12 Responses

  1. .
    That’s sure counter to my intuition. Rub’ al-Khali the wettest part of the country ?
    Thanks for sharing, and upsetting my assumptions.

    • .
      If I read the legend correctly, the orange color means rainfall of more than 0.5 meters per year.
      That is the color covering the area of the Empty Quarter on the map.

      But according to Jimmy Wales’ website, it is hyper-arid, one of the driest places on Earth.

      This is not Dr. Cole’s error: the exact same error can be found at the NCAR webpage he linked to.

      • Yeah, somebody deserves a spanking from Edward Tufte.

        I suspect that the legend is wrong; that Orange does NOT mean “over 1/2 meter of rain per year” as listed. The color pallette is bad even without putting a widely accepted hot (=dry?) color like orange at the top of a scale of wetness. I would prefer a straight brown-to-blue scale, skipping the white (which makes me think, Snow??? nah…).

        But what could the Orange mean? Less than 0? Non-Saudi Arabia? (Yemen, Oman, etc?)

        Prof Cole – I’m embarrassed that my 1st comment on your great site is a map-geek nitpick. I’ve tried before & failed; hopefully, I can navigate the new look better. Thanks for your work & insight.

  2. Professor:

    Query: Do you have an overlay of the distribution of the Sunni-Shia population of Saudi Arabia?

    For years, it’s been a given that the Shia population of Saudi is concentrated around the oil producing regions–but I’ve never seen any proof of this.

  3. Brian,

    I think you are reading the legend and the map incorrectly. Orange does not signify the highest precipitation; it signifies areas not covered by this map, i.e. the areas of the map that are not part of Saudi Arabia.

    The lowest precipitation is signified by purple. You will find that the southeastern part of Saudi Arabia is purple — that is the Empty Quarter. The Empty Quarter extends into Yemen, Oman and UAE, but, since they are not part of Saudi Arabia, those regions of the Empty Quarter are colored in orange.

  4. That orange color corresponds to other countries on the peninsula. It would be ridiculous for there to be a sharp boundary between 500+ mm/year of rainfall and practically zero (the brown area right next to the orange).

    • Yes, making Yemen and Oman the same color as one of the rainfall color codes was confusing and a cartographic error. Since the map is causing confusion, I switched it out for a less ambiguous one. Thanks for the critiques!

  5. Richard Miller,

    Saudi Arabia is not Iraq. There are not entire regions that are majority Shi’ite. There are basically two cities in eastern Saudi Arabia with major Shi’ite populations but these are surrounded by Sunnis.

    The first is the city of Al-Qatif plus its suburbs (appx 500,000), which is almost entirely Shi’ite but is only a 20 minute drive away from the mostly-Sunni metropolitan area of Dammam (appx 1 million).

    The second is an oasis called Al-Ahsa (or Al-Hasa), which is about 150 km inland. It consists of one small city (Al-Hofuf) surrounded by a constellation of towns and villages. Al-Hasa was historically about 40-50% Shi’ite (Sunnis dominated the oasis’s main city of Hofuf and its neighbor Al-Mubarraz, while Shi’ites dominated the surrounding villages). In the last few decades it is believed that Shi’ites have gained a majority (perhaps 60%) in Al-Hasa. Again, Al-Hasa is a small region, about the area of a larg city, and its population is around 700,000.

    And yes, both Al-Qatif and Al-Hasa are located near the country’s main oil fields, so it is perfectly correct to say that Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite populations are concentrated in the oil-producing region. But that does not mean that the oil-producing region are predominantly Shi’ite, as many outsiders seem to think.

  6. Ahhh… much better, thank you.

    But, gadzooks, it makes me thirsty! How can anybody live there? It looks 98-9% of the country gets less that 10 inches of rain per year. The remaining 1-2% gets… about 10 inches. Compared to this, Arizona looks like Brazil.

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