Posts Tagged ‘scale’

As you must have read, scorching weather has ignited peat fires across 35 regions in Russia. At its height last week, smog produced from the raging fires meant visibilty in Moscow was just 300 metres. The fire emergency status has been cancelled in three regions but the scale of the disaster can be guaged somewhat from this Goolge Earth picture:

At the height of these fires, figures for the scale of the blaze range from 5 thousand  to 8 thousand square kilometers.  That is equivalent to setting the entire nation of Trinidad and Tobago alight. Or, if you take the larger figure, an area three times the size of Luxembourg.

This is a large range, I know, but fires tend not to be discrete. I think the picture is a much better guage of the scale. Thank you Google Earth. However, the figures given so far is a death toll of 54. And deaths are discrete. But these numbers coming out of Russia tend also to be discreet in that Interfax news agency are quoting doctors in Moscow as saying they’re being told not to put ‘heatstroke’ as a cause of death in order to keep the offical (i.e. publishable) statistics low.

Don’t believe everything you read. Numbers tell you nothing if you don’t know where they come from.

Numerical information is becoming more and more important in news reporting. This is not only due to interactive web abilities (I’ll write another post on this) but because big news is news of scale.

For instance, the floods in Pakistan are now being put into context with figures. The number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 13 million — more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,  the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the United Nations said Monday (09/08/10). These figures are headline news even though it’s not new. We’ve just been given new context.

The scale of disasters are usually revealed in the aftermath. The clean up. That point in time when news cameras tend to move on. When donations tend to peter. But putting an ongoing disaster in terms of recent ones where images are fresh in people mind and scale is concretized in a pocket of their cerebral lobes is an effective way of getting people to give and keeping the story in the news (which is obviously the UN’s agenda).

It’s a shame that news organizations don’t just do it on their own. It’s not that hard. In fact, I’m going to give it a try! But data of scale generally come from press releases as in this case. DIY data is the niche of a few good news orgianizations.

For instance, check out this visualization from the ever impressive Guardian Data Blog. Not only does it give a good comparison of the amount of money donated, it gives the funding per head of population. Because generosity is not just how much you give the how much of what you have that you can give. I also like the prettier (i.e. not just circles) Weather Crisis 2010 map.

Pictures truely paint a thousand words but interactives make 3D movies. And the best data is shared data! Thank you Simon Rogers.