Red-shifting the oceans

Unisys Is Changing Their Color Scaling On Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Maps

by Bob Tisdale

A couple of weeks ago, Unisys announced they are changing the color scaling on their daily Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomaly maps.

The new Unisys SST anomaly map looks more like the GlobalSST anomaly maps from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch website:

Refer to their post New Sea Surface Temp Anomalies Graphic. The following gif animation compares the old and the new Unisys presentations:

Old and New Unisys SST Anomaly Maps

Unisys writes:

Based on user feedback we developed a new version of our Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies plot with a different color scale. We had been asked to modify the color scale to better differentiate between above and below normal temperatures.

Unisys also asked for comments. There’s a link on their blog post linked above. I suggested a band of neutral white at +/- 0.05 deg C.

===============================================================

I agree with Bob, we see graphs all the time with a zero line for temperature anomaly, it is accepted practice to present zero or “normal” in graphical anomaly representations.

WUWT has a collection of posts on the use of color for presentation of data, we can add this one from Bob Tisdale to the library. The trend is to paint the world redder.

While Unisys paints the town red, other organizations offer a zero/normal presentation. For example:

Australia's BoM SST map - note the zero anomaly in white

July 2011 SST -from NASA Earth Observatory - click for source

Even the NOAAWatch SST meter has a zero with neutral colors, which is stuck these days as it hasn’t been updated in awhile:

Unisys responding to user feedback probably has to do with the fact that their previous presentation looked too “cool” for the many hotheaded thinkers that only see the world in shades of warmer colors.

At issue is not the scientific interpretations of such maps, but the public interpretation. Seeing reds oranges and yellows, with no balance for “normal” allows the uninitiated and undiscerning to point at the map and exclaim Rommisms like: Look! We’re boiling!

The was no worry of such a thing happening with the previous Unisys color scheme.

So, if you think a neutral color best conveys the SST data where it is new zero, take Unisys up on their offer:

Please take a look at our new plot and let us know what you think by emailing us at: technical-support@weather.unisys.com.

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61 Responses to Red-shifting the oceans

  1. Latitude says:

    Who was the “user” —— Hansen?

  2. Theo Goodwin says:

    It was Hansen, Derrick Hannah, and all like minded folk tweeting from various jails around the country and the world. /sarc

  3. Pete says:

    The warmists strike again. The old product had a much more realistic representation of near neutral temperatures and was much easier to read than this new scheme. Unisys used to be my favorite product for a quick analysis of sst anomalies. Shame on them.

  4. Douglas DC says:

    Yellow has the idea of sun, sand, and dry, Neutral color for normal as opposed to:
    ‘”Abby Normal” Yellow…

  5. Tucker says:

    From the blog entry:

    “Unisys also asked for comments. There’s a link on their blog post linked above. I suggested a band of neutral white at +/- 0.05 deg C”.

    Don’t you mean +/- 0.5 deg C??

  6. DirkH says:

    Introducing a spectral discontinuity at 0.0? Hate it.

  7. R. Gates says:

    Would have to agree, but then again, I’ve never liked the Unisys SST charts much anyway. White is the best color for a neutral temperature or zero anomaly…it quickly says, “nothing to see here”, and allows you to see the anomaly, which is the whole point, right? And any other color for “no anomaly” has some psychological bias, intended or not. Personally, I like IRI’s weekly and monthly charts:

    http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/maproom/.Global/.Ocean_Temp/Weekly_Anomaly.html

    They are very simple, but I can quickly and easily see the anomalies, plus, on the same page I can go back and forth between the monthly anomaly, the persistence, the weekly anomaly, and the anomaly change. Very informative, convenient, and no color bias.

  8. Dave Worley says:

    Cmon folks, get with the “post normal” normal…..
    It’s hip to see red!

  9. James H says:

    It’s not just the lack of white for near 0 anomaly, look at the the shading of the scale. They’ve moved the shades of green to the hottest end of the scale. Now green means super hot! It was shades of purple before.

  10. DocMartyn says:

    Both of those scales in the new/old are outside the RGB scale system used for showing signal amplitude. You are not allowed to use the same color twice, at either end of the scale.
    These color schemes are also a disaster for information transfer, 1/7 males has one form of color blindness, with red/green being the most common. About 8% of the population will be unable to transform these gradients.
    They should use a gray scale using 27 for the mid-point and 0 and 255 as the min and max. As a species, we are really good at gray scale gradients, but I suppose that’s the point.

