Nuclear Energy and Risk

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Nuclear power contributes only a small share to the global energy production. According to the World Energy Statistics 2015 published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) nuclear power accounts for 4.8% of the total primary energy supply worldwide, far behind oil (31.1%), coal (28.9%), natural gas (21.4%) and even behind biofuels and waste (10.2%).
Of the producers of nuclear power, the United States are by far the largest with 33.2% of the world’s total, followed by France (17.1%) and Russia (7.0%). The United Kingdom’s production accounts for 2.9%. In contrast, France generates the largest share of its domestic electricity generation from nuclear power (74.4%). It is followed by Sweden (43.4%), Ukraine (43.0%) and South Korea (25.8%), while the United Kingdom comes fifth with 19.2%.

Cartogram of Nuclear Power Plants in the World
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Global HIV Prevalence

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As part of the new Sustainable Development Goal 3 which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” the UN concludes, that “the incidence of [HIV] has declined globally since 2000. […] The incidence of HIV was highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.5 new cases per 1,000 uninfected people.” Despite longer term positive trends, a recent UNAIDS report stated that “new HIV infections among adults have stalled, failing to decline for at least five years.” This shows that HIV remains a global challenge that needs continuing prevention efforts and ongoing awareness and education. In 2015 it was estimated that globally 34.0 to 39.8 million people are living with HIV. The following cartogram shows the countries of the world resized according to the adult population (aged 15-49) living with HIV, complemented by two maps showing the corresponding relative percentages:

HIV Prevalence Map / Cartogram
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Out of Africa: Humanity’s Journey around the Planet

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It took a long time for humankind to move out of Africa and inhabit the rest of the planet. Archaeological research and genetic studies based on fossils found in plains of east Africa suggest that modern humans evolved nearly 200,000 years ago. Palaeontological findings and genetic footprints are also the basis for current theories of how modern humans (Homo sapiens) started spreading around the globe. Such models and timings keep changing, with new discoveries being made on a fairly regular basis.
The below map illustrates the migration of humanity across the Earth with all movement originating in Africa and with the estimated dates of arrival shown at key directions and locations. The dates are based on a number of scientifically validated estimates. They build upon the ‘Out of Africa’ model that assumes the spread of modern humans from their African origins across the globe, superseding any other human species that had lived in parts of the planet before (and sometimes as) Homo sapiens arrived.

Map of Human Migration
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US Presidential Election 2016

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The electorate of the United States of America has come to a decision about who is to become their next president. But not quite the whole electorate went to the polls: Turnout was at a long-term low with about 55% of voting age citizen having cast their ballot in the 2016 presidential election. Long gone are the days in which up to around 80% of the electorate went to the polls: This was last seen in the 19th century.
60,265,858 votes (47.3%) were cast for Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton received 60,839,922 votes (47.8%). Other candidates put together reached 6,226,950 votes (4.9%). The following cartogram shows the distribution of votes for the two main candidates. Shown in diverging colours is each respective candidate who received the largest share of votes in each county. The cartogram itself shows an equal-population projection (gridded population cartogram) where each grid cell in the map is resized according to the total number of people living there. The main cartogram is accompanied by a second cartogram showing the distribution of votes that went to neither of the two candidates, and a ‘conventional’ reference map that also shows the states of Alaska and Hawaii:

Gridded Population Cartogram of the US Presidential Election 2016
(click for larger and labelled version)

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Beyond fire and ice: Mapping Iceland in the 21st Century

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Iceland and maps have a long tradition in the history of cartography. From the first maps of the country in the 16th century (including works from cartographers such as Ortelius and Mercator, also featuring some nice sea monsters) to today’s advanced digital mappings of Iceland’s diverse natural environment (such as this innovative mapping of water in Iceland or this quite beautiful representation of contour lines), Iceland never really had a lack of quite good cartographic works. Much less covered than the natural environment are the social landscapes of the country, such as this just recently updated version of a gridded population cartogram of the country where each grid cell is proportional to the number of people living in that area:

Gridded Population Cartogram of Iceland
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Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy is defined as ‘energy from a source that is not depleted’. Main sources include biomass, hydropower, wind, biofuels, solar, heat pumps, biogas, geothermal, and marine (such as tidal power). Data by the International Energy Agency sees the share of renewable energy in global power generation at 22 per cent in 2013, with an estimated increase to 26 per cent by 2020 as a result of supportive policies by a large number of governments.

