There are many ways to visualize data from the U.S. Census. Next month, we’ll explore chart-making software to visualize demographic data. But this month we’ll explore how to visualize physical change with Google Earth Engine Timelapse.
Earth Engine is a project organized by Google, Carnegie Mellon, the US Geological Survey and NASA. The interface lets you search and zoom in or out of a specific area on the planet and play a timeline of 37 years of satellite imagery.
This video player, which has three speed settings, shows first-hand how an area has changed physically over the years. It works well for visualizing areas impacted by natural disasters like flooding, wildfires or a tornado.
The intuitive tool also works well for visualizing urban growth. For instance, if you’re doing a Census story about Las Vegas’s population growth over the last three decades, you would probably build a line chart showing the year-by-year population increases.
But how has the city changed physically? All you have to do is search for Las Vegas, Nevada, zoom to the area you want and watch the city grow.
Quick tip: One of my favorite tools on the Journalist’s Toolbox is Thsrs, the shorter thesaurus. You can type a word into the interface and it gives you only synonyms shorter than the word you typed it. It’s helpful for writing headlines for print, online SEO headlines and titles for graphics.
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