EVENT Timeline Visualizer

EVENT Timeline Visualizer

Dataset: GDELT Event Database

Description: Creates a unique gridded timeline showing intensity by day of matching records - Y axis is year and X axis is day, making anniversary behavior instantly visible.

Components: PERL, R, Google BigQuery

Acknowledgements: Makes use of Google BigQuery.

Example: Visualizing the Timelines of Conflict

The EVENT Timeline Visualizer allows you to create a unique gridded timeline visualization from the GDELT Event Database to understand temporal patterns in records matching your search criteria. In this visualization the X axis represents each day of the year from January 1 to December 31, while the Y axis represents each year of the data (currently this goes back to January 1, 1979 for event data). Thus, rows represent years and columns represent a given day across years. At each grid cell a semi-transparent dot is displayed, sized based on the percentage of all event records from that date that matched your search criteria (thus these timelines are normalized against GDELT's exponential growth over time). The compact nature of this visualization allows you to spot temporal patterns at the daily level, whereas with a traditional barchart or line graph timeline, the individual bars or line points would be too small with this many points to see anything. In addition, the unique gridded nature of this visualization allows you to rapidly spot "anniversary recurrances" in which surges of certain activities or discussion occur each year around a specific date that is an anniversary of a major event in that country's history.

No programming or technical skills are required to use this visualization - you simply specify a set of criteria for the event type and actors involved, along with an optional date range, and the system will automatically search the entire GDELT Event Database for all matching entries and compile the final timeline. Your results will be emailed to you when complete, usually within 10 minutes, depending on server load and the time it takes to perform the necessary calculations. Selecting "Nigeria" as the "Event Location", "Material Conflict" as the "Event Quad Class", and "Civilian" as the "Recipient/Victim (Actor2) Type" will generate a timeline of attacks and other conflict against civilians in Nigeria.

Your Email Address

Creating these results can take several minutes depending on server demand - please provide the email address that the results should be sent to.

Email Address

Date Range

Limit the time period of analysis. The earliest allowable date for event data is currently January 1, 1979 and the latest date allowed is the current day.

Start Date
End Date

Search Criteria - Actors

Select the specific actors involved in the event. The CAMEO taxonomy used by GDELT codifies an "event" as an action performed by one entity (Actor1) onto another (Actor2). GDELT codifies an array of 58 fields of information about each event. Using the form below you can restrict your search to just those events initiated by a specific country and/or type against another country and/or type. For example, to select all attacks on civilians in Nigeria, you would specify "Civilians" using the "Actor2 Type" dropdown below, "Nigeria" using the "Event Location" dropdown below, and then violence-related event types using the next section. To select all protests in Nigeria, you would leave the Actor section below blank, and select protest-related event types from the following section and "Nigeria" as the "Event Location."

Initiator (Actor1) Country:

Initiator (Actor1) Type:

Recipient/Victim (Actor2) Country:

Recipient/Victim (Actor2) Type:

Search Criteria - Event

Select the specific type and/or location of events you are interested in. The full CAMEO taxonomy defines over 300 specific categories of events, but to simplify things, the search interface below lets you search only for the 20 root categories under which those other event types fall, or you can select by "Quad Class", which groups the 20 root categories into 4 "super categories".

Event Code:
Event Quad Class:

Event Location:


The following output files will be generated:

  • Timeline Visualization Generates a static gridded timeline visualization as a .PNG image.
  • .CSV File This outputs a .CSV file containing a normalized intensity of matching event records per day. This is normalized by the total volume of all event records for that day. The spreadsheet has three columns - the first is the year, the second is the month and day, and the third is the percent of all event records from that day that matched your search criteria (thus normalizing for GDELT's growth over time).