Climate Connections: Visualizing the link between warming and disease by The Associated Press

Data-driven research increasingly shows that climate change facilitates the spread of infectious disease. The shifting climate expands habitats for mosquitos, alters animal migration patterns, and heightens the possibility of droughts and floods.

The Associated Press and Grist chose to demonstrate the connections between climate and disease through an immersive data storytelling experience. As the user scrolls through the narrative, illustrative parallax effects establish the connection between disease vectors, climate, and the human body.

Streamlines calculated from a dataset of animal migration vectors using a custom Python script show potential shifts from habitats that climate change will soon render unsuitable. We transformed raster datasets containing the magnitude and direction of likely animal movements into a vector field, computed streamlines, and transformed these into vector shapes. We chose to display these with a linear gradient illustrating the path from start to finish of each movement.

We chose to demonstrate the buildup of catastrophic weather events over time through the motif of a ticking clock. Through a complex filtering process, we narrowed disaster events from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, to those linked to climate and disease, in the top 1,000 for their impact on human life and recorded in years with established data collection methods. A radial chart built using D3.js unfolds each year’s events as the user scrolls the page. The chart is responsive, adapting its form for mobile devices. Each event can be read in order of occurrence from the beginning of the year in the center of the circle, to the year’s last event on the edge, with size symbolizing the impact.

We are proud of the lasting and positive social impact of this work. Through data science and seamless animation, this interactive news experience delivers cutting edge, highly technical climate science to lay users in an intuitive format.