Dorling Cartograms – Carbon Atlas – SND Awards

The Washington Post won 12 awards from SND’s annual contest this year. The Society for News Design awarded NewsArt where I work 5 individual graphics awards and one “staff graphic portfolio” or general art department excellence. One of these was for Laura and Brenna’s Operation Turkey graphic which I promoted here last year. Laris and April received one for their full-page map of the Cherry Blossoms last spring, too.

cartogram world carbon atlas thumb

While viewing other entries we came across this double-page spread from Mark McCormick’s December 15th, 2007 graphic in The Guardian (Britain) titled “Carbon Atlas” showing off a style of cartogram named Doring after Danny Dorling now of The University of Sheffield (download full res PDF).

(From NCGIA) A Dorling cartogram maintains neither shape, topology nor object centroids, though it has proven to be a very effective cartogram method. To create a Dorling cartogram, instead of enlarging or shrinking the objects themselves, the cartographer will replace the objects with a uniform shape, usually a circle, of the appropriate size. Professor Dorling (…) suggests that the shapes not overlap but rather be moved so that the full area of each shape can be seen.

Carbon Atlas Details

Note how the world map below shows true geography and establishes the region color code. Graduated circles, by region, establish proportions between regions and later iterate onto the background of the Europe detail image. Circles are labeled by rank on the main map (Europe clip below). Graduated circle labels could have been augmented with the 2 digit county code in many cases (e.g. 64CH for Switzerland). Use the table at the very bottom to lookup the rank number by continent to get the country name, total tons of C02 emissions, and ton-per-person equivalent.

cartogram world totals

cartogram world carbon atlast clip

cartogram world carbon atlas list

I prefer this automated charting method as it emphasizes proportions while still approximating geographic relationships (spatial proximity) yet avoiding the abstract art distortion noise common in the fish eye method. Some cartograms do a better job preserving shape while scaling it proportionally to the data theme like this map of Oil Reserves where a fish eye algorithm might have guided creation of final art but the original shapes are better preserved. Automated routines are available for the Dorling method (including non-overlap) and the fish eye method.

oil cartogram

Prof. Dorling is now involved in which uses a fish-eye lense effect to generate cartograms like this one. Some areas like Africa are relatively easy to digest. The Americas have turned into an ink-blot fractal. High marks for thematic coverage in the online atlas project, though. The fish eye artifacts are partly negated in this project by comparing so many different maps in sequence, especially with the selective use of animation.

cartogram fish eye

Tags: , , ,

15 Responses to “Dorling Cartograms – Carbon Atlas – SND Awards”

  1. zfjohnson says:

    Very cool. I’ve been working on a full Python script to produce these circular cartograms. You can read about it at (I have a few posts on the algorithm). By “full”, I mean that it will take shapefile input and output circular cartograms.

    Seeing such a cool map produced using this cartogram method encourages me to keep working on the app!

  2. […] O Mundo em emissões de carbono Excelente mapa. Uma daquelas imagens que vale por mil palavras. Kelso Cartography.. […]

  3. […] This map breaks it down showing emissions in terms of relative size using pretty colors – Kelso Cartography, via […]

  4. […] comments on the map posted on his blog, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso highlights the World Total inset (see right) which shows the continents’ actual sizes, […]

  5. […] ::Kelso Cartography Posted on March 14, 2008 by Karin Kloosterman in How-To. Tags: carbon offset, climate change, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions. « Behind the Scenes at Carbon Catalog […]

  6. […] a link-sharing site called Hot damn! Another popular post has been about the Carbon Atlas featuring Dorling cartograms. I started my blog at the end of November just to ramble about this […]

  7. ArcDigita says:

    zfjohnson: I really look forward to you completing your algorithm. There are very few tools out there that actually work. By being in Py, I am assuming it will be an extension for ArcGIS?

  8. kelsonv says:

    The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about carbon trading online:

  9. […] To the latter : WaPo (Washington Post) staff cartographer Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso recently highlighted the above gem, a Dorling cartogram showing the world’s carbon emissions (called “Carbon Atlas“), on his personal blog. […]

  10. […] Dorling Cartograms – Carbon Atlas – SND Awards […]

  11. […] All-time most popular blog posts: Meet Toni Mair — Terrain Artist Extraordinaire Dorling Cartograms – Carbon Atlas – SND Awards […]

  12. Emilia says:

    The UN’s Environment Programme have published maps of carbon-friendly forests that provide some interesting reading – I’ve done a comparison with world population density here –

  13. […] shown below (still has Dorling cartograms!). I earlier blogged about last year’s print version here. Data is from Energy Information Administration. Seen at I like the little […]