Map of renewable energy in the world
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Storm Spaces

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Tropical cyclonic systems are generally referred to as tropical storms. They are better known by their regional names, such as hurricanes in the Caribbean and North America, or typhoons in parts of Asia. They form near the equator over larger bodies of warm waters that evaporate from the ocean surface and fuel these emerging storm systems. Their strong winds and heavy rainfalls frequently become part of our news as they often put large numbers of human livelihoods at risk.
Recent studies show that the number of tropical cyclones (as well as tropical cyclone intensity) over the past decades has increased. Tracks of tropical storms collected over a longer period can indicate where such storms occur most frequently. The records used in this issue’s visualisation covers data from 1945 to 2008.

Map of tropical storm intensity in the world
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Wine Worlds

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Wine is produced commercially in more than 70 countries, three of which account for almost half of the world’s production: France, Italy and Spain. What else does a closer look at the world of wine tell us?

Map of wine production in the world
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The geography of wine – the product obtained exclusively from the total or partial fermentation of fresh grapes – can be viewed both from the perspective of producers or consumers. Continue reading

The EU Referendum

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EU Referendum 2016 Cartogram
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The decision has been made: 17,410,742 people of the United Kingdom’s 65 million population voted for leaving the European Union. These are about 26.8% of the UK’s resident population, or 37.4% of the electorate in this EU referendum. It also equals 51.9% of the valid votes cast, as stated in the official figures from the electoral commission. Continue reading

The World in 2016

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The world is ever changing. This year, we live on a planet of 7.4 billion people who contribute products and services worth approximately US$80 trillion in nominal terms. However, population and wealth as measured in GDP activity are not distributed equally across the world which remains one of the challenges of our time. The following two cartograms illustrate this by highlighting where people are and where in contrast GDP wealth is made – the unequal distributions in our world today are quite obvious:

Cartogram of World Population and Global GDP
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World Population Cube

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World Population CubeLast November’s theme of the Super Science Saturday at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History was Planet Earth. As part of the activities I contributed a map cube which I created a few years ago.
Cubic globes are not a new idea. They put a nice twist to showing just a simple map, and more importantly, they allow for some activity which get the kids involved just as much as adults. A cube is much less work than creating a spheric version of Earth, and (as said by Carlos Furuti on his online cube globe collection) the cube is an ideal introduction to folding one’s own pseudoglobes.
At last November’s Super Science Saturday I displayed some of my work and offered a ‘Map Cube Activity’ where children (and adults) could cut, fold and glue their own globes. My version of a map cube does not display a normal world map, but a gridded population cartogram (hence the name ‘World Population Cube’). You can create your own cube by using the following template: Continue reading

Multiple Dimensions of Poverty

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Poverty and global development are not only on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But despite positive trends being observed in the aftermath of the Millennium Development Goals poverty still persists.
As a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the United Nations announced a set of 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) relating to international development. Still on top of the agenda remains the issue of poverty. Here the new goal is to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’ by 2030, meaning to ‘eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.90 a day’ and to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’.
There are trends in past decades that indicate major improvements in tackling the problem of global poverty. In relative terms, the original MDG goal of halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015 has been met. In developing regions, people in extreme poverty now make up 14 per cent of the population there, while most recent figures and estimates suggest that still over two billion people globally live on less than $2 a day, a measure used to measure ‘moderate’ poverty. This figure is also used as a base for the main cartogram below. The map modifies the size of each country according to the total number of people there who live on up to $2 a day according to the most recent available estimates. In addition, the colour shading uses information from the 2015 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to highlight the percentage of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor.

Mapping World Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
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Mapping the Anthropocene

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The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue the onset of industrialisation (in the eighteenth century) has been a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this recent period of the earth’s history (from around 1760-onwards) as the Anthropocene (roughly translating as the era – or epoch – shaped considerably through the actions of humanity).

