Nuclear weapon inventories

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

For charts showing nuclear-weapon inventories, such as the example above from AFP, chartists typically use the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as their go-to source.

For historical data, you can also try the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Nuclear Notebook.

Also, NRDC’s archive of nuclear data.

While none of these sources are neutral on nuclear weapons, no one questions the reliability of their data.


Cluster bombs

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

cluster bombs map

An Economist graphic points out that despite a broad treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, 17 non-signatory countries including the United States continue to produce them.

Both Thailand and Libya used cluster munitions this year. Cluster munitions put civilians at risk because they spread over  a wide area and can leave unexploded submunitions.

The source of the graphic is the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which is affiliated with the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In addition to maps and lists on landmine and cluster munitions producers. The monitor produces reports and maps of civilian casualties, and locates areas that are contaminated with cluster munitions and landmines from past or ongoing conflicts.

map of cluster munition remnants from the landmine and cluster bomb monitor


Lord’s Resistance Army

October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

When the Obama Administration sent troops into Africa to help the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, I needed to produce a map showing where they LRA operates—and fast. I immediately turned to Reliefweb, which coordinates information from humanitarian aid organizations, and to OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the U.N.

Reliefweb and OHCA provide detailed and up-to-date information on all kinds of humanitarian crises, including atrocities and displacement brought about by the LRA. OCHA frequently updates the map shown below with details on the LRA’s attacks and their effects.


Drone strikes in Pakistan

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment


The New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative has emerged as the accountant of drone strikes in Pakistan, much like how Iraq Body Count and iCasualties have served as the keepers of the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Above is a Wall Street Journal graphic using the New America Foundation’s count. New America bases its figures on news accounts. It provides the date and location of each strike, as well as number of reported deaths and the name of the militant targeted.

Their count shows a spike in drone attacks in September as the CIA stepped up strikes to knock out a suspected terror plot against European targets.

Below, a portion of the drone strike Google map New America maintains.

Analysis of Iranian nuclear sites

October 13, 2009 § Leave a comment


With commercial satellites circling the globe it’s hard for nations to keep their construction sites a secret. Military analysts at various organizations keep track of these images and look for structures that could be nuclear facilities or signs of new activity at known sites. The satellite image above, believed to be Iran’s Qom centrifuge facility, was analyzed by the Institute for Science and International Security. Their report is here:

Below is GlobalSecurity’s take on the suspected site:


When news of Iran’s centrifuge facility broke in September of 2009, photo wires were offering DigitalGlobe’s satellite images of the “suspected” site in Iran. Since the site location hadn’t been confirmed by U.S., Iranian or IAEA officials, news organizations shied away from using the images.

A few days later, the New York Times ran an annotated satellite image of the suspected facility on their front page based on an analysis by IHS Jane’s.

Here is the IHS Jane’s release’s.htm

And an interactive version of the New York Times graphic:

Most of the military analysts use satellite images from either DigitalGlobe or GeoEye.

Brookings Iraq Index

July 26, 2009 § Leave a comment



Above are two halves of a 2007 double-truck graphic in the Washington Post that tracks Iraq’s progress during the U.S. troop surge. You can see the full graphic as a PDF here:

Imagine a top editor comes to you and says, “I want a graphic that stretches across two pages. It needs to tell me everything I could possibly know about how Iraq has changed singe the surge began. I need it done by Friday.”

When that happened to me, I turned to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index for a lot of the heavy lifting. Brookings has tracked and compiled an impressively broad range of metrics since U.S. troops set foot in Iraq. It updates the index each Thursday.

The data can be used to plot charts on oil revenue, electricity production, Internet usage, casualties, attacks on oil and gas pipelines, U.S. troop levels, the size of the Iraqi security forces, public-opinion polling and dozens of other topics.

Brookings previously maintained a Katrina Index and has begun an Afghanistan Index.

Images of military weapon systems

June 21, 2009 § Leave a comment


The Defense Department maintains an online database of high-resolution images at I have only used the still images, but the database includes video as well. Above is an image of a Predator drone in Iraq (much higher resolution images are available than the one posted here.) Note the Hellfire missiles on its wings. This site is extremely useful for information graphics on military weapon systems, the defense budget and deployment. You can find photographs of all kinds of U.S. helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles, ships, and personnel.

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