The Top Import in Each Country: The Americas
Almost all nations across the globe import goods from other countries. But what types of products are in high demand, and to what degree are these hot commodities exchanged worldwide?
Today’s graphic provides an overview of the top imports across the Americas. For brevity, we’ve excluded regions with an import value below $1 billion.
The Top Imports, by Country
Petroleum is the most popular import across the Americas region. In fact, it’s the top import in 15 of the 22 countries included on this list:
|Country / Region||Continent||Top Import||Import Value (2018, $B USD)|
|🇨🇦 Canada||Northern America||Vehicles||29.4|
|🇺🇸 United States of America||Northern America||Vehicles||176.8|
|🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||The Caribbean||Ships||3.2|
|🇧🇸 Bahamas||The Caribbean||Ships||2.1|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||The Caribbean||Petroleum||1.6|
|🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||The Caribbean||Petroleum||1.2|
|🇲🇽 Mexico||Central America||Petroleum||31.3|
|🇵🇦 Panama||Central America||Petroleum||5.6|
|🇬🇹 Guatemala||Central America||Petroleum||2.0|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||Central America||Petroleum||1.6|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||Central America||Petroleum||1.1|
|🇭🇳 Honduras||Central America||Petroleum||1.2|
|🇧🇷 Brazil||South America||Petroleum||11.7|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||South America||Vehicles||5.0|
|🇨🇱 Chile||South America||Vehicles||4.8|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||South America||Petroleum||4.5|
|🇵🇪 Peru||South America||Petroleum||3.5|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||South America||Petroleum||2.9|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||South America||Petroleum||2.9|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||South America||Petroleum||2.3|
|🇬🇾 Guyana||South America||Ships||1.5|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||South America||Petroleum||1.3|
Vehicles are the second most popular, ranking as the number one import in four of the 22 countries. Cars are particularly popular in Northern America— they’re the top import in both the U.S. and Canada.
Lastly, ships place third, snagging the top spot in three of the 22 countries. Interestingly, two of these nations are in the Caribbean.
The Top 10 Regions, by Import Value
When looking at which nations import the most of their top product, the U.S. leads the pack.
In 2018, the U.S. imported $176.8 billion worth of foreign vehicles—around $147 billion more than its northern neighbor, Canada:
|Region||Top Import||Import Value (2018, $B USD)|
|🇺🇸 United States of America||Vehicles||176.8|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||Petroleum||4.5|
|🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||Ships||3.2|
The U.S. relies heavily on Mexico for its foreign vehicles—it imported over 2 million light vehicles from south of the border in 2018. Manufacturing of vehicles and associated parts makes up nearly 18% of Mexico’s total exports.
Yet, while the U.S. imports a lot of foreign cars, the country exports its fair share of vehicles as well, especially to Canada. In fact, the U.S. is Canada’s top source for imported vehicles.
The high volume of trade between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada is fairly unsurprising, given the trade agreement between the three countries. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect in 1994, Mexico in particular has seen a significant boost in trade activity. In 2018, imports accounted for 39% of Mexico’s GDP—a 21 percentage point rise from 1994.
»To learn more about the top imports worldwide, read our full article Mapped: The World’s Biggest Importers in 2018
Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America
Here’s a look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.
30 Years of Wildfires in America
This summer, record-breaking droughts and relentless heat waves have fueled disastrous wildfires across the United States. It’s gotten so bad, the state of California has decided to shut down all national parks for two weeks to stop the spread.
But how disastrous has this year been compared to previous years? This graphic gives a historical look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.
Total Wildland Fires and Acres from 1990 to 2020
In the U.S., an average of 70,000 wildfires burn through 5.8 million acres of land each year. But some years have been worse than others.
|Year||# of Fires||# of Acres Burned|
*note: 2021 figures as of September 3, 2021
One particularly bad year was 2006, which had over 96,000 fires and destroyed 9.9 million acres of land across the country. It was the year of the Esperanza Fire in California, which burned 40,000 acres and cost $9 million in damages.
2015 was also a devastating year, with over 10.1 million acres destroyed across the country–the worst year on record, in terms of acres burned.
Climate Change’s Role in Wildfires
Wildfires are only expected to worsen in the near future since warmer temperatures and drier climates allow the fires to grow quickly and intensely.
We’re already starting to see climate change impact the wildfire season. For instance, autumn is usually peak wildfire season for California, but this year, one of the largest fires on record started in mid-July, and is still burning as of the date of publication.
Visualizing the Typical Atlantic Hurricane Season
While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to late November, about 85% of activity happens between August, September, and October.
Explained: The Typical Atlantic Hurricane Season
On August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida hurled into the state of Louisiana at rapid speed. With winds of 150 mph, preliminary reports believe it’s the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland.
As research shows, Hurricane Ida’s impact hit right at the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Here’s a brief explainer on the basics of hurricanes, how storms are classified, and what a typical storm season looks like in the Atlantic Basin.
Let’s dive in.
Classifying a Storm
Hurricanes are intense tropical storms that are classified by their wind speed. What’s the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a cyclone? They’re essentially the same thing, but are named differently based on their location:
- Hurricane is used for storms that formed in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific (impacting countries like the U.S.)
- Typhoon is used for storms in the Northwest Pacific (impacting countries like Japan)
- Tropical Cyclone is used for storms in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean (impacting countries like Fiji and India)
Since we’re focusing on the Atlantic, we’ll be using the term hurricane and/or storm throughout the rest of this article.
A storm needs to reach a certain wind speed before it gets classified as a hurricane. Storms with wind speeds of:
- <73 mph are considered Tropical Storms
- 74-110 mph winds are considered Hurricanes
- 111 mph+ winds are considered Major Hurricanes
Breaking Down the Atlantic Hurricane Season
Generally, Hurricanes form in the warm ocean waters in the central Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, following westward trade winds and curving up towards the North American mainland. Hurricanes are formed when these specific elements come into play:
- A pre-existing weather disturbance such as a tropical wave
- Water at least 80ºF (27ºC) with a depth of at least 50 meters
- Thunderstorm activity
- Low wind shear (too much wind can remove the heat and moisture hurricanes use for fuel)
The Atlantic hurricane season technically lasts six months, beginning on June 1st and ending in late November. However, 85% of activity happens between August, September, and October.
Each subregion in the Atlantic has its own unique climatology, which means peak seasons can vary from place to place—for example, south Florida sees the most hurricanes in October, while the entire Atlantic Basin’s peak season is early-to-mid September.
Climate Change and Hurricanes
According to the Center of Climate Change and Energy Solutions, it’s unclear whether climate change will increase the number of hurricanes per year.
However, research indicates that warmer weather and high ocean temperatures will most likely lead to more intense storms, ultimately causing more damage and devastation.
» Want to learn more about climate change? Here’s an article on The Paris Agreement: Is The World’s Climate Action Plan on Track?
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