  11. Jason Joice M.D. says:

    They changed the base color for 0 as well. On the old map, it was aqua now it’s yellow. That alone makes the entire map seem much “warmer”.

  12. It’s worse than we thought.

  13. Brian H says:

    BS (Bright Shading) Baffles Brains.

  14. Rob Wood says:

    Get over it.

  15. Lance says:

    i just hit there site and it shows the old colors still…tried refresh and still old colors..did i hit the wrong site? http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.gif

  16. Lars P says:

    Jason Joice M.D. says:
    September 4, 2011 at 9:50 am “They changed the base color for 0 as well. On the old map, it was aqua now it’s yellow. That alone makes the entire map seem much “warmer”.”
    Right. Reminds me of the all new colour of zero in Jo’s post looking for the missing hot spot.
    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/11/thorne-2010-a-very-incomplete-history-of-the-missing-hot-spot/
    They should certainly not use yellow for zero when this is also for warmer grades.
    I would propose to use white or green in the middle and shift to the right the yellow? Or else if the water does not warm we may still paint it as if :)

  17. Smokey says:

    Ryan, I like your map a lot better than theirs!

    Coloring maps with lots of scary reds and oranges is deliberately intended to alarm the populace. The late, great John Daly posted an article on it here. [Check out the blink gif a little way down.]

  18. kramer says:

    I saw this story this morning at Tisdale’s site and emailed them with the suggestion that 0 be white. I also said I thought they were doing the color change in order to make the ocean temperatures look worse.

  19. FerdinandAkin says:


    Unisys writes:

    Based on user feedback we developed a new version of our Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies plot with a different color scale. We had been asked to modify the color scale to better differentiate between above and below normal temperatures.

    I would like to know who it was that did the ‘asking’ to modify the color scale.
    It would be revealing if the ‘askers’ had names like Hansen, Suzuki, Mann, or Trenberth.

  20. rbateman says:

    Neutral white is the perfect choice for normal range of SST, but why stop there?
    Each map could have an equal-area calculated above, neutral and below summary.
    Like this : Above-0.27, Normal-.48, Below-.25 Anomaly = -.02
    Or, it could have an attached graphbar at the bottom, with a colored column indicating the area of each color on the map.

  21. Yes, it is warmer, much warmer, it is our fault!
    I surrender! Please, kill us in an humane way (by taxing us)!

  22. jason says:

    There is absolutely no valid reason to change the zero anomaly colour to one more associated with warmth…other than to mislead.

  23. DocMartyn says:
    September 4, 2011 at 9:49 am
    Both of those scales in the new/old are outside the RGB scale system used for showing signal amplitude. You are not allowed to use the same color twice, at either end of the scale.
    These color schemes are also a disaster for information transfer, 1/7 males has one form of color blindness, with red/green being the most common. About 8% of the population will be unable to transform these gradients.
    They should use a gray scale using 27 for the mid-point and 0 and 255 as the min and max. As a species, we are really good at gray scale gradients

    Not necessarily. We can retain some color and even represent cold/warm scale appropriately for most of the population without excluding persons with deuteranomaly. Even those who are absolutely color blind would perceive it as a gray scale.

    Therefore I propose this neutral color scheme, which has the additional advantage that its midpoint is actually gray.

  24. Ian H says:

    Well to add a dissenting voice here – the old scale had dark green indicating warming. Dark green is not a colour I would associate with warming, so I can see why you’d want to change that. The old scale also had far too many colours in it, which simply made it unclear. The new scale is more logically ordered but switches far too abruptly from blue to yellow at zero. Perceptually these colours are a very long way apart. And it still has strange colours out at the temperature extremes.

    To fix it I would get rid of the odd colours at the extremes by shifting out from the centre by 1.5 in
    each direction. Then fill in the region from -1.5 to 1.5 with a much more gradual transition from pale blue to pale yellow – fading each in two stages to the neutral colour, white, in the central region from -0.5 to +0.5. Which I guess is pretty much exactly what Anthony suggested.

