Exploring Data Visualization #15

In this monthly series, I share a combination of cool data visualizations, useful tools and resources, and other visualization miscellany. The field of data visualization is full of experts who publish insights in books and on blogs, and I’ll be using this series to introduce you to a few of them. You can find previous posts by looking at the Exploring Data Visualization tag.

Which milk has the smallest impact on the planet?

Climate change impacts each of us in direct and indirect ways. Mitigating your personal carbon footprint is an important way to address climate change for many people, but often people are unsure how to make choices that benefit the climate. Daniela Haake from Datawrapper took a close look at how her choice to have milk in her coffee was damaging or benefiting the planet and it turns out things aren’t looking great for café con leche. The chart Haake published, created using data from Dr. Joseph Poore, compares the carbon emissions, land use, and water use of milk and the top 4 milk alternatives.

A chart comparing the carbon emissions, land use, and water use of milk and the top 4 milk alternatives

Soy milk has the lowest overall impact on carbon emissions, land use, and water use.

Here’s Who Owns the Most Land in America

“The 100 largest owners of private property in the U.S., newcomers and old-timers together, have 40 million acres, or approximately 2% of the country’s land mass,” Bloomberg News reports. The people who own this land are the richest people in the country, and their wealth has grown significantly over the last 10 years. Bloomberg created a map that demonstrates where the land these people own is located. Compared to the rest of the country, the amount of land owned by these people looks relatively small—could Bloomberg have presented more information about why it is significant that these people own land in these areas? And about why they own so much land?

A map of the continental United States with the land owned by the 10 largest owners of private property highlighted

This image shows only the land owned by the top 10 landowners.

How to Get Better at Embracing Unknowns

Representing our uncertainty in data can be difficult to do clearly and well. In Scientific American this month, Jessica Hullman analyzed different methods of representing uncertainty for their clarity and effectiveness. While there may be no perfect way to represent uncertainty in your data viz, Hullman argues that “the least effective way to present uncertainty is to not show it at all.” Take a look at Hullman’s different ways to represent uncertainty and see if any might work for your next project!

A gif showing two methods of demonstrating uncertainty in data visualizations through animation

Animated charts make uncertainty impossible to ignore

I hope you enjoyed this data visualization news! If you have any data visualization questions, please feel free to email the Scholarly Commons.