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Spreading Disaster Map Graphic
"Peace in our time," he said.

Pictures can be worth a thousand words, and graphics depicting the spread of a threat across the landscape can often convey its scope more effectively than Storyboarding the Apocalypse. Whether it's a Zombie Apocalypse, The Plague, an advancing natural or man-made catastrophe, a World Wreaking Wave or something more conventional like a military invasion, there's no quicker way to show one's audience that an entire region is being overwhelmed than to display a map with rapidly-growing colored blotches or arrows (nearly always red) spreading across it.

Sometimes this is used to illustrate what's actually happening in-Verse, while other times it's done to show what will happen if the heroes don't avert a disaster in time. Ominous contour lines or color-coding to indicate the severity of damage are optional. Often displayed on The Big Board or Ominous Multiple Screens in The War Room / Mission Control. See also Sensor Suspense.

Inversions might display the outward spread of a positive effect, such as a World-Healing Wave.

Examples

General
  • This trope is a staple of historical documentaries, which often showcase the spread of military forces with expanding blotches marked with the flag of the advancing power.
  • Likewise for historical atlases, though their static nature means they have to rely on creative use of arrows, shading, and before / after comparisons.

Anime & Manga
  • In the anime adaptation of High School of the Dead, a map of the globe is shown with red being the zombie infection spreading from Asia to Europe and the Americas at a fast pace.

Comic Books
  • Watchmen: This is used to demonstrate the damages of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, when Dr. Manhattan isn't there to prevent it.
    Man: I'm running a program now, which assumes that we've knocked out the eastern bloc but that a percentage of their warheads were already en route... Any moment know we'll be able to give you an overview. Ahh... there we are. Britain down, Germany down...
    Richard Nixon: Hmm. Well, I've seen worse scenarios.
    Henry Kissinger: Is that some heading for our east coast there? At this point in our contingency plans, where should we be?
    Richard Nixon: Somewhere else, Henry.
  • In Swamp Thing, the Monitor and Harbinger, on their satellite screens, see Arcane's psychic shockwave, which awakens latent homicidal impulses in people and animals, radiating out of Louisiana. In the second of these scenes, as the map graphic shows the shockwave overtaking all of North America and spreading southward, the Monitor fights his unprecedented urge to look away.

Film
  • An early vector map of North America (like WarGames below) calculates the projected spread of the fatal contagion in The Andromeda Strain. A death bloom appears around the Wildfire facility, with speckles nearby and tickling population clusters. As the projection continues, most of the United States is engulfed, as is southern Canada and northern Mexico. The computer then displays "601", an error code signifying too many dead bodies to count.
  • During the Creative Closing Credits of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a global map is displayed with flight path lines reaching out from one city to another, illustrating how The Plague will overwhelm human civilization between Rise and its upcoming sequel.
  • In Reign of Fire, the opening montage of how the dragons devastated Europe includes glimpses of maps with fiery lines spreading across them.
  • In a low-tech variant, the climatologist-hero in The Day After Tomorrow uses a map of the continental U.S. to convey the scope of the danger, drawing a horizontal line across it and proclaiming that everywhere below it must be evacuated south: there's no realistic hope of saving people north of that line.
    • He also sends another climatologist a series of on-screen graphics of the three storms, building and building over Canada, Siberia and northern Europe until they cover half the globe.
  • Enemy at the Gates opens with a graphic showing the Nazi conquest of Europe, ending as the wave of advance gets to Stalingrad. Curiously, they show Nazi Germany starting out with its mid-war borders and invading their Allies (Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgarianote ) and several neutral countries (Switzerland, Spain, Turkey) as well.
  • A map is used to show how the highly-adaptive alien lifeforms of Evolution will own the United States in about a month from when they start to expand from the impact site in Glen Canyon.
  • The Rocketeer. A Nazi propaganda film shows German troops equipped with Jet Packs flying to the attack, with maps showing arrows representing them reaching out to conquer Europe and invade the U.S. Watch it here.
  • Near the end of 2012, on-screen graphics in the ark control room depict the massive waves closing in Asia and other continents.
  • A standard feature of SyFy Channel Original Movies involving disasters or Explosive Breeder monsters.
  • Lots of examples pop up on the screens at NORAD in WarGames, depicting the hundreds of strategies WOPR devises as it plans how to win a nuclear war. Swelling circles scattered across a global map indicate nuclear strikes to cities, military bases and missile silos. All of them show every side getting eliminated completely, which turns out to be a very good thing.
  • The movie Outbreak has one scene that shows how quickly the United States would be utterly boned if the Motaba virus breaks quarantine and/or the CDC can't find a cure for it.
    • Contagion does pretty much the same thing, but with global maps.
  • The abundantly silly Y2K straight-to-TV movie about the Millenium Bug showed a "cascade" effect of power being lost across the world, either because the bug was spreading or because each time zone was crossing midnight.