The Human Planet: Gridded Population Cartogram
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)

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In Focus: Europe’s uneven development

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Political InsightThe British debate about the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union comes at a time in which the economic woes of the continent have not fully overcome yet. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2015, Volume 6, Issue 3) Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling and I looked at the changing regional economic geography of Europe.
Europe is in an economic crisis – but the crisis is felt in very different ways in different places. Official unemployment rates are high, especially in the south of Europe, but joblessness is very low in places, such as Germany

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Ecological Footprints

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COP21 Paris Logo“There is no planet B”. This slogan has become widely mentioned recently in relation to COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. The slogan highlights that the debate about climate change relates to much more than simply a changing climate. The underlying processes have a lot to do with our lifestyles and the related patterns of consumption and waste which cause severe damages to the environment (including the global climate). Carbon emissions are therefore one major trigger of climate change, but are also an effect of our unsustainable ways of life. The ecological footprint shown in the following map is a measure that looks at the impact that humanity has on our planet:

The Ecological Footprint Map of the World: A gridded cartogram projection
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Earthquake risk zones: A people’s perspective

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In a paper for the Journal of Maps published in 2014 I have analysed and visualised data documenting earthquakes that have occurred since 2150 BC. The following map was part of the material supplementing the publication showing the results of the analysis shown on an equal population projection. The gridded cartogram gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space while highlighting the most densely populated spaces in relation to the earthquake risk (calculated via the intensity of earthquakes recorded since 2150 BC). Also shown are the world’s megacities (over 5 million population). The map shows the large populations that make even Nepal (with its almost 28 million people) much more visible than it would be on a conventional map, highlighting why this event turns out to be quite disastrous. The map also shows what the USGS statement above mentions that Nepal is amongst the areas in the region which are far less subject to major earthquakes (as indicated by the yellow to blue shading in the map there):

Map of earthquake risk zones on an equal-population projection
(click for larger version)
Download as poster (PDF, 62MB)

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The Evolution of Life Expectancy in the World

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Life expectancy equals the average number of years a person born in a given country would live if mortality rates at each age were to remain constant in the future.” (Wikipedia)
Depending on the exact sources, global life expectancy currently lies at approximately 71 years although a global estimate tells very little about the differences between the countries. What applies to every country is the fact that women, on average, live longer than men.
The following map shows the distribution of life expectancies based on national-level data as documented in the 2014 revision of the Human Development Report displayed on a gridded population cartogram in which every human gets an equal amount of space:

Gridded Population Cartogram showing Global Life Expectancy in 2013
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Water worlds: Ocean Chlorophyll levels

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The ocean is the last frontier that has not been discovered by cartogram techniques before. As such, it was an inevitable step in my PhD research some years ago to test the creation of a gridded ocean cartogram, a cartogram that is limited to the extent of the world’s oceans (also linking nicely to my past research on coastal ecosystems).
Chlorophyll concentrations in the world’s oceans are important indicators for the presence of algae and other plant-like organisms that carry out photosynthesis. As such, phytoplankton (which contains the chlorophyll) is an essential element of the food chain in the seas as it provides the food for numerous animals. Variations and changes in the chlorophyll levels are also relevant for the study of the ecology of the sea. Changing chlorophyll levels can indicate changing sea temperatures and other conditions in the oceans that cover about 72 percent of the planet’s surface.

Gridded cartogram visualisation of Ocean Chlorophyll concentrations
(click for larger version)

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Geographic visualization in social sciences: Draw more maps!

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Wordle Data Visualisation
Geographic visualization in social sciences – or draw more maps! Continue reading

In Focus: Wealth on the British Isles

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Political InsightThe debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.

