Wednesday, April 18, 2018

San Francisco is on Shaky Ground

The New York Times carried a worrying story yesterday about San Francisco's gamble with building skyscrapers on land prone to earthquakes. The city loves to gamble so much that they are even building the tallest skyscrapers in the areas of the city where the ground is most at risk of liquefaction.

As you would expect the Times' story is illustrated with its customary impressive mapped visualizations. I particularly like the image transition near the beginning of the Times' San Francisco's Big Seismic Gamble. In 1906 an airship took a spectacular aerial photo of the city showing the damage caused by the recent earthquake and fire. As you scroll down the page the 1906 image of San Francisco seamlessly transitions into a modern illustration of the city from the exact same position. The modern illustration shows all the skyscrapers now built on top of the areas of the city devastated by the 1906 earthquake.

Another effective visualization in the story is a map of all the buildings in the city more than 240 tall overlaid on top of a choropleth layer showing the areas of the city at risk from liquefaction. A final map shows the areas of San Francisco which are expected to experience strong shaking during a big earthquake.

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