By Chris Adams

If you want to see the world, Carnegie Mellon University made it a little easier to do so.

EarthTime, developed by researchers at the university’s CREATE Lab, allows users to access massive amounts of data to show how the planet is changing.

After layering on country borders, for example, users can see the impact on ocean levels if the planet warms 1 degree Celsius, or 1.5 degrees, or 2 or 4.

A user can quickly see demographic differences – in birth rates, death rates, mortality rates; population density and growth; literacy rates; and trade patterns. Or data on violence – from general homicide rates, to the number of journalists killed on the job.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Ryan Hoffman and Randy Sargent of Carnegie Mellon described the development of EarthTime and detailed the more than 300 datasets it draws from.

“We wanted to visualize all these different kinds of data in context with each other,” Sargent said.

But this isn’t just for crunching numbers. Illah Nourbakhsh, a Carnegie Mellon professor who developed EarthTime, has said he sees it as “a means to tell stories.”

That’s what makes it a powerful tool for journalists. In the session with NPF fellows, Hoffman and Sargent showed how users can drill into specific data sources and then produce images – in JPEG or GIF format – to use in print or online.

The EarthTime website also has examples of stories that have been executed with the tool, including this interactive look at changing demographic patterns in Pittsburgh.