By Alison Kanski
Water’s Edge by Reuters was an enormous investigative story about the rising sea level and its effects on coastal areas, mostly focusing on the U.S., but also looking briefly at southeast Asia. This article is very long and packed with data and visualizations, so I’m just going to look at a few of them.
The first graph was definitely the strongest. At first it looks overwhelming, but it clearly shows the general trend upward in coastal flooding. If the reader wanted to find a particular city (like I looked for Charleston, SC), the drop down menu to the right of the chart made it really easy. Rather than hunting through the jumbled lines, you can just pick a city that interests you and see the data for it. One issue with this graph is that some of the lines are broken due to missing data. The note below the graph explains that the data is missing because there were incomplete records for certain years.
The floods per station map was certainly a really cool thing to watch, but it moved too fast to even register the number of floods per station before it moved on to the next year. But the general idea to show that coastal flooding has increased is clear. One issues is that more stations are added as time goes on. In 1920, there are only nine stations, but in 2013 there are easily four times that. I think that may skew the reader’s perception of the floods. There are more pulses on the map both because there are more floods and because there are more stations recording the floods.
The two maps were not very interesting. The use of the color gradient was hard to distinguish, particularly the gray, and there was no interactivity to show specifics for each shaded area for either map. The layers icon in the top left is also an issue. I only noticed it after staring at the maps for a few minutes, so the average reader would most likely not notice it’s there. Although that may be for the best. When I started playing around with the layers, it almost made the maps more confusing because some of the layers overlaid each other and others didn’t. I was spending more time trying to figure out the layers than actually looking at the map. It was the most user-friendly experience.
Overall, I thought this was a great data viz story. A massive amount of data and research clearly went into it and, in general, it was organized and presented well. It takes some time and dedication to the story to get through this entire article, but I certainly think it’s worth it.