World Heritage

April 18th marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites declared by UNESCO in 1983. Most important element in UNESCO’s efforts in preserving the world’s cultural and natural heritage are the currently 1031 World Heritage Sites around the world managed by the World Heritage Centre. The following cartogram shows the global distribution of all sites, as well as splitting these by category in the smaller sized maps below the main map (802 cultural sites, 197 natural sites and 32 described as mixed properties):

Cartogram of World Heritage Sites
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Asylum seekers in Europe

1,321,560 persons have applied for asylum in the European Union in 2015 according to Eurostat. Eurostat defines an asylum applicant as “a person having submitted an application for international protection or having been included in such application as a family member during the reference period”. This is not the number of granted asylum claims, neither does it mean that this is a figure for first-time applicants but includes all claims having been made in that year.
The spatial patterns for these figures are very different than those arriving as refugees on the shores of the Mediterranean (see here for 2015), as are the number of asylum claims in the past year. The following two cartograms put these figures into their spatial context by providing two different ways of interpreting the data. The first map is a cartogram where countries of the European Union are resized according to the total number of asylum applicants in the past year (all countries having more than 50,000 applications are labelled in that map). The second map shows this in relative proportions drawn on a population cartogram. Here the basemap shows the EU countries resized according to their total population, i.e. providing an impression of each country’s population share, and indicates the relative number of asylum seekers measured in asylum applications per 1 million population:

Cartogram of Asylum Applications in Europe in 2015
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Nuclear Powers

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


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

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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Warped worlds

W wie WissenIn 2013 German public broadcaster ARD made a documentary film about my work for their science programme W wie Wissen. This also features a range of cartogram visualisations that I produced for them. The following clip shows a compilation of the map animations that were shown in the feature, giving an impression of some of the cartographic works and visualisations that I have been working on over the past couple of years: Continue reading