Wet Lands: Where does the Earth’s rain fall?

  • Written by  Benjamin Hennig
  • Published in Mapping
Wet Lands: Where does the Earth’s rain fall? Benjamin Hennig
20 Feb
2016
Geographical’s monthly alternative look at the world through the eyes of cartograms

This question can nowadays be answered remarkably well because precipitation figures are part of possibly the most advanced global scientific data that is currently available in geosciences. Climate science is based on such accurate and reliable models. Maps about the global distribution of precipitation are also part of our  basic understanding of the geography of the world. Climate observations from the past decades (such as those included in the WorldClim database used in this visualisation) provide information about the average monthly precipitation. This was used as a basis for a gridded cartogram transformation of the land surface in which each grid cell is resized according to the total amount of rain (and other precipitation) in that area. The main map shows the accumulated average annual precipitation patterns across the globe over the past five decades. In addition, a smaller series of cartograms visualises the average monthly variations over the same period.

Geographical 2016 02 PrecipitationCombined CLEAN REP

The annual map shows the high rainfall volumes in the tropical regions north and south of the Equator. Areas of high seasonal precipitation volumes, such as the monsoon regions in Asia are less significant compared to the tropics, but still stand out from the dry regions. The large deserts on the planet virtually disappear, most strikingly the Sahara which minimises most of the northern parts of Africa. The areas with more even and moderate precipitation levels remain smaller but stay visible, such as Europe and parts of North America.

RainfallAnimation

The monthly rainfall patterns reveal seasonal changes that are not shown in the annual precipitation cartogram in a high geographic detail. Monsoon rain in Asia, seasonal variation around the Equator, winter rain in the Mediterranean climates and other key patterns are some of the most important phenomena that become apparent in the monthly map series.

Benjamin Hennig (@geoviews) is a senior research fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He is involved in the Worldmapper project and maintains the visualisation blog www.viewsoftheworld.net

This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

READER SURVEY

We want to know what you think...

Help us shape the future of Geographical and enter our prize draw to win a Thule backpack worth £100!

Reader Survey

 

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

MaltaUni300x100UniOfHertsBuilding300x100StAndrewsUniBuildingLogo300x100

TRAVEL PARTNERS

CoxKing300x100

Intrepid300x100

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades l...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital has a green future, ...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...
    Dealing with drugs
    While Ebola makes the headlines, a raft of unreported and under-researched diseases are responsible for far more deaths across Africa every year. But ...
    Growing pains
    Population levels are rising and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the world’s megacities – urban sprawls that each house over ten million ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

From the clothes you are wearing, to the shoes on…

Mapping

As Geographical takes a look at the geopolitical state of…

Mapping

New 3D maps reveal the extent of a near-invisible threat:…

Mapping

A stunning interactive map shows a year in the life…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig gets to grips with the increasingly globalised world…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer, Benjamin Hennig, breaks down the recent…

Cities

City leaders from around the world gathered recently for the…

Mapping

A quirk of geology has produced a strange pattern on…

Mapping

The true proportions of Richard Nixon’s victory in the 1972…

Mapping

From US debt to cosmic exploration, water use to missing…

Mapping

Coasts are a more complex geographical entity than you might…

Mapping

The methods we use to teach physical geography and environmental…

Mountains

Norway is looking to gift a mountain to Finland as…

Forests

The world’s first comprehensive report on plant species finds over…

Mountains

As a Cumbrian hill in the Yorkshire Dales is offically…

Mapping

Out of sight, out of mind, the world's oceans are…

Mapping

Home ownership in the UK has changed dramatically in recent…

Mountains

Chris Fitch travels to the Jungfrau region of Alpine Switzerland,…

Mapping

Mark Cooper-Jones and Jay Foreman tap into a rich vein…

Mapping

Which country has been the most successful in Olympic history?…