Blog reader Johannes send me a note and suggested to feature the below diagram. Thanks for that.

Tony Hirst from created it after seeing a map-based diagram for horse meat trade flows on the Guardian Data Blog. Tony used Mike Bostock’s D3s Sankey Plugin that allows creating this type of diagrams directly from data in Excel/CSV files. In his post he describes how he proceeded to build this Intra EU Horse Meat Trade diagram. Somewhat techie, but nevertheless makes an interesting read.

Overall trade quantity was more than 60.000 tonnes in 2012. Largest exporters are Belgium and Poland (left side), largest importers are Italy and France (right side). Data is from Eurostats.

The above is a only a static picture, but you can go here to play around with the interactive version. Data labels and quantities are available in the interactive version when you hover ths mouse over certain bands. You can also move the nodes up and down vertically and group the countries differently.

This special type of Sankey diagram is also refered to as distribution diagram and (…hate to say it in light of the current scandal) a Spaghetti diagram. Fineo and Parsets (see software list) can also be used for this type of diagrams where statistical data is grouped into categories (here: exporting and importing countries) and bands/streams/spaghettis are shown between the categories to represent the relationships between them.

Here is my May 2012 post on distribution diagrams with d3.js.

After all these Sankey diagrams for energy flows, flows of carbon, phosphorus, and the like here is a special one for all those of you, who are coffee addicts – like me. Saman Zomorodi on his blog ‘Saman’s System, Sites and Buildings’ features a coffee flow Sankey diagram in this post.

This is an infographic for global coffee production. Producers are on the left side, coffee consumers are on the right. The dark brown flows are for developing nations, while the milk coffee color ones are for developed nations. No quantities given in the diagram, so we don’t learn the actual absolute figures.

However, “this allows the reader to actually see where coffee is being made and how far it actually travels to another world region. As evident in the diagram, almost all coffee is produced in the developing nations, while the majority of it is consumed in the developed nations. This relationship underscores the unproportional amount the developed world consumes, while the developing nations have to pay many hidden costs.”

The original image is >2MB and I had to resize it with a loss in quality. Visit Saman’s blog to download a highres version of the diagram.

John Cochran blogs about his coursework at University of Virgina. His project on ‘Urban Metabolisms’ has this Sankey diagram of food being transported to New York City. Data is from The Federal Highway Administration (USDOT) Freight Analysis Framework.

The first Sankey diagram shows transports to New York (excluding the Northeastern States and transports within NY). The food supplied by other US states becomes relatively insignificant:

The second one includes food transports within NY state (still excluding the Northeastern States):

John, however has not been satisified with the results of his work. He writes (scroll down to his September 21, 2011 notes):

“Neither produced effective graphics, but what they did demonstrate was the inability of the information to be able to represent food going to New York. (…) As a result, the data “revealed” that we already have a very local food system, when in reality this is not the case; instead, it does indicate how many extra miles are traveled for food around the location of purchase. (…) The images below demonstrate just how disproportionate the amount of miles traveled in New York are to the miles traveled bring food to New York from the rest of the country.”

It remains unclear whether the flows displayed in the diagram are for payload (e.g tonnes of food) or payload distance (e.g. tonne-kilometres). Also, it is not mentioned, whether, for example, water and drinks (typically sourced locally) are included.

I think the idea of thie Sankey map overlay is great, but the issue of spatial representation of (dense) data points has not been adequately adressed. A zoomed NY state would maybe help.

Found on, a project run by Dutch 2012Architecten: This 3D Sankey diagram by Anna Brambilla visualizes flows of food from producers to the Rotterdam foodbank and onto low income households.

Source: (License: Share-Alike)

The image is explained as follows:

“Processes and actors are identified by labeled platforms with sub-processes shown as stacked platforms. The system boundary is shown as an extruded block indicating that it is one piece within a larger network. Starting from the edges of the cyclifier, distances are marked in intervals to indicate the distances traveled by inputs and outputs. Flows are scaled by mass as in sankey diagrams and are color-coded per flow type. Flows to and from the atmosphere are represented as traveling vertically.”

So, we have ‘Food and Organics’ flows (green), transport (yellow), users (purple) and even volunteer labor (brown) represented in the diagram. No numbers or units given though. Since is interested in promoting “innovations that contribute to local exchange and production”, distances of producers to the foodbank and to the consumers are indicated on a somewhat logarithmic scale.

I just doubt that roughly a third of the output flows from food production is received by the foodbank. This is probaly to be taken symbolically and not for real…

Very cool Sankey diagram, kudos!

The report about the Material Flows on the Big Island of Hawai’Ii I blogged about a while ago has another Sankey diagram which is interesting and I thought I share this one too.

The diagram shows the input/output flows of material in the Mauna Loa macadamia nut processing plant. Annual production is 3.4 tons.

“From a materials standpoint the plant exhibits an impressive import/export ratio, relying on imports to the island for only a small portion of its total production requirements.”

All flows are in Gg (that’s 10E9 grams, or 1000 tons). Apparently a tiny problem with the recycled biomass loop flows, but otherwise a nice one. Small and trace flows not to scale for good.

If you enjoy browsing for tidbits of interesting information on the web, I highly recommend the collection of fact sheets on the website of the Center of Sustainable Systems (CSS) at the University of Michigan. This series of 2-page papers on topics, such as energy, water, waste, transportation or buildings, targets at the ordinary citizen and presents scientific information with bulleted list of interesting facts, nicely illustrated with diagrams, and sometimes recommendations for individual behaviour (“What You can Do”).

The fact sheet on the U.S. Food Chain shows the material flows for providing food in a Sankey diagram. Data is from 1995, the flow quantities are in million pounds.

The inputs from the left are limited to crops, feed and pasture. Other inputs such as water, fertilizers, etc. are omitted. The actual quantity of food consumed by U.S. citizens is shown on the pink arrow (355,880 million pounds). Exports of food are shown in blue and are about the same size (355,560 million pounds). A large portion of material into the food chain goes into “respiration, animal losses and live animals” (the latter probably being fed back into the food chain at a certain point, I assume, so consider them a foodstock. ,-)

There is much more to find in this Sankey diagram. So why not take a few minutes of your lunch break to explore it and read the full fact sheet. And while your at it, why not eat a locally grown apple while doing so …