Air Spaces: Where the Planes Fly

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Cartographic Summit 2016The Future of Mapping was the theme of a Cartographic Summit jointly held by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) and Esri at Esri’s headquarters in Redlands (California). The aim of the event was to examine new directions in mapping in a time at which mapping is evolving at a rapid pace, enabling us to communicate in new ways, analyze important issues, and understand our world. Among the keynote speakers was graphics designer Nigel Holmes whom I had a chance to work with several years ago while making some contributions for Lonely Planet’s travel-infographics book How to land a jumbo jet. Meeting him in person at last reminded me to put online the last of the four cartograms that I made for the book.
The following map is a gridded cartogram visualisation of global flight tracks taken from the OpenFlights database. The map distorts the land area by the number of flights that pass a certain space which leads to these ‘ploughing patterns’ over some areas where are airplanes basically just passing by, such as in the western part of Australia where planes simply fly over on their way to the most populated southeast of the country. The colours in the map relate to the Worldmapper colour scheme (explained here).

Gridded Cartogram Map of Global Flight Paths
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Global Temperature Anomalies

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Recent figures released by the NASA as well as the British Met Office and NOAA confirm that 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded. In addition, the period of the past five years was also the warmest in recent times. The following map animation visualises a data series by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) that depicts “how much various regions of the world have warmed or cooled when compared with a base period of 1951-1980. They show temperature anomalies, or changes, not absolute temperature. (The global mean surface air temperature for that period was estimated to be 14°C or 57°F.)” It uses an equal population project in form of a gridded cartogram so that the underlying temperature anomalies can seen in relation to the global population distribution:

Animation of Global Temperature Anomalies from 2010 to 2015 on a gridded population cartogram
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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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Nuclear Powers

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In the final year of his presidency Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world proposed in 2009 seems far from becoming a reality. Although the countries with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons (Russia and the USA) reducing their inventory, a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) states that China, France, Russia, and the UK “are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.” The state of the nuclear world therefore has changed very little in recent years, as SIPRI shows: “At the start of 2015, nine states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) — possessed approximately 15 850 nuclear weapons, of which 4300 were deployed with operational forces. Roughly 1800 of these weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert.” The following cartogram shows who the nuclear powers are in the world:

Cartogram of the World's Nuclear Weapons
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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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World Religions

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Religion as something “eminently social” as described by Durkheim finds its expression in the distribution of the major religious groups in the world. These have distinct geographical patterns to them, showing the regional influences that each of the groups define, as well as the spread of these influences in the course of history which have significantly changed over the past centuries.
Today, the three largest religions as well as the group of the non-religious put together make up 5.8 billion people, accounting for almost 80% of the world’s population. This highlights their importance in understanding some of the world’s social, cultural as well as political realities that define how people live together within countries but also between borders. As much as religion can unite and reconcile, it can equally be the cause of conflict and violence.
Conflict and peace are both elements that are replicated in the diverse religious shapes that emerge in the cartogram series of these four largest religious groups as assembled in the World Religion Database (adjusted to today’s populations).

Mapping World Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
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Mediterranean Refugees

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geoviews on InstagramWhile preparing a guest lecture at the University of the Aegean on the Greek island of Lesbos I looked for the most recent data about arrivals of refugees via the Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR states that in 2015 almost 900,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea which is higher than the total arrivals counted between 2006 and 2014. 3,500 people are reported dead or missing, which only shows the mere numbers behind the many personal tragedies happening in the Mediterranean. Not only the numbers went up considerably, but also the geographic patterns changed. While Italy used to be the hot spot of arrivals, this has now shifted to Greece where over 750,000 people arrived. Most of these arrivals come from Turkey, making the island of Lebos near the Turkish coast the first destination for the majority of people seeking refuge in the European Union. The following map shows the European countries resized according to the total number of Mediterranean sea arrivals in 2015:

Mediterranean Sea Arrivals of Refugees in Europe 2015
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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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The Growth and Decline of Urban Agglomerations in Germany

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Innovative maps that illustrate the most recent socio-demographic urban changes in the major city urban agglomerations in Germany have very recently been produced in a joint project of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford and the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development Dortmund (Germany).
The Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (Institut für Landes und Stadtentwicklungsforschung, ILS) investigates new social processes, especially those involving urbanisation in Germany and Europe. This includes economic, social and structural processes that are compared and monitored over time to gain a better understanding of the underlying developments. Testing state-of-the-art visualisation techniques are a significant part of this effort. This was the focus of a collaboration between researchers of the University of Oxford and the ILS Dortmund which resulted in the development of a series of highly effective maps called “cartograms” that provide new insights in the changing geographies of city regions in Germany.

