Title text: 58% of the state has gone into plaid.
This graph shows the levels of drought over time in the state of California using years on the horizontal axis and distance along a 45 degrees rotated north-south-axis of California on the vertical axis. The image illustrates the use of the distance measure on the vertical axis by visually rotating and stacking multiple maps of California next to each other.
The geography of California lends itself well to this kind of graphical interpretation because the state is much taller than it is wide, hence, large-scale phenomena like weather patterns are likely to cover much of the "width" of the state but only part of the "height". Because the variation in the west-east direction will be small, a side-on view of the state can be used as the vertical axis in a graph, so that the indicated values are either the average or extreme value across the width of California.
Randall compiled the data in this graph from data from the US Drought Monitor, which is authored by Richard Tinker from NOAA. The colors Randall uses correspond to drought intensity levels D0-D4 defined on the Drought Monitor site.
The darkest, most severe level of drought is labelled "ludicrous" (causing laughter because of absurdity), but a parenthetical remark indicates that the official term is "exceptional.". Of course, with half or more of the state in this condition, it can hardly be called "exceptional" any longer.
The graph shows that in 2000, 2005, and 2010, there were very little or no drought conditions in California, but that the intervening periods have seen increasingly severe droughts. According to the most recent data, the state is entirely in a condition of "severe" or worse drought, with "ludicrous" conditions across approximately half its area. The graph also reveals that 2014 is the first year (since 2000) where the "ludicrous" level has been seen. Indeed, a comic about drought is rather topical: California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts in recorded history.
The title text is a reference from the movie Spaceballs, a parody of various Sci-Fi movies. Lone Starr and Barf in their Winnebago space ship traveling at lightspeed are passed by Spaceball One, which is traveling at "ludicrous" speed. The path of Spaceball One is shown as a plaid pattern and Barf remarks "They've gone to plaid!" (YouTube clip).
- [Caption above frame:]
- I like how long and skinny California is because it means you can use it as a graph axis:
- [Title at top of frame:]
- California Droughts
- Based on map data from US Drought Monitor/NOAA/Richard Tinker
- [A legend explains the colors which won't show in this transcript anyway:]
- [Beige] Moderate
- [Orange] Severe
- [Red] Extreme
- [Brown] Ludicrous ("exceptional")
- [A colored contour plot with Time on the X axis and California on the Y axis, and depth of drought as the dependent variable indicated by color. At the left edge, an outline of the state of California, rotated clockwise so as to be mostly vertical, with a label on the "X axis" of Jan 4, 2000, and a yellow patch indicating Dry conditions through the center of the state. To the right of that, four progressively-skinnier versions of the same image, showing more or less the same area of dryness, with the state outline shrunk along the Y axis until the fourth one is basically just a vertical line. This then merges into the main body of the graph, the true contour plot, in which the Y axis is just south-to-north distance along the state, as the X or Time axis runs from 2000 to 2014. Extreme droughts can be seen in Northern California in 2001, Southern California in 2002, and Southern California again in 2007. Moderate-to-severe drought is prevalent across most of the state in 2008-09, and then again starting in 2012, progressing to extreme and "ludicrous" in the northern 2/3 of the state by 2014. At the right-hand edge of the graph are five progressively-wider outlines of the state, reversing the pattern at the left edge, starting with a "line" and widening to a proper 2-D image of the state again, with an X-axis label of Aug 14, 2014, showing the true extent of the drought, with all areas of the state experiencing severe, extreme, or "ludicrous" levels.]
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