Friday, May 1, 2020

Tornado plots with matplotlib

Lately there's a bit of attention about charts where the values of a time series are plotted against the change point by point. This thanks to this rather colorful and cluttered Tornado plot.

In this post we will see how to make one of those charts with our favorite plotting library, matplotlib, and we'll also try to understand how to read them.
Let's start loading the records of the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and aggregate the values on month level. After that we can plot straight away the value of the concentration against the change compared to the previous month:
import pandas as pd
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
%matplotlib inline

data_url = ''
co2_data = pd.read_csv(data_url, sep='\s+', comment='#', na_values=-999.99,
                       names=['year', 'month', 'day', 'decimal', 'ppm', 
                       'days', '1_yr_ago',  '10_yr_ago', 'since_1800'])
co2_data = co2_data.groupby([co2_data.year, co2_data.month]).mean()
idx = co2_data.index.to_flat_index()
co2_data['timestamp'] = [pd.Timestamp(year=y, month=m, day=1) for y, m in idx]
co2_data.set_index('timestamp', inplace=True)
co2_data = co2_data['2018-04-01':]

plt.plot(co2_data.ppm.diff(), co2_data.ppm, '-o')

The result is nicely loopy. This is because we plotted data for 2 years and the time series presents a yearly seasonality. Still, apart from the loop it's quite hard to understand anything without adding few details. Let's print the name of the months and highlight beginning and end of the time series:
from calendar import month_abbr

plt.figure(figsize=(8, 12))
diffs = co2_data.ppm.diff()
plt.plot(diffs, co2_data.ppm, '-o', alpha=.6, zorder=0)
plt.scatter([diffs[1]], [co2_data.ppm[1]],
            c='C0', s=140)
plt.scatter([diffs[-1]], [co2_data.ppm[-1]],
            c='C0', s=140)

for d, v, ts in zip(diffs,
    plt.text(d, v-.15, '%s\n%d' % (month_abbr[ts.month], ts.year),
             horizontalalignment='left', verticalalignment='top')

plt.ylabel('CO2 concentrations (ppm)')
plt.xlabel('change from previous month (ppm)')

The situation is much improved. Now we can see that from June to September (value on the left) the concentrations decrease while from October to May (value on the right) they increase. If we look at the points where the line of zero chance is crossed, we can spot when there's a change of trend. We see that the trend changes from negative to positive from September to October and the opposite from May to June.

Was this easier to observe just have time on the y axis? That's easy to see looking at the chart below.

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