Monday, March 1, 2010

New York Times Map of Chilean Earthquake Area Highly Confusing

Where to start? The New York Times badly bungled the map showing the region devastated by the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile late last week. The Times shows two maps, side-by-side, as an illustration of the region that felt the most impact of the temblor. The map on the left has region names declared disaster areas and their political boundary. The right hand map shows the region of severe shaking. The map on the right is NOT an inset map but that's the assumption I made. As I look at the map, the shake boundaries are delineated giving the reader the impression that this is an enlarged view of the left hand map. Looking closely, you can see that the shake area does not extend to the country's eastern border with Argentina. However, you would misinterpret the east boundary of the shake area as the border because of the delineation. In fact, a "shake" area should be graphically portrayed as a "heat map" with graduations of severity by color. The fact that a boundary is used misrepresents the geological impact of the quake. In addition, the Times added population data per square mile and for that they used a density (dot density?) map that could have been misinterpreted for map of shake severity. The smaller inset map in the right hand map just serves to further confuse the reader.

Usually, the New York Times has excellent cartographic quality to support their news stories. This time they tried to do too much at the same time and did not use the correct thematic map symbology to support their data.

1 comment:

Danner said...

Great article. May I suggest using HTML tags to have the link in your article open in a new window so that readers can view the map while reading your comments.