Understanding 2022 in five infographics

Scientific news is events, advances, concerns, controversies, but also popularization efforts that suddenly become important because we have been able to illustrate them. Here are 5 news stories that would have lost a lot of their value if their numbers couldn’t be viewed.

1) Declining life expectancy

On its own, the popularization magazine Scientific American demonstrated last March that after two years of the pandemic, the only way to overcome “COVID fatigue” was to sum it up visually. For example, the drop in life expectancy, one element among others of the still poorly understood footprint that this coronavirus will have left behind during its first year.

2) Greenland is melting

As for the climate crisis, again this year there have been many broken records, and these records, each year, are reflected in these rising curves. But of all records, the Greenland Heat Anomaly in September is in a class of its own. Normally, September is when the winter ice begins to form again. This time, several consecutive days of rain accelerated the melting of part of the ice sheet. And some weather stations recorded, between September 3 and September 6, their highest temperatures, not of September, but of the year.

Extent of melting (in % of area). In blue: median 1981-2010, In red: 2022.

3) Warming up: one more red bar

Still on warming, but more classic, there is this bar graph, to which each new year adds a red bar on the right, making the effect more and more striking. In 2021, land and ocean surface temperatures averaged 0.84 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, and it was the 45th consecutive year that the temperature was above average. . Within a month, we should be able to confirm that 2022 will become the 46th, and one more red bar will be added to the right of the graph.

4) Holographic black hole and quantum computer

The editors of Nature have also chosen their favorite graphs of 2022, and one of them wins the prize for the most exotic, if not the most understandable: physicists imagined in 2022 a quantum computer which would generate an « emerging black hole », through which would convey a message. It is by virtue of this principle of quantum physics which says that two particles can be linked or « correlated », even if they are at very great distances.

5) Misinformation kills

Political partisanship shouldn’t be a killer, and yet it is. In most countries, it is very difficult to distinguish what role a political party may have played in health choices from other factors. But the United States, with only two parties, and a social climate more polarized than ever, continued to provide in 2022 the opportunity to measure the impact of disinformation. After the association, observed the previous year, between the counties which had voted the most for Trump and those with the highest death rate from COVID, we learned in 2022 that the death rate in the counties Republicans was not only higher for major causes of death—cancer, heart disease and even gun deaths—but the gap had widened since the 2000s.

Source: “Political Environment and Mortality Rates in the United States, 2001-19: Population Based Cross Sectional Analysis,” by Haider J. Warraich et al., in BMJ, June 2022.

Bonus : the New York Times made an impressive popularization effort. The greenhouse gas footprint by city and town, across the United States. A way to subtly lead the « skeptics » or the « indifferent » to visualize a scientific fact, knowing that it is always more striking when it happens near us.

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