Why we love it

This award-winning set of maps sets a new standard in analysis and visual storytelling. The bivariate hexbin mapping technique proves to be as gorgeous and sophisticated as it is intuitive. We love how these maps capture the geographic and historic complexity of this epic US drought. Combining five years of weekly data, the maps uncover how conditions vary in both intensity and length. Color indicates severity while size indicates frequency. For example, large deep purple symbols indicate where exceptional drought was experienced almost continuously for five years. This is geographic analysis at its best.

Why it works

The main map stands on its own while supplemental maps give a different perspective on the same data. This works because it adds nuance to the story and shows the care taken by the mapmaker. It also highlights that there is no single “best” way to tell a story. The judicious use of call-outs directly on the maps, the powerful legend, and the minimal-yet-elegant basemaps combine to turn a big, messy dataset into understanding. Wise use of an equal-area projection ensures each hexbin indicates the same sized area. A companion blog post explains how anyone can re-use this work.

Important steps


Tips and tricks

Headshot of John Nelson, map author

Related maps

If you liked this map, check out these other Maps We Love that explore similar topics.

Start making maps with a free trial of ArcGIS

Try ArcGIS