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The Planet "Breathes" Like We Do in This Stunning Map

A data visualization turns numbers into a gorgeous map of our planet's life cycle.

by Beckett Mufson
May 24 2017, 7:06pm

Screencap via datasketch.es

A pair of data scientists and designers mapped the global plant growth cycle over time and transformed it into a breathtaking visualization that shows how the planet "breathes." For their monthly Data Sketches project, Amsterdam-based Nadieh Bremer and Shirley Wu crunched data from US satellites measuring an area's overall vegetative health, or, "greenness." They converted the info into a map of the world condensed into 50,000 circles, each representing a measured area's greenness. They charted each area's results over time for an animated visual called, A Breathing Earth. Over the course of the four seasons, these changes give the impression of the entire planet "breathing" the green in and out, and it looks lovely.

That impression is more or less true. "The more 'green' the plants have, the more CO2 they can filter from the atmosphere back into oxygen which we humans in turn need to breathe," says Bremer. She learned several new coding tools, such as Pixi.JS, Regl, and WebGL to make the sleek, round data points that make the graph, which you can observe in action below, so satisfying.

See more of Nadieh Bremer and Shirley Wu's visualizations on the Data Sketches website.

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