Global tree cover

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There is a long tradition in the emotional relationship between people and forests. We can get an understanding of the extent of the global tree cover from satellite sensors such as NASA’s MODIS
Calculating the average tree cover in an area allows us to estimate the extent of the world’s forests. Forest landscapes can be mapped in various ways and is often done in conventional maps. However, much of the land area is not covered by forest and the few remaining untouched forest landscapes keep shrinking while deforestation continues.

Gridded cartogram visualisation of global tree cover
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Wood-works: Mapping the world’s commercial forestry

While ‘sustainability’ is in everyone’s mouth – from academia to politics – few are aware that the term was originally shaped in relation to the early days of modern forestry: In the early 18th century, Hans Carl von Carlowitz coined the German word ‘Nachhaltigkeit’ which in a simplified way meant to ensure that enough trees were replanted to ensure the long-term existence of wood supplies (from where the term found its way into its broader meaning that we use it for today). While wood has for a long time been an important resource, it todays is also an important global trade product. In 2007 the FAO stated that “over the last 20 years international trade of forest products […] increased from US$60 billion to US$257 billion, an average annual growth of 6.6%.”
The following cartograms show different aspects related to forestry, including the production of wood for economic activity, the consumption of wood and wood-related products (such as paper), as well as global exports and imports of this (using data for 2011 by FAOstat):

Cartogram visualisations global forest production, consumption and trade
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Visualising wilderness

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Following an article on IFL Science (which itself followed a recent online and print article in Popular Science) here comes some further background and material from my work on visualising travel times to the nearest large cities Continue reading

Tsunami 2004: Ten years on

On December 26, 2004, at 7:58 am local time an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 approximately 160 km west of the shores of Sumatra (Indonesia) and 30 km below the sea surface triggered tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. They hit the coasts of countries East and West of the epicenter, among them Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh and reaching as far as Somalia and Tanzania on the African coastline over 6000 km away.
The coastal populations of the affected countries were hit the hardest, suffering deaths, injuries, displacement and the destruction of their livelihoods. Indonesia was affected most, with an estimated number of 170,000 casualties and approximately 500,000 displaced people. The following cartogram shows the distribution of the estimated 230,273 deaths allocated to the country where the deaths occurred, making each country as large as its total share of the people who dies at the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami:

Map of the distribution of people who died in the 2004 Tsunami
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Nativity map: The Census of Quirinius revealed

The first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke in the Bible state that the birth of Jesus took place at the time of the census: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.”
Believing in the religious background of the nativity story or not, evidence for the Census of Quirinius following Caesar Augustus’ decree exists beyond the bible. However, despite all recent initiatives to open up public data, the Census results of back then have not seen the light of day…until now!
This Christmas we can reveal the results of the Census of Quirinius following a freedom of information request to the Roman Empire (well, and following some more in-depth analysis within the Worldmapper project using Angus Maddisons studies). This is how the world looked in the year 1 CE (3761 Hebrew calendar, 7.17.18.13.3 Mayan calendar, 544 Buddhist calendar):


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Wishing everyone a happy new year!

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British War Deaths

2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. As all around Europe, the British government made extensive plans to commemorate this accordingly (Prime Minister David Cameron’s words of the commemoration saying something about the British people like the Diamond Jubilee celebration were commented critically, while meanwhile commercial advertisers have discovered the emotional power of World War I). So-called Remembrance Day in November saw the display of a poppy field at the Tower of London as a commemoration of soldiers who died in war, a symbol which was introduced following the aftermath of World War I in 1921. But while today’s times are often referred to as the post-war era since the end of World War II, wars keep being fought, and soldiers from countries such as the United Kingdom keep dying in conflicts around the world. Last months the Independent Newspaper published figures from the UK Ministry of Defence (which I spotted on one of Alan Parkinson’s blogs) listing all 7,145 British military deaths since World War Two (including a count of deaths in Northern Ireland). I used that data and edited it according to today’s geography (such as splitting the number of British casualties during the 1950-1954 UN intervention in Korea equally between South and North Korea or assigning the deaths in the former British colonies to today’s independent countries) to draw the following Worldmapper-style cartogram that shows how far we are from living in a post-war era:

Map of the distribution of British War Deaths since 1945
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