MapCarte 233/365: New York’s Carbon Emissions by Carbon Visuals, 2011

Animation can be an extremely effective visual tool because it helps us visualize temporal patterns in a way that time slices cannot. Normally, though, we’re mapping something tangible; something that we can plot at different points in time and whose trace is only really seen once we’ve stitched the different slices together. Here, though, a different approach to cinematic cartography gives us a powerful message.

Carbon Visuals wanted a way of visually expressing the amount of New York’s carbon emissions over an hour, a week, a month and a year. These blocks of time are easy to imagine when we look at the map…but what is it we’re to look at? The data could easily have been presented as a histogram or some other graphical method but they went much further.

A 3D cityscape is used and we move through street level, eventually pulling up and over the top of the city to see it at a much smaller scale. The Carbon emissions are illustrated through inflated balls and as we move through time, more and more balls are added. The cityscape is rendered in light grey…the balls in blue and the contrast helps us easily pick out the two dimensions of the map. Space is simply a placeholder but it gives us scale and as we slowly pull back from the street to the wide view and the balls increase exponentially we see the mass of blue overwhelming the city.

Comparisons are always useful in cartography and Carbon Visuals use it to great effect here. Clean and simple but emotionally charged and undeniably impactful.

More details of this map on the Carbon Visuals web site here.