What is an area graph?

An area graph evaluates contributions to a total over time. Area graphs display multiple time series stacked on the y-axis against equally spaced time intervals on the x-axis. Each line on the graph is the cumulative sum so that you can see each series' contribution to the sum and how the composition of the sum changes over time. For example, you could examine the quarterly sales of three different car models over two years, or employment trends in four different industries over several months.

This area graph shows the monthly sales of a major retail chain at three stores over two years.

The area below each line represents the cumulative total:
  • Top line = Pittsburgh + Philadelphia + Cleveland
  • Middle line = Philadelphia + Cleveland
  • Bottom line = Cleveland
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