Friday, March 15, 2013

Gold medal at Malofiej

Here is a look at the graphic I created last year which just won a gold medal at Malofiej 21. I'll write a more detailed post explaining the thinking, process and research behind the graphic in the next day or so (after celebrating in Pamplona).

Congratulations to the team at SCMP with 5 awards in total, two of which went to Senior Infographic Artist Adolfo Arranz. More details to come soon.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


A 45-metre-wide asteroid came remarkably close to Earth on Friday, even closer than communication and weather satellites. It was be the nearest known close miss for an object of its size.   
When this story was first mentioned in the newsroom, a few days before the incident, it sparked debate. People were intrigued as to how close these objects come to Earth. How many pass by? And how fast or large are they? A perfect opportunity for an interesting graphic.    
As usual, NASA had every piece of information we needed. Their Near-Earth Object Program was established in 1998 to help coordinate, and provide a focal point for the study of comets and asteroids that can approach the Earth's orbit. They have data sets on all close approaches to Earth since 1900 and projected forward to 2200.    

The main part of the graphic shows all close approaches passing the Earth at a distance of one Lunar Distance (LD) or less. In other words, passing closer to Earth than the Moon. All 199 historical and projected passes are shown. All are arranged on the vertical axis by the distance they came to Earth. The axis represents the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Both of which are represented at each end, drawn to scale. The Length of each bar represents the speed at which the asteroid was traveling. White objects have already passed and orange are forecast.     

We also included two smaller diagrams. One showing 2012 DA14's orbit and how it will pass Earth and another showing its size compared to the Space Shuttle and the largest asteroid on the chart.    

The chart below did not make it on to the graphic.    

This shows all the asteroids over time. Every close approach recorded by NASA from the year 1900 to 2200 going out even further to 5 Lunar Distances or less. When we plotted it on this chart we noticed a strong trend. The last decade or so has seen a huge spike in the number of close approaches. Or has it? We figured this chart was too good to be true and assumed it may have something to do with recent technology and a greater ability to track these objects now. After speaking to NASA our suspicions were confirmed. It is harder to back track and accurately plot every close approach earlier in the 20th century and hard to predict as many in the distant future. After learning this we decided the chart was slightly misleading and decided to drop it.    
We decided the information we were showing was strong and simple enough to hold a full page and ran the graphic in Friday's newspaper as a back page.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Arteries of the city

I created this graphic back in October shortly after Hong Kong's Transport Department released their annual traffic census. The 182-page report was packed with statistics and useful information but the best data was a thorough breakdown of daily traffic on almost every stretch of road. The territory has hundreds of counting stations. We thought the chance to do something with these numbers was too good to miss so we pitched an analysis to the Editor who was keen to give it a good space.

The thickness of each line represents the average daily number of vehicles traveling on that stretch of road. The colour represents the percentage change on last year. This helps the reader to explore the data in two ways. You can clearly see that the main roads along the front of Hong Kong Island are still the busiest. But by the colour, the traffic has also mostly decreased compared to last year. You can also see that a lot of the roads in Kowloon have become busier. In particular the area up to the left, Tsuen Wan, the three tunnels north and the major highways to the east.

There is also a clear change in the cross-harbour tunnels. The Eastern and Western Harbour Tunnels have increased in traffic compared to the central tunnel which has decreased. But they still see less traffic.

The graphic is also a fun way for the reader to take a look around their neighbourhood or route to work.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Roadside pollution in Hong Kong hit a record high this year, on August 2 in Central, with the index reaching 212. As the year drew to a close, we took a look at how the air had fared in every hour in the year up to the publishing date.

Each day is represented by a row of 24 squares, one for each hour of the day. The shade of the square indicates the pollution reading at Central monitoring station.

The idea was to give the reader an overall glance at the year so they can see the worst and clearer periods, but also the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the hourly data. We also added some text pointers to explain some probable contributing factors to clearer air such as typhoons.

Hong Kong’s air pollution is often blamed on its proximity to mainland China’s industry. Wind direction each day is included as small arrows to the left of each row in order to gauge, if any, the relationship between northerly winds and bad air.

We wanted the reader to come to their own conclusion about the relationship with wind direction but it turns out a lot of the bad spells coincide with winds from the North (black arrows). See below.

The graphic was published as a full broadsheet back page near the end of December.