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Demographies of China

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This week I joined the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic) as a visiting lecturer by invitation of the CHINET project. In my lecture about New Geographies of China I built on the work I have presented earlier this year at the Conference on the Socio-Economic Transition of China at the same place, teaching the students not only how China’s position is in the global context of demographic, social and economic change, but also how we can visualise this in novel ways. The following three maps are an extract from my presentation that gave an overview of this lecture.
The maps show the distribution of the different age groups in the country divided into children (age 0 to 14), working age (age 15 to 64) and elderly (above age 64) as they are counted in the official Chinese Census released by the National Bureau of Statistics. As the most recent Census figures have not been released at the same level of detail, the following three maps show the state of 2000. Here is an animated version of the three maps showing all three groups one after another (the individual maps are displayed below):

Animation of demographic groups in China projected on a gridded population cartogram
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In Focus: The real size of Offshore Financial Centres

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Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.

Offshore Financial Centres

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The Human Planet: A modern Mappa Mundi

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A mappa mundi […] is any medieval European map of the world. […] To modern eyes, mappae mundi can look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretence of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappae mundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps should be viewed as a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth’s sphericity and climate zones” (cited from Wikipedia).
What would a mappa mundi of our times look like? A modern equivalent of such a map would have to focus on those spaces of our planet that we have a less vivid imagination of than the physical shape of the world that in medieval times was a much less familiar view than it is today. The following gridded population cartogram generated over the whole surface of Earth could be such a contemporary depiction of the world. It divides the world into equal spaces of population realigning the map view to show the human planet in a similar way as mappae mundi showed the world centuries ago:

Equal population projection map of the Earth's land and water surface
(click for larger version)

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Global Spaces of Food Production

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Global Spaces of Food Production
In the year 2000 there were approximately 15 million square km of cropland and 28 million square km of pasture which are represented in the two main maps. These are equal to 12% respectively 22% of the ice-free land surface. This is according to estimates of a study on the geographic distribution of global agricultural lands by Ramankutty et al (published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2008) who used a methodology of combining agricultural inventory data and satellite-derived land cover data to come to these figures (data can be accessed via Columbia University’s SEDAC). Continue reading

One world, many faces: A brief look at map projections

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Map projections are a crucial issue for the worldmapper project because the maps (respectively cartograms) are basically some sort of reprojection of the world, although in a different way than the usual projections used in cartography. Rather than trying to solve the conflicts of distortion when drawing a three dimensional surface on to a two dimensional area (be it a screen or a paper map), the worldmapper cartograms distort our image of the world on purpose and show each country in proportion to a specific topic.

Worldmapper map using different projections

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A Lonely Planet: Á hverfanda hveli?

This is the Icelandic version of a poster on mapping wilderness and remote areas created for the the 2016 Science Day at the University of Iceland (Vísindadagur Verkfræði- og náttúruvísindasvið, Háskóli Íslands):
Víðerni og afskekkt landsvæði ná yfir margbreytileg svæði á yfirborði jarðar. Slík svæði eru strjálbýl og eru að hluta til afsprengi af skipulagi sem hvetur til þéttingar byggða. Yfir helmingur jarðarbúa í dag býr á svæðum sem skilgreind eru sem borgir, og meira en 95% jarðarbúa býr á um 10% af yfirborði lands. Hin 90 prósentin eru þó fjarri því að vera einsleit víðernissvæði, Það eru mismunandi skoðanir á því hvort og þá hvernig eigi að nýta hin óbyggðu svæði heims.
Aðeins um 15% fólks í ríkari hluta heimsins býr í meira en klukkustundar fjarlægð frá næstu borg. Í fátækari hluta heimsins er hlutfallið 65%. Hér er kynnt nýstárleg nálgun á myndrænni framsetningu og skilningi á hinum afskekktu landsvæðum jarðar sem eru að líkindum hennar síðustu víðerni. Notuð er tækni sem kalla má „bjöguð hnitvörpun“ (gridded cartogram transformation). Tæknin er notuð til kortleggja hversu fjarlæg svæði eru í hugum meirihluta mannkyns. Niðurstöður sýna umfang afskektra svæða eins og það birtist með tilliti til ferðatíma til næstu borgar, hvort sem er yfir land, vötn eða sjó. Stærð hverrar svæðiseiningar byggir á útreikningi þess tíma. Kortið gefur afskekktum svæðum aukið rými og veitir nýja sýn á svæðisbundið umfang afskekktra svæða í hlutfalli við þéttbýl svæði.

Wilderness - Icelandic
(click for larger version)

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