Visualizing commodity trade in mercury with an interactive 3D globe

It was almost TOO easy.

A data visualization app called Flourish has been getting a bit of buzz recently, so I decided to check it out. I noticed a slick existing template using 3D WebGL for illustrating global trade flows. I have a perfect dataset for that!

Our recently published UN Environment Global Mercury Supply, Trade and Demand Report contains data pulled from the UN Comtrade database on global mercury trade in 2008 and 2015. A few hours of data munging and it was ready to go into the template. Flourish also has a story feature which allows you to walk viewers through an interactive graphic. Sort of like a story map in GIS. Here is the result:

2018-06-27_140608

Click on the image to view the interactive story

A link to the graphic itself (without the story) is here.

One word of caution. No matter how slick a graphic looks and performs, it’s only worth as much as the underlying data. In this case, we know that UN Comtrade data for mercury has some serious flaws, including errors and missed reporting by importing and exporting countries, to say nothing of illegal trade (we discuss these issues in the report). Nevertheless we believe the data is still useful in providing an overview of global trade. But please keep the limitations in mind.

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