The underwater ‘hotspot’ feeding La Palma’s volcano will create new islands

Country/area: Spain

Organisation: El País

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 06/10/2021

Credit: Mariano Zafra and Nuño Domínguez


Since October 2019 I lead the Graphic and Storytelling team of El País, in Madrid. During the last four years I worked as a Graphics Reporter for special projects in The Wall Street Journal, in New York, and I started and led the Infographic and Data Visualization Department of Univision News in Miami. Before moving to the United States, I spent fourteen years working at the two most prominent national daily newspapers in Spain: El Mundo and El País.

Project description:

Visual explanation of the origin of the volcanic eruption that is devastating the Spanish island of La Palma

Impact reached:

This visual report is one of the most visited content in 2021 in El País. It has reached 2 million unique users in its English and Spanish versions. Many readers, scientists and teachers have highly valued the clarity with which this report visually delves into the causes of the volcanic eruption and places it in its geological context.

Techniques/technologies used:

To carry out this report we have mainly used bathymetry and altimetry data from the Copernicus emergency management service, NASA and other cartographic services. With these data we make three-dimensional cartographic models through programs such as QGIS and ThreeJs and Blender. The animations were made in After Effects and the infographics in Adobe Illustrator

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most difficult part of the report was rigorously condensing in a 20-second video the evolution of the Canary Islands over 20 million years. We had to simplify the idea of ​​island formation and plate movement to avoid depicting unknown details.

What can others learn from this project?

This story is a visual summary of dozens of scientific papers and geological theories collected in many books. I believe that other journalists can learn from the exercise of synthesis and visual narration that allows a reader to have in two minutes the information that could take hours of reading to obtain in another way.

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