Australia, on Fire!

Chanel Turner

As Australia is ravaged by bushfires, we use our voice to raise awareness and support for our commonwealth comrades. Powerful data visualisation can raise awareness and give visual context to a crisis we all need to get behind.

Data visualisation is a trending term worldwide. Across industries and across sectors, as the modern world develops, we have more of a hunger for key data and information; and it goes beyond wanting to just see it, we’re desperate to understand it. ‘The information age’ as it’s called.

We have the likes of Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and Urban Dictionary (to name a few!) to thank for having an abundance of information at the click of a button, from modern slang to 3D mapping of our own front door. So it goes without saying that the more we can learn, the more we want to learn, and the more we strive to be thought leaders in.

In the context of earth observation, climate change, natural disasters, weather patterns and other global science, in its very nature – it deserves a visual context that can define its complexities, showcase its movement, and echo its importance in the wider ecosystem of the Globe. This goes beyond what a static map can show, and where the real potency of storytelling on a sphere comes alive. To offer global topics a visual context in their inherent format (a Globe), it enhances understanding when the data might otherwise be too complex or too hard to imagine from afar. When you see it, you can’t avoid understanding it.

A recent example which we’ve been watching with great interest, is the Australian Bushfires. You can’t escape the horrific images of destruction online, from celebrities and influencers getting behind the cause to encourage donations, or news stations discussing the gravity of the loss of wildlife (estimated at close to 1 billion!!) – it’s been a global crisis as the likes of toxic carbon monoxide levels spread across the world and smoke haze has effected light and cloud cover as far as New Zealand and South America. A sobering sign of what might be to come with global warming.

What really got the world to wake up and help the cause however, was a data visualisation that encapsulated the devastation and gave visual context to a crisis that most of the world couldn’t see, hear, feel, smell or immediately face to understand. While this image has since been proven to be an exaggeration and not factually correct, it proved the power behind data visualisation. When the world can see, the world can react and band together. Raising around $35million in 48hours for the Australian Red Cross and other rural fire services fighting the fires.

At Pufferfish, we stand for data visualisation with integrity. With such powerful storytelling tools like our PufferSphere® and PufferTouch® solutions, we take great pride in giving context to global information that can lead to sparking positive change, empathy, and of course increase understanding of our world’s complexities. And while examples like the above were exaggerations, for it to be used to help Australia in their time of need we will support it in this instance, but will continue to tell honest stories with the data at our disposal.

With that in mind, we've put together a data visualisation relating to the Australian Bushfires with true data from December 30th 2018, and that same date in 2019 – shout out to the experts at ECMWF for their work to assist in this – in a series of spherical images that explore the environmental conditions surrounding the crisis.

The message behind our storytelling is simple, use the tools you have to raise awareness and increase engagement with global data.

Global Temperature, ECMWF ERA5

Firstly, we see here a spherical data visualisation of global temperature. With the darkest red translating to temperatures exceeding 35 degrees, versus the yellows and blues / greens being cooler temperatures.

We can clearly see from this visualisation that Australia is the darkest red in the frame - meaning in this instance, it's exceeding 35 degrees celsius. And as we can see from the colour representation, its exceeding 35 degrees almost everywhere across the country. And compared to its neighbour New Zealand, the data visualisation on the sphere ensures the point is made. Australia is hot; it's on fire, and its temperatures are testament to that.

Flux of Carbon Dioxide, ECMWF ERA5

This next data visualisation explores the Carbon Dioxide emissions from the fires across Australia. The pink illuminated points are areas exceeding emissions from wildfires of 6e-8 kg/m**-2/s**-1... what does that mean?

Translation: Every pixel in pink indicates that every second circa 60 Micrograms of Carbon Dioxide (per square meter) is released into the atmosphere in that area. That means in every pixel, about 26 tonnes (metric) are released in just one hour.

That's the equivalent of one fully loaded 3-axle truck.

Radiative Power, ECMWF ERA5

This next data visualisation explores Radiative Power associated with the wildfires. The points that are glowing white are areas with at least 0.08 W/m**-2. That unit measurement is also known as irradiance or heat flux density... what does that mean?

Translation: A square meter within these shining white pixels indicates there is a heat flux density of 0.08 Watts per square meter. For comparison, the energy from the Sun is 1360 Watts per sqm. So the total area of one pixel has the energy equivalent to power 7,000 microwaves running at 1,000 Watts.

Total Particulate Matter, ECMWF ERA5

This final data visualisation explores Total Particulate Matter associated with the wildfires. The coloured points are areas exceeding particle emissions of 6e-10 kg/m**-2/s**-1… what does that mean?

Translation: Every pixel in a shiny copper colour shows that every second about 0.6 Micrograms of small burnt matter goes into the atmosphere. For every pixel in that image that is roughly 195 kg every hour.

That’s the equivalent of a large motorcycle in weight… it’s heavy!

As we live through the ‘information age’, and as the appetite for data visualisation increases, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of these complex stories. For now, join us in raising awareness for those who need it the most and encourage data with integrity.

For more information on our GIS capabilities, content development, and our state-of-the-art solutions - get in touch. We hope for a world which moves from an ‘information age’ to an ‘action age’; where our intelligence and increased awareness leads to change and conscious living.

Related posts
Write a comment