yet be deeper/nearer the centre of the Earth. If one were to Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet, inside the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep, the very tip of the mountain would still not break the surface of the ocean.

Returning to Fukushima. Someday.

Earlier this year, the earthquake and tsunami that damaged Japan also brought about failures in a nuclear plant at Fukushima. As we near the end of the year, the New York Times reports on how it might take many years for those who had to—or chose to—move away to return to a safe Fukushima.

Radioactive Contamination
Radioactive Contamination

Technology Today

Technology changes and changes rapidly. The United States led the way with cabled phone networks. Now, countries in Africa are skipping landlines and moving straight to mobile phones. The New York Times has an piece on the changes in technology and accompanies that piece with small multiples of choropleth maps that showcase different technologies and their prevalence.

Mobile Phone Subscriptions
Mobile Phone Subscriptions

What is interesting about these maps is that the Times eschewed the conventional Mercator or Robinson map projections and went with a slightly more unusual layout. But, a layout that saves some space by its contortion of the world’s oceans. Was their reason spatial or something more about maintaining consistent area? I would be curious to see the piece in print to see if it needed to fit a narrow column.

All in all, an interesting set of maps.

Campaign Ad Spends

I don’t know about you, but to me, it’s beginning to look a lot like campaign season. At least from what I read on the internet. Because, according to this interactive piece by the Washington Post, there has been little local campaign spending on ads in the Chicago television market.

Mad Spending
Mad Spending

By clicking on the left, you are able to see the spending amounts and spending places of ads by both personal campaigns and interest groups. For national ad campaigns, there is a small outline of the continental US in the bottom left.

Above the map you have some facts about the spending and spending over time and a curious bit about whether the ads are positive or negative. Already if you move from the beginning to now, you can watch the positive ad number slip.

China’s Secret Nuclear Missile Tunnel System

I do not often get the chance to post illustrative works. But, the Washington Post reported on the work of Georgetown students that shows how China has tunneled thousands of miles of, well, tunnels to create a secret labyrinth for their nuclear weapons programme. The result is that instead of the few dozen warheads that China is thought to have, they could have many more times that. They included this graphic, cropping below, with the article.

Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel
Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel

Food Consumption

Via Fareed Zakaria, an interactive piece by Food Service Warehouse that looks at the leading nations of food consumption in calories—and what people spend for their food.

Leading (and Lagging) Food Consumers
Leading (and Lagging) Food Consumers

The map is not entirely useful, although it does at least hint at the geographic locations of the largest consumers (the West) and the smallest consumers (the Rest of the World). More interesting is the simple bar chart at the bottom of the interactive piece.

The New York City Marathon

Something I’ve been meaning to put up for a little while, the New York Times’ coverage of that city’s marathon and changes in the socioeconomic composition of the neighbourhoods through which the course winds.

The piece includes a narrated motion graphic explaining the changes along a map of the course, while a series of charts look at those factors from a static perspective. The horizontal axis being the route of the course.

Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon
Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon

Credit for the piece goes to Graham Roberts, Alan McLean, Archie Tse, Lisa Waananen, Timothy Wallace, Xaquin G.V., Joe Burgess, and Joe Ward.

Maps of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is preparing for elections at the end of the month. For decades since independence from Belgium, the country has been beset by insurrection and civil war. Eastern portions of the country are all lawless and beyond the control of the government in the capital Kinshasa. Yet, DR Congo, which is almost the size of all of Western Europe, holds vast mineral and energy reserves.

Much like with the independence of South Sudan, the BBC has released a small interactive piece detailing DR Congo through maps. While not as extensive and lacking in visualising anything about the warfare and bloodshed, the piece is useful to gain a brief insight into the complexities of the country and the sheer scale of its problems. But that is not wholly surprising as the title of the piece is Failed State: Can DR Congo Recover?.

Screenshot of a guide to DR Congo
Screenshot of a guide to DR Congo

Much Improved Mapping of American Migration

Forbes released Jon Bruner’s latest map of migration in the United States. It uses IRS figures to show inbound and outbound movement from counties across the United States. The work itself is an improvement from his map from last year, which was a bit more difficult to read. Beneath is the new version, and at the end, for comparison, the old.

This year's migration map
This year's migration map

Firstly, the colour palette is far more sophisticated. Secondly, and most crucially, the user can hide the lines on the map, which obscures a key part of the story of migration in urban areas—higher income people moving out of the city and into the suburbs. Thirdly, the map data now includes additional years, which are available by clicking the small chart in the upper right—a welcome addition that allows the data from last year’s map to become accessible this year. Fourthly, and to be fair this may have existed previously but not that I can recall, the new map is accompanied by essays.

These essays use the map and its data to tell stories and explain what one sees going on with the data. It is (relatively) easy for one to put together a piece of data visualisation from a data set. But, without knowing where to look, users may not actually find anything valuable in the visualisation. By pointing to these essays, the map—already much improved from a design perspective—takes on a much more rounded and mature character and becomes more about generating information and knowledge than simply figures and statistics.

Last year's migration map
Last year's migration map