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:
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).
Gridded population cartogram displaying the topography of the world in relation to the population distribution (click here for larger version)
The people of Ecuador are going to the polls today, voting at the first general election after the constitutional court resolved the Democracy Code in 2012. This comes at an interesting time from a British perspective, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange still calls London’s Ecuadorian embassy his home. Ecuadorians may care little about this international diplomacy row, and some may be more interested in issues regarding press freedom in their home country. But after many years of economic uncertainty and political instability following the collapse of the banking system in 1999, many other questions will rate far more important at these elections in a country that is extremely diverse for its size, not only in its nature, but also its population.
“Ecuador is a patchwork of indigenous communities, including people of colonial Spanish origins and the descendants of African slaves” (quoted from the BBC Country Profile Ecuador). For a country of only 283,561 sq km size (slightly smaller than Nevada, as the CIA World Factbook puts it), Ecuador has a remarkably diverse natural environment: The continental area stretches from the tropical rainforests in the east over the Andean highlands to the low lying coastal zone. And 1,000 km westwards off the coast the Galapagos Islands form the volcanic outpost of the country.
The population of over 15 million people is concentrated in two of these four major regions: ‘La Costa’ – the coastal region – is home to Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil (2.3 million people), while the capital Quito (1.6 million people) is located in ‘La Sierra’ – the highlands at an elevation of over 2,800 m above sea level). Despite their high altitude, the Ecuadorian part of the Andes is home to a considerable population almost equal to the coastal areas. The less accessible rainforest region as well as the the Galapagos Islands in contrast are home to only small numbers of people.
The distribution of Ecuadors population is visualised in the following gridded population cartogram (a ‘cartograma cuadriculada de la población ‘ in Spanish), which is a much improved display compared to the original version of this map that I created in 2009 for the World Population Atlas. The improved resolution is made possible by using the LandScan population data which in this case provides a better estimate for the real distribution of people than the SEDAC GPWv3 data. The map shows an equal-sized grid over the land area of Ecuador resized according to the total number of people living in each of the grid cells, so that larger grid cells reflect higher numbers of people, while depopulated areas almost disappear from the map.
The green to brown colours in the map reflect the altitude of the areas, so that the coastal and mountainous regions are clearly distinguishable. The transitional zones of intermediate shadings (and elevations) almost disappear from this map, which shows the relatively small numbers of people living where relief gradients are steepest. The rainforest region (La Amazonía, or also El Oriente as it is situated in the east) which makes almost half of the land area, is equally underrepresented in this map, as it is home to less than 5% of the population. This is the human shape of Ecuador: