Burning Out the Rohingya

For years the Rohingya people, largely Muslim, in Burma (also known as Myanmar) have faced persecution from the majority Buddhist Burmese to the point that they are not considered citizens. Over the last several weeks, the Burmese government has reacted to assaults against civil authorities by armed Rohingya groups by burning villages wholesale. Burma denies it, occasionally going so far as to say that the Rohingya have in fact burned their own villages.


The New York Times had an article on the Rohingya crisis, which if it is not already is now perilously close to being ethnic cleansing. Online, an article offered more, comparing satellite views of villages before and after their burning to the ground.

Before and after
Before and after

This week global leaders are meeting in New York at the UN General Assembly. Undoubtedly and rightly they should discuss issues like North Korea’s two programmes, one of developing nuclear weapons and the other of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. But, hopefully they will not be silent on this issue.

Credit for the piece goes to Sergio Peçanha and Jeremy White.

How Big Was Irma?

Like many Americans I followed the story of Hurricane Irma over the weekend. One of my favourite pieces of reporting was this article from the Washington Post. It did a really nice job of visually comparing Irma to some recent and more historic storms, such as 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

It can be difficult to truly compare hurricanes, sometimes they are small and compact, other times more dispersed. Irma was just big with lots of potentially destructive power spread out across a wide area, almost the width of the Floridian peninsula. The article uses several graphics—I am also quite partial to the satellite image comparison so check out the article—but this one is perhaps my favourite.

A look at four big storms
A look at four big storms

It uses a colour palette that deepens in redness nearer the storm’s centre. This allows the user to compare the geographic area or footprint of the storms destructive winds.

I wonder, however, what would happen if the designers had superimposed each graphic atop the other. It might have allowed for an even better comparison of size instead of having to have the user mentally transpose each hurricane.

Still, a really nice graphic and visual article.

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Laris Karklis, Reuben Fischer-Baum, and Chiqui Esteban.

Piece, Larsen C

When I was in high school in 2002, it was big news when one of the three Larsen ice shelves in Antarctica, Larsen B, collapsed. And then when I was at university, the band British Sea Power wrote a song titled “Oh Larsen B” that I have always enjoyed.

Now Larsen B was not the first Larsen ice shelf to collapse. That dubious honour belongs to Larsen A, which collapsed in 1995. But, Larsen B will not be the last as the third, Larsen C, is now on the verge of collapse. This graphic from Adrian Luckman, reproduced by the BBC, illustrates how the rift calving the shelf has seen accelerated growth recently.

The rift's growth has accelerated lately
The rift’s growth has accelerated lately

I believe the colours could have been designed a bit better to show more of the acceleration. The purple fades too far into the background and the yellow stands out too much. I would be curious if the data existed to create a chart showing the acceleration.

The inclusion of the map of Wales works well for showing the scale, especially for British audiences. In other words, an iceberg 1/4 the size of Wales will be released into the Southern Ocean. For those not well versed in British geography, that means an iceberg larger than the size of Delaware. That’s a big iceberg.

Credit for the piece goes to Adrian Luckman.

Airplanes in Hangars

Today’s post features a simple set of graphics on the BBC, however the creators were actually the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. The background? The increasingly tense geopolitical situation in the South China Sea, where China claims numerous islands and reefs claimed by other countries—and to a smaller extent other countries make similar such claims. Just a few weeks back, the Hague ruled against Chinese claims against islands within the Philippines territorial waters. But as these graphics show, it takes more than a legal decision to effect change on the ground.

Satellite photography shows military installations on numerous Chinese-held islands. But what makes the images potent in the communicative sense is the simple overlay of white plane illustrations. They show how many fighter jets, support aircraft, patrol aircraft, &c. that China can base at the various military installations. It is a simple but incredibly effective touch.

Fiery Cross Reef
Fiery Cross Reef

Credit for the piece goes to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Zaatari Refugee Camp for Displaced Syrians

The Syrian crisis is pushing people out of Syria. Unfortunately, most of the refugees are fleeing to places not wholly equipped or supplied to handle such large numbers. In this interactive piece of journalism, the BBC explores the difficulties in just one camp, Zaatari in the desert of Jordan.

My favourite element is this interactive map. It uses four satellite photographs taken at a few months interval and compares the growth of the camp; the growth is striking. The piece contains a diagrammatic view of the camp, identifying key areas, e.g. education areas, as well as a comparison to a new refugee camp named Azraq to host the overflow population. Fortunately, that camp is being designed with the lessons learned from Zaatari.

Zaatari Camp in November 2012
Zaatari Camp in November 2012

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics team.