Mapping the Growth and Decline of Urban Agglomerations in Germany
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Electoral Doctrine: Thirty-nine maps of voting

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The 2015 UK general election is history and it seems as all stories have been told about the unexpected victory of the Conservative party. But the picture of the election is far more diverse than it seems and the political landscapes are more polarised than a conventional map of the first votes can show.
This poster, submitted as an entry to the joint BCS-SoC ‘Mapping Together’ Conference starting tomorrow in York, presents the electoral doctrine of the 2015 election. It is a cartographic roundup of the beliefs of the electorate in thirty-nine images that tell the full story of a shift in political paradigms that will shape the debates for the elections to come:

Poster: Electoral Doctrine - 39 Maps of Voting
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Asylum seekers in Europe

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2,500 people are believed to have died or gone missing on their way to Europe this year already, according to estimates by UNHCR. But it was the image of a young boy found dead on the shores of Turkey which changed the tone in the debate about the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. While the response to the crisis varies strongly, Campaign groups are calling for a European-wide approach to the crisis. While Germany suspended the Dublin regulation to allow regugees into the country and claim asylum regardless of where they entered the European Union, the country also calls for a more equitable system of sharing refugees across the EU similar to Germany’s domestic approach of distributing refugees.
The following cartogram shows the current situation in Europe using Eurostat’s latest statistics about the number of asylum applicants in each country. The data covers the first half of 2015 (January to June) and adds up to 417,430 officially recorded claims in that period in the EU member states. The following map also includes those European countries which are not member of the European Union but part of the Schengen area and it shows each country resized according to the absolute number of asylum applications in that country from January to June 2015:

Asylum Applicants in Europe 2015
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Anthropocene Worlds

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The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue humans have become 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 very recent period of the earth’s history as the Anthropocene.
Putting criticism and disputes over the geologic validity of this idea aside, the effects of human population and economic development as part of the processes of globalisation influence the natural environment as much as the natural environment previously determined the existence of human life across the globe. One part of our footprint are the major communication and transport infrastructure links that shape the human planet.

Human Worlds - A Map of the Anthropocene
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World at war: Global refugee trends

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UNHCR Global Trends 2014 Refugee ReportThe UNHCR Global Trends 2014 Report released earlier this week by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees finds that “wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere“.
Commemorating World Refugee Day, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres declared in a statement that “around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent.” But while the ‘western’ media takes an often embarrassingly western-centric view, and European politicians struggling to find solutions to this global crisis, the report also shows how big this human crisis really has become.
The following two cartograms show the most recent picture of global refugee trends in 2014 as published in the 2015 UNHCR report. The two maps use the total numbers for ‘refugees and people in refugee-like situations’ according to their country of origin and destination and resizes each country according to its absolute number of refugees. Excluded in these maps are those refugees whose origin is unknown or who are stateless or cannot be assigned to a specific country:

Cartograms / Maps of Refugee Origin and Destination Countries in 2014
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Earthquake risk zones: A people’s perspective

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A M7.8 earthquake has occurred in Nepal “as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north.” As the USGS summarises, “although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era. Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250 km of the April 25, 2015 earthquake over the past century”.
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 – Nepal is the rather large spot squeezed on top between the areas that represent the large populations of India and China):

Map of earthquake risk zones on an equal-population projection
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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
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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
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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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Under the spreading chestnut trees

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” has become a popular notion of Christmas ever since Tormé and Wells wrote their Christmas Song, made famous by Nat King Cole‘s recording in 1946. The chestnut has seen a decline in use over the centuries in Europe, having been brand-marked as ‘food for poor people’. But almost all across the continent (likewise in North America) it now also sees a revival in popularity in Winter time, especially around Christmas. Global chestnut production has constantly been rising, growing from almost 650,000 tons in 1993 to over 2 million tons in 2013 according to FAOSTAT figures. And while the chestnuts roasting on an open fire have their origin in the United States, chestnuts consumed there have often traveled a long way. Although growing conditions are ideal, the USA have no significant chestnut industry and account for less than 1% of the global chestnut production. This is different in Europe where commercial chestnut farming takes place in the Mediterranean, which, however, is challenged by the now top chestnut producer China. China now produced almost 85% of the world’s chestnuts.
The following gridded cartogram is a visualisation of the areas in the world where chestnuts are grown. Using data produced by EarthStat the map shows each grid cell resized according to the total amount of chestnuts produced in that area:

Map of World Chestnut Production
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