Tornado reports

March 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

national weather service tornado reports
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction center posts tornado reports in real time. This can be amazingly handy when trying to show a rash of twisters breaking out across the Midwest. The storm reports page posts them as a static map (not really useful), as well as in a CSV file that includes time and latitude/longitude, and most helpful, in a KML file.
Below is an example of a New York Times graphic using this data:


Flood maps and charts

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

national weather service flood monitor

The National Weather Service posts readings from river flood gauges to its Web site every 15 minutes. You can download the files as KMZ or SHP files to build your own maps. Below, an example of a map from the Wall Street Journal using this data.

You can also download the readings from individual flood gauges to build charts showing when flood waters will crest at a particular location.

national weather service flood stageE

Example from the Wall Street Journal

Gas prices

December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

When gas prices begin to rise, news organizations typically begin to track the costs over time and across the nation, as shown in this 2006 Washington Post map above. The AAA Fuel Gauge Report ( provides these state-level prices daily. It also offers them by metro area if you need to make a more localized comparison.

Charts from the AAA Fuel Gauge site:


For historical prices, you need to go to the Energy Information Administration’s Petroleum Navigator (, which gives weekly gas prices for more than a decade.

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.

Flight paths

November 5, 2009 § Leave a comment


After a plane crashes, news infographics departments immediately turn to the Web for flight-path data to serve as the basis of a map or explainer graphic. There are a bunch of different sources for flight paths. I haven’t figured out which is the easiest to use or which provides the best information. But here are four examples of news maps made from four different flight-tracking sites.

Above: Map of US Airways flight that crashed in the Hudson

Data from FlightView


Above:  Wall Street Journal map of Northwest flight that overshot its destination in Minneapolis.

Data from Flightaware


Above: New York Times map of same Minneapolis flight.

Data from Flightwise

Above: Washington Post maps of Sept. 11 attacks.
Data from Flight Explorer


Drought maps

July 1, 2009 § 1 Comment


When I need to show where dry spells are ravaging the country, I turn to the U.S Drought Monitor for source material

Make sure you start with the PDF version of the map and not the low-resolution vector. If you import the PDF into illustrator you can easily remove the extraneous typography and linework using the “select same fill and stroke” command. From there you can build an informative drought map that meets the specs of your publication.


The drought monitor is published each Thursday.

Maps of same-sex marriage laws

June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Visual journalists should be wary of using information from groups that have a point of view. Occasionally, an interest group emerges as a reliable, unbiased source of information on a topic.

The Human Rights Campaign tracks laws banning same-sex marriage and laws providing rights for same-sex couples. The group maintains up-to-date maps on the subject here: These maps have been used as source material by major media organizations. I am not aware of any opponents of gay marriage who have disputed the validity of the maps.



Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with map at Seth's Sources.