Literature
  • In Ciaphas Cain, three characters are watching the advance of the Tyranid hive fleet towards the planet they're on via auspex screen. In this case, the Advancing Wall of Doom isn't the actual hive fleet, it's the "Shadow in the Warp" it casts, which disrupts FTL travel and communication in a huge radius around it.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. A map is used to show the extent of parasite infestation in the U.S., with areas controlled by the parasites glowing red, those under human control in green, and contested areas in amber. Several times the red areas of the map are described as expanding, showing a spread of the parasites.
  • War Against The Chtorr. Jim McCarthy is shown an official government map of the alien infestation by his Colonel Badass girlfriend. She then uses her top secret classification to show him the real extent of the problem. There's hardly a place in Southern California that hasn't been infested.

Live-Action TV
  • On NCIS: Los Angeles, when the team tracks down stolen smallpox, the potential scale of the threat if they can't find it is conveyed with graphics of red blotches on a global map.
  • The Film of the Book miniseries of The Stand has one showing the spread of the superflu.
  • Fringe has a Shout-Out to Pandemic (see Video Games below) where there is a map showing a deadly infectious disease having spread everywhere but Madagascar.
  • In the third season of SeaQuest DSV, Captain Hudson shows a map of the aggressive Macronesian influence. He asks Lucas when his birthday is then asks the computer to predict its extent by that date. The map changes to show a much larger area.
    "Better celebrate that birthday now."
  • In the Masters Of Horror episode "The Screwfly Solution", a mystery plague is causing men to become murderously violent towards women and inadvertently destroying humanity's ability to reproduce. The scientists analyzing the phenomenon graph the spread on a digital map and discover that is progressing north and south along the world's latitudes from the equator.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), this trope is inverted when Bobby shows Dean an interstate map of the United States with no notes or marks and says this represents all demonic signs and omens in the last month. Dean and Bobby realize that the absence of any demonic activity, including low level activity like exorcisms, can not be a good sign and leaves them with no way to track Sam.

Video Games
  • As you progress through the main quests of Dragon Age: Origins, the Point-and-Click Map you use to travel between individual locations is progressively shaded black, starting from the south, indicating the Darkspawn infestation. You can still travel into Darkspawn-controlled areas but doing so has a higher chance of Random Encounters.
  • Infectionator has a realtime display of the countries that you have managed to infect.
  • StarCraft: Brood War has an In-Universe example, with an Earth Propaganda video showing the alien Zerg forces taking planet after planet, indicated by red arrows in space.
  • In Pandemic you see a map of the world, with the areas the deadly disease killing off all of humanity has affected. Madagascar will usually not be among them no matter how hard you try.
  • In the game Plague Inc, the parts of the map that are infected by a deadly plague become more and more covered in tiny red dots until the entire country is red. This is the infection phase. When these countries face fatalities, the more people that die, the more the countries turn a bloody dark red. Furthermore, ships and planes that carry the infection leave a red trail rather than a white trail.
  • In Dynasty Warriors, this is a standard depiction of the kingdoms' conquests and territorial expansion during the pre-battle narrations; with the occasional Tetris T-block to represent a particular officer or ruler moving from one province to another. Also Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Green for Shu, Indigo for Wei, Red for Wu, Cyan for Jin.
  • This is the nature of Tiberium in the Command & Conquer: Tiberium series, and is illustrated during a briefing in the first game which shows a map of the earth with spreading green patches representing Tiberium growth.
  • In the original Command & Conquer: Red Alert, some game over cinematics following defeat during an Allied mission will show the red of the Soviet Union submerging the entire European continent as parading soldiers can be heard in the background.
    • The opening cinematic of the game also ends with the camera slowly zooming out of a map of Europe when suddenly a sword with the Hammer and Sickle on the hilt flies out of nowhere, strikes in the center of Germany, and red splotches begins to grow at various points on the European landmass. All this while "Hell March" plays the sounds of marching soldiers.
  • In Ace Combat Zero, the story tells how Belka's poor economy allowed the eastern portion of the country to secede and become independent nations, including Ustio. Belka's economic problems didn't end, and their borders continued to shrink, allowing those new nations to further expand, and allowing Osea to claim some of the country's western borders. Belka went to war started expanding outwards to reclaim their lost borders and acquire more resources. They even invaded the southern country of Sapin, who wasn't even involved.
    • Later, the map shows about 50% of Belka surrender and let allied forces move in. This left the original Principality of Belka with only about 35% of the territory the country had before their economic problems and the war.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • In the ending cutscene, depending on what ending you choose, there is an animation of control, destruction, or synthesis spreading from mass relay to mass relay.
    • The Normandy's Galaxy Map shows systems that the Reapers have invaded. At the beginning, there are only a few, but as the game progresses, more and more Reaper icons appear as they spread through the galaxy.
  • In the original Civilization, at the end of a game you can watch an animation of the rival empires spreading across the world map. Though if the player won, they probably don't count that as a disaster.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Common practice for meteorologists' severe-weather reports.
  • Epidemiologists use these a lot when tracking and predicting the spread of infectious diseases.
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The RocketeerImageSource/Live-Action FilmsRocky

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