How to not do Geo-Visualization


There has been a fairly impressive fail in geo-visualization in discussion on digital channels in Germany during the last days i wanted to comment on here.

It is the new banner image of the Twitter account of the conservative party in Germany – the CDU:

Politically it is just a fairly awkward attempt at siphoning support for Fridays for Future and climate change concerns for their own conservative agenda. But the more interesting part is the background image which in several aspects is in blatant conflict with the physical reality.

If you look at the image – use the link to see a larger version – you can find a number of typical beginners’ mistakes when doing whole Earth or large area geo-visualization:

  • The atmosphere is completely unrealistic in thickness and density profile. The actual earth atmosphere is relatively thick (meaning optically thick) in its lower part and thins out rapidly in the upper parts. The thick lower part at the full size image would be no more than 3-4 pixels in size at the edge of the earth disk – it would not be the fluffy kind of halo around it as shown in the above image.
  • The mountains are so excessively exaggerated in height that the whole thing becomes a caricature of the actual earth shape. This means the whole illustration completely lacks a sense of scale for Earth and the viewer gets the impression of Earth being a kind of toy model of maybe a few dozen kilometers in size.
  • The lighting is absolutely ridiculous – sun direction is kind of an early summer morning situation – though probably from a bit further north than physically possible. But this is combined with a nighttime visualization of the earth surface on the right (eastern) side – where the sun seems to come from.

So overall what does it communicate? That the CDU is making politics for an imagined toy planet that renounces the laws of physics.

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