Sky Color of 10 Chinese Cities

Well, not real colors of the sky – but you get the idea.

The dominant influence factor is the climate. Winter is the most polluted season because of thermal inversion and less rainfall. Spring in northern China suffers from sandstorm. Still, you can easily identify the effect of government intervention, such as the significant improvement in Taiyuan. And look how amazingly Beijing performed in 2008 August through September for the Olympics. Click the image below to zoom in.

Sky Color of Beijing 2000-2011 (small)

Tools used: R

Dedicated to my endearing home city.

Looking at the Forbidden City from Jingshan
[Looking into the Forbidden City from Jingshan – BJNews, March 21, 2011]

Update: Images now available as Flickr photostream

19 Replies to “Sky Color of 10 Chinese Cities”

  1. Hi Xiaoji,

    first of all, I really, really, like the art of visualization you are producing.
    It’s amazing.

    What kind of software do you use?
    If you do it with Processing, how many time do you need for such a masterpiece?

    Lg, J.D.

    1. Thanks 🙂
      Basically I use whatever solution that generates results fast, considering the nature of the data and expected deliverables. I use Excel, Ilustrator, R, Processing, Flex, OpenFrameworks, Protovis, etc.
      The most time-consuming work is cleaning up the data and preparing it for visualization. Making static images usually take a few hours. Videos and interactive apps take longer – about 1 week from raw data to final product.

  2. Thank you. Basically, I am a programmer doing scientific calculations. At my department, we are only using VisIt for Visualization.
    What inspires me, is that your work is done with so much love. You really think about what you do and you do it. I was staggered by the pictures above and I know that this isn’t just a simple Excel chart.

    Lg, J.D.

    (Don’t wonder that the email address changed. The first one was a mistake.)

    1. Thanks for the compliment. I guess scientists and designers have different concerns when it comes to visualization. As a designer I do think a lot about how to communicate my intentions to the general public. It is proved that visualization is very effective in shaping people’s mental models and influencing their behaviors.
      In my lab I work together with network scientists. Aside from final representation I also build tools for them to browse data and validate models. I help them in developing and selling research, and their works inspire new visualization ideas. A lot of fun. Maybe your department should try hiring a designer at some point. 😀

  3. Not a bad idea, I will give my boss a hint ;-).
    Personally, I even think of math in terms of design. Some people think, it’s only about calculations, but it’s more about understanding, and understanding is about design. I am inspired if I see two different designs which fit together. This is like seeing two sides of an equation (like the divergence theorem). These designs then build a network of ideas and this gives us new insights :-).
    I like design :-D. You may know Hans Rosling. He’s doing a great job in visualization of statistics. He also changed my point of view of parts of the world. If you don’t know him you have to visit the Gapminder-Site (

    Lg, J.D.

  4. I really like your visualisation! There is just so much potential for freeing up all this data, especially what’s available in China… Was the data you used found in an accessible format or did you have to pre-process it several times around before it could be used?

  5. 真好,立体极了,让人有种横看成岭侧成峰的感觉

    1. I tried a few polar plot libraries, but they were not customizable enough. I ended up writing my own — the graph was not very complex anyway.

  6. 好棒啊 !可惜国内访问不了,我想转发一下可以吗?我自己做城市规划的,也很喜欢信息图形,收集了很多有关地图的,在

  7. 多谢你的图,我一直在找北京相关的空气污染资料,但是都无法说服朋友。而你的图直接让我的朋友决定购买空气净化器了。这大概就是Data Visualization的魔力了。

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *