When German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with POTUS today, one topic that’s most likely going to be addressed is the trade deficit between the United States and the EU, Germany in particular.

The Spiegel, a major German news outlet, has illustrated recent articles on this subject with the figure below. It shows the volume of trade between the United States and ‘selected countries’ (China, Canada, Mexico and the EU) in 2015. The values indicate the value of goods exported (green arrows) to these countries, and imported (blue) from them into the U.S. in billion US$.


Source: Spiegel Online

The interesting thing in this infographic is that the length of the arrows represents the value of goods traded. For example, the arrow for exports from the US to Europe (274 bnUS$ in 2015) is little over half the length of the blue incoming arrow (431 bnUS$ in 2015). This works fine, with the only exception being the green arrow for exports to Mexico.

This infographic of course invited a remake as Sankey diagram. As you all know, in Sankey diagrams the widths of the arrows represent the quantity.

I did two or three different versions, all very similar to the original infographic in style and color, even using the lower states map icon (sorry Alaska and Hawaii). I was not sure at first whether the separate arrows for Germany were values already included in the EU trade volume, or if they were meant to be on top of it. A quick look into the original data revealed that indeed they are included in the EU figures already. I therefore decided to highlight the German share in the Sankey diagram with a slightly brighter color, but keep those arrows stacked.

Here is my Sankey diagram version of the Spiegel infographic.

Not sure which version I prefer, but using the length instead the widths of the arrows to represent the flow quantity is definitely a unique approach. Worth sharing with you, I think.

Digging through some long untouched folders on my hard disk, I found this schematic Sankey diagram of iron and steel flows.


Schematic? Well, no quantities or units given, no time reference, no source of data. And no idea as to who the author is. Just take it as another miscellaneous Sankey diagram.

If you don’t use Sankey diagram software and only have Power Point at hand, this is probably what your national energy flow diagram turns out. 😉


Arrow widths are more or less to scale, which is good. But the overall aspect of this Sankey diagram is unorganized, due to diagonal and overlapping arrows. No flow units given.

Another Figure from OECD/IEA World Energy Outlook 2014 report showing energy exports/imports from/to five African subregions.


Coal measured in million tonnes of oil equivalents (mtoe), oil itself shonw in millions of marrels per day (mb/d). Natural gas measured in “bcm” (anyone?).

Given the different units for the flows I think only arrows of the same color should be compared). So not really a Sankey diagram…

The below Sankey diagram from 1949 depicting world’s energy flows in 1937 is shown in this blog post by Michael Hohmann | LMH Design.


Flows are in TWh.
Michael says: “When I first saw this, I was reminded of seeing an octopus and called it an Octopus Diagram, with the octopus’ head at the input end at left, and the tentacles on the right, in between digesting and distributing everything that the various mouths at the head can gobble up”, asking himself “[w]here does all this Input energy disappear to with so little Output energy ending up asUseful for us humans?”.

The below Sankey diagram is from OECD/IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2014 report. It shows Nigeria’s oil production

Flows depict average daily production rates in 2013. Unit of flows is in ‘kb/d’ [guess that is 1000 barrels/day]. Check out the flow of ‘estimated stolen’ and ‘smuggled crude export’… wow!

The Sankey diagram-like graph shows the sequence of events in the criminal justice system.


For a high-res version and more details, please go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics BJS/DOJ website.

Note: There are no numbers, and the widths of the colored arrows are similar. I guess it is safe to assume that this is a schematic diagram only and does not represent real numbers.

Liked that Sankey diagram of the human circulatory system (blood flow in the human body) made by CMGlee. This image is part of the Wikipedia article on the circulatory system. Oxygenated blood (red) runs through the arteries, and back to the heart through the veins (blue). Flows depict the “approximate relative percentages of cardiac output delivered to major organ systems”


by CMGlee on Wikicommons (license CC BY-SA 3.0)

Didn’t know my brain only required 14%, but well…