Visualization Blog

Ideas, Papers and Thoughts on the field of Visualization

Archive for September 2009

Visualizing Environmental Factors

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In this post, I focus on the use of visualization in conveying information regarding the environment, pollution, population effects on the planet and similar issues. The visualizations are particularly powerful and make us realize how much of an impact we have on the world.

  • Breathing Earth is a wonderful visualization that shows a visual representation of the amount of CO2 that is being produced every second. Additionally, based on the statistics there is a neat visual representation of number of births and deaths per second. This image is just a snapshot of the ever evolving visualization. Check out the really eye-opening visualization at



  • A research paper by Wood et al. discusses a web-based solution to visualize environmental data. The snapshot below shows a histogram View of Ozone from 3 sites in London – Jason Wood, Ken Brodlie and Helen Wright, Visualization over the World Wide Web and its application to environmental data, Proceedings of IEEE Visualization 1996 Conference, edited by R.Yagel and G.M. Nielson, pp 81–86, ACM Press. ISBN 0-89791-864-9. pic8
  • National Public Radio (NPR) had a very informative piece on Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid – Here are some screenshots from the story. I wonder if they could have picked better visualizations to show the ‘sources of power’.npr_coal

It is a bit hard to visualize the differences in power generating capabilities of various states since the saturation is mapped to a value. Considering there are only a few different values, using different colors may have been a good idea. Any other thoughts on what they could have used to represent this data more effectively?

Here’s another visual representation of the wind energy sources. npr_wind

What seemed most interesting to me is how much the US is dependent on coal power as compared to wind. I hope with the new administration’s initiatives for green energy, we will see a change in the near future.

  • Visualizing rainfall in Australia –  You can interact with the website to pick different visualizations. They seem to be pre-generated though. Here is a screenshot of one of the visualizations australia_rainfall
  • is a website dedicated to drawing attention the problem of climate change through the use of visualizations and infographics. Shown here is the now (in)famous ’embers’ graph that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did NOT include in their report on climate change, since some scientists thought that the visualization “was too unnerving.” Here is the actual figure and its discussion on NYTimes dotEarth blog –


  • Climate Central – a non-profit organization has some excellent resources that are meant for media and for raising public awareness about the topic of climate change. You can some excellent video as In their own words

Climate Central is an accessible one-stop source for timely, relevant, high-quality climate information through a variety of channels, targeting the media and leaders in business, government, and religion.

  • WaterLIFE is a wonderfully informative website that provides information about water. It contains videos, photographs and visualizations that draw your attention to the various factors affecting water. Its a really amazing site and the snapshot below does not do it justice. Anyway, check it out at Here’s a snapshot from their website water_website

Have you seen any other visualization/website that has been used to communicate, inform, educate people about the issues surrounding environmental factors? If so, please feel free to add them in the comments section.