Smoke from the U.S. West Coast travels east and overseas

Smoke from the wildfires made its way to the other side of the country and over the ocean. Using data from NOAA, Reuters animated the smoke clouds over time:

With climate change expected to exacerbate fires in the future, by worsening droughts and warming surface ocean temperatures, wildfire research is becoming especially important. Over the last year, the world has seen record fires in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Siberia and now the U.S. West.

“I’m concerned that we are starting to see these phenomena more often … everywhere in the world,” Gassó said. “If it’s one year like this, it’s fine, as long as it doesn’t keep repeating itself like this.”

Uh oh.

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Scale of the explosion in Beirut

There was an explosion in Beirut. It was big. How big? Marco Hernandez and Simon Scarr for Reuters provide a sense of scale:

George William Herbert, an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies Center for Nonproliferation Studies and a missile and effects consultant, used two methods to estimate the yield of the explosion. One used visual evidence of the blast itself along with damage assessments. The other calculation was based on the amount of ammonium nitrate reportedly at the source of the explosion.

Both techniques estimate the yield as a few hundred tons of TNT equivalent, with the overlap being 200 to 300, Herbert told Reuters.

It starts with a Hellfire Missle, which is 0.01 tons. Then it just keeps going.

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Remote work and industry

Some industries are more compatible with remote work than others. Jonathan I. Dingel and Brent Neiman at the University of Chicago estimated the scale of the differences. For Reuters, Sarah Slobin reports using a variable width bar chart to show likelihood of close contact with others against likelihood of in person work:

Professional, management and technology jobs run the gamut from accountants and architects to lawyers, insurance underwriters and web developers. This group is much more likely to retain the privilege of collecting a paycheck while working remotely, and is based in major metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles.

See additional breakdowns by geography and job loss.

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Anatomy of an outbreak

For Reuters, Manas Sharma and Simon Scarr animated a coronavirus outbreak in Singapore between January and April, going with the force-directed bubble view. It starts small, then there’s the spread, and clusters form.

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Moves towards reopening the country

Using anonymized cellphone data from SafeGraph, Reade Levinson and Chris Canipe for Reuters mapped the change in foot traffic for different types of businesses over time.

Orange represents more movements since the first week of March. Blue means less. Yellow means about the same. We’re working towards all orange. Fingers crossed.

Sidenote: Now isn’t really the time, but when it is, we’re gonna have to come back to this mobile data stuff. Clearly it has its uses, but with so many offerings, there’s bound to be a less than useful leak.

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Who should receive care first, an ethical dilemma

At greater disparities between low resources and high volumes of sick people, doctors must decide who lives and who dies, which seems a moral burden with a single case, much less anything more. So systems are setup to relieve some of that pressure. For Reuters, Feilding Cage uses clear illustrations to describe possible policies to help healthcare workers decide who receives care first.

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Sheltering in small places

For many, sheltering in place means sheltering in relatively small places. Reuters zoomed in on the tight quarters in Tokyo, Japan. Not much room for movement.

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Slowing down the rate of deaths, aka breaking the wave

For Reuters, Jon McClure looks at the death counts for each country from a different angle. “Each line measures how much the number of fatalities grew in seven days.” The goal is to “break the wave” to get the rates down.

The charts are a combination of flattening the curve and the daily updated charts from The Financial Times showing death tolls. I have a feeling the geometry will confuse some people, but I like the metaphor.

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Social distancing isn’t available for everyone

For Reuters, Chris Canipe looks at social distancing from the perspective of household income:

Anonymized smartphone data in the United States shows some interesting trends. People in larger cities and urban corridors were more likely to change their travel habits, especially in early March. By the end of the month, most U.S. residents were traveling dramatically less than they did in February, but social and demographic differences were strong predictors of how much that changed.

The above shows median change in distance traveled against median household income by county. Note the downwards trend showing counties with lower median incomes with less change in travel.

For many, it’s not possible to work from home or it isn’t safe to stay at home. Don’t be too quick to judge.

An aside: There are bigger things to concentrate on right now, but after this is all done, I feel like we need to think more about who has access to our location via cellphone. Clearly the data has its uses, but that’s not always going to be the case.

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Scale of Australia bushfires shown with unit charts

Outside of Australia, it can be a challenge to get a grasp of how bad the bushfires actually are. There have been some attempts that overlay a map of Australia over various locations, but they’ve varied in accuracy. This scrolling unit chart by Reuters Graphics makes the comparison more concrete.

Each square represents a square kilometer, a counter at the top ticks up as you scroll, and geographic points of reference appear as you go down. Effective.

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