The New York Times made some beautiful visualizations of energy consumption by state: link

What would this type of chart be called?

A cross-stacked area chart? Does anyone know any libraries or programs that can create it?

Alabama generated electricity from 2001 to 2017

  • $\begingroup$ Why do they cross over? $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2019 at 10:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Looks like they cross when one becomes bigger than the other so the largest is always on the top, smallest on the bottom $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Jan 22, 2019 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


I do not think this plot has a specific name.

This plots a of , i.e., data that add up to 100%.

"Traditionally", one would plot percentages of the components like here. The visualization here is more akin to a stacked compositional time series barplot. Taking dummy data from that earlier question into R:

obs <- structure(c(0.03333333, 0.03810624, 0, 0.03776683, 0.06606607, 
0.03900325, 0.03125, 0, 0.04927885, 0.0610687, 0.03846154, 0, 
0.06028636, 0.09646302, 0.04444444, 0.01111111, 0.02309469, 0.03846154, 
0.03119869, 0.01201201, 0.02058505, 0.015625, 0, 0.01802885, 
0.02290076, 0, 0, 0.03843256, 0.05144695, 0.06666667, 0.9555556, 
0.9387991, 0.9615385, 0.9310345, 0.9219219, 0.9404117, 0.953125, 
1, 0.9326923, 0.9160305, 0.9615385, 1, 0.9012811, 0.85209, 0.8888889
), .Dim = c(15L, 3L), .Dimnames = list(NULL, c("Series 1", "Series 2", 
"Series 3")), .Tsp = c(1, 15, 1), class = c("mts", "ts", "matrix"
foo <- barplot(t(obs),las=1)

Now, what the NYT does here is that they order the categories within each bar in descending order. Which means that the categories flip places if their percentages "cross over". Finally, this is depicted not as a barplot like my dummy data, but as an area plot with interpolations, with some transparency to show the series where they cross over.

I'm tempted to call this a "compositional time series stacked area plot".

I don't think there is software out there that will create such a plot, but it should not be too hard in R.

enter image description here


This reminds me of a sankey diagram with nodes widths set to zero (but positioned at the annual intervals). At least, this would be my starting point if I was trying to (re)create it.

github D3 Sankey

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Yes it's essentially a stacked area chart / Sankey chart hybrid: a stacked area chart where each point on the X axis is sorted by value and Sankey-diagram-like interpolations join each point. $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2021 at 15:03

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