The Arctic Ice Project

The Arctic Ice Project

by Aina Martinez Zurita / Christian Feld / Kevin Zhang / Lawrence Sun

We worked with the “Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent – Northern Hemisphere” data set. The data shows that the ice cover is in the shrinking over time. We want to tell the story of what consequences this might have for the animals living in the Northern Hemisphere and for our own lives.


The data not only provides the numbers of the ice extent but also the shape and location of the ice. We want our audience to see the world through the eyes of the animals living there: with the ice melting, their habitat gets smaller and smaller. In our map project we want to transfer this experience to a person living in the U.S.


The core of our project is a two-part map which simultaneously portrays the extent of the Arctic sea ice (right) and a standard map where everything is blacked out except a circle which represents the regions you can reach. The circle has the same area as the sea ice extent and is centered around a location that the viewer can determine. The default location is where the viewer currently is.


The slider below the map allows the viewer to change the year and visualize what it would be like to have their living space melting away each year. In a next iteration of the project, we would show notifications as landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty melt away. Furthermore, to get a second layer of reading and dig more into the data, there is a graph below the maps, which show the increase of CO2 emissions over time.


We see our project as part of a museum exhibition on climate change. The map is adjacent to related exhibits which display the impact of CO2 on the climate. We want to target people that care about the environment and are looking for concrete ways for getting involved. After exploring the map, we direct them to take action by calling their elected officials and oppose H.R. 861: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.


We believe that our double map is an effective tool for bringing the abstract idea of “melting sea ice” closer to the viewer, transferring something far away at the North Pole into the viewer’s own geographic region.

Are You A Pollution Champion? Find Out!

Team: Nina Lutz / Nikita Waghani / Christian Feld

We worked with the World Bank dataset showing CO2 emissions on a country-by-country basis for the years 1990, 2000, 2007-2013. There are plenty of possibilities to analyze the data. If for example you look at the ranking of countries with the highest pollution over time, you see how China overtakes the US, because more and more industrial production is shifted there.

But is that a story that really engages people and sparks critical thinking? We wanted to give our audience the opportunity to explore what role their country plays. We wanted them to have a personalized experience.

Our interactive chart lets users pick one country and drag it to the left side of the screen. One option could also be that the site picks the user´s home country as default. The size of the circle indicates the annual CO2 emission. To compare, users can drag multiple countries to the right half creating a bubble chart. By doing so, the circle on the left side fills, until the added emissions on both sides match. To give the audience additional value, a bubble´s color indicates in which region of the world the country is located.  

This approach turns boring numbers into a story. By playing around with the circles, the audience can better understand what their country contributes to the problem of CO2 emissions and global warming. Through the colors showing regions the users might explore additional correlations. To compare the situation in an historical context, a slider lets users switch between years.

The chart is embedded in a website. Its little introductory article gives context and pulls readers into the story by using a narrative: “For people in the Maldives global warming is theory but an existential question. Their situation is influenced by all of us, around the globe. Find out what your countries impact is.”

Christian´s data log of 2/14/2017

08.00 Woke up.

Checked my Harvard and two private email accounts.

Checked Facebook, Twitter, Slack and WhatsApp accounts.

09.00 Sent WA messages in team group for European Conference.

09.15 Put on Nike AppleWatch with GPS sensor tracking how much I move.


09.30 Bought a coffee at Starbucks using my Debit Card.

09.45 Logged into Harvard Wifi network.

10.15 Used Maps on IPhone to figure out best way to MIT

10.30 Add value to my Charlie MBTA card using my Debit card.


11.00 Bought a coffee at MIT student center (Debit Card)

11.10 Logged into MIT Guest network, surfing the web (various news sites)

11.30 Shared a picture I shot earlier on my fellowships´s Slack channel.

14.30 Data story-telling studio: surfing the course´s blog for data viz homework.

16.15 Purchased book at MIT Coop with Debit card.


16.30 Book a trip with Uber paid with German credit card. Driven route is stored by company.

17.30 Logged into Harvard Wifi network. Posted tweets via Iphone app.


21.00 Bought movie for class with AmazonPrime, streamed it to my laptop.

23.00 Updated information on panel for European Conference via shared Google docs.

23.30 Watch German news broadcast via app.


In addition to that, I am pretty sure there is a lot of data collection that I don´t think about. I was recorded by CCTV cameras. Multiple apps on my phone collected data and exchanged with there servers. File on my laptop are also in iCloud or Google Drive.

Are You As Smart As You Think?

What makes data presentations really powerful, is when users are not only passive consumers. I recently found a striking example for that. It´s a New York Times article called “You Draw It: What Got Better or Worse During Obama’s Presidency”. It shows how indicators of key policy issues developed during the Obama years: e.g. national debt, unemployment rate, number of crimes or troops abroad.

Readers are shown the data for the Bush years (2000-2008). They then can get active and draw what they think might be the line for Obama´s time in office (2008-2016).

In a second step, you are presented with the actual data (blue line) and some additional explanations.

I think this presentation is made for a broad general audience, for readers that are willing to test their own perception against the actual facts. Or as the NYT puts it: “See if you’re as smart as you think you are.”

This piece was published after the November election and before the inauguration of Donald Trump. I see two main goals the authors tried to achieve: first of all, it helps readers assess the performance of the Obama administration on the basis of hard facts. Secondly, it confronts readers with their own potential misjudgments.

Was it effective? I personally was very much attracted by this playful and interactive approach towards stats. I am not sure whether I would have read an article on that topic with just static charts.