  25. Bob Tisdale says:

    Tucker says: “Don’t you mean +/- 0.5 deg C??”

    Nope. I asked for +/- 0.05 deg C, just a small white band to identify neutral.

  26. Paul Vaughan says:

    Red-to-blue is most intuitive.

    White in the middle makes sense IF paper-printing (& print-cartridge economy) is an issue.

    Online it makes better sense to dial across flame-yellow, red, dark red, black (0), dark blue, blue, ice-blue.

    Where I probably appear to disagree with others:
    A narrow zero-band assists with pattern-recognition.

    The old unisys color-scheme wasn’t simple enough (truly goofy number of alternations from dark to bright colors instead of ONE INTUITIVE alternation). Therefore: Only looked at unisys in passing …and moved on, never to revisit.

    The new unisys scheme just needs to trim off the truly silly bits on the ends (like the green – WTFUWT? lol! [just reflects hopelessly bad judgement by the scheme-setter] — also the red on the blue-end [not to be confused with the red on the red-end! (/sarc) - what on Earth (!) are these folks thinking??...])

    Just keep it intuitive & simple:
    One clean alternation from red to blue, centered either on black or white, depending on whether the primary viewing medium is a monitor or paper (respectively).

  27. Ric Werme says:

    Here’s my contribution, submitted several hours ago before heading out to the Hopkinton Fair.

    Subject: Please – neutral band for small anomaly in New Sea Surface Temp Anomalies Graphic
    Date: Sun, 4 Sep 2011 12:44:16 -0400 (EDT)
    To: technical-support@weather.unisys.com

    I’m writing at the encouragement of the WUWT post
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/09/04/red-shifting-the-oceans/

    While I agree with the rationale to change the coloring, I think you’re
    sending the pendulum to far to the warm colors. In particular, the
    yellow and red band is much too wide for my sensibilities. If people
    associate warm colors with warm anomalies and cool colors with cool
    anomalies, the new scheme’s of 0.0+ to 6.5 is much wider than the cool
    0.0- to some -2.5.

    I’d prefer a scheme that follows the spectrum better, with green (or better, gray) in the middle for the range -1.0 to 1.0.

    After seeing Ryan’s scheme, my -1.0 to 1.0 range is way too big for gray, and Bob’s -0.05 to 0.05 no longer seems much too small.

    I’ll drop them another note and suggest that Ryan’s is close to my impression of ideal.

    BTW, does fried dough always taste not as good as I remember? Or was it those Swedish pancakes I made for breakfast that set the bar far higher than fried dough could ever clear? With lingonberries, of course.

  28. petermue says:

    Have you all noticed that they shifted the Green out on the far right side?
    Green normally is a color for “OK” or “Everything is fine” and should be placed next to neutral conditions.
    In the range of +6.5 or more, we’ll never see green regions again.

    This new color scheme is so wittingly misleading.

  29. Ric Werme says:

    Ryan Maue says:
    September 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

    How about my map colorbar?

    http://coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/SST/sst_planet_diff_2011.png

    Extremely good. I just sent my update, and suggested gray instead of white. There seems to be little reason to use an extreme luminance for the least extreme anomaly.

  30. Shrnfr says:

    Ubisys the power of one half.

  31. Jose Suro says:

    As a photographer I will take 18% gray any day of the week for “neutral”. White is too bright. 18% gray truly represents pictorial zero.

    Best,

    J.

  32. Gary Pearse says:

    I think a good article is shaping up illustrating these types of psychological ploys cooked up in desperation by the warming folks. Such a revelation would resonate with the lay reader whose hearts (and heads) they are trying to win with these allusory hide-the-decline tricks. The ordinary interested voter is a lot smarter than the elite-we-know-what-is-good-for-you gang think. Real folks have already turned away in droves since climategate.

  33. AndyG55 says:

    similar temperatures should have similar colours with a smooth gradiant between. Using such different colours for either side of zero is really quite a stupid idea, one that could only have originated from the cult of AGW !

    And Bob, i think the range for the central “no change colour” should be +/-.25, then they can step out by .5′s in either direction

  34. Spinifers says:

    Gary Pearse says:
    I think a good article is shaping up illustrating these types of psychological ploys cooked up in desperation by the warming folks.

    I think so too. I’ve been noticing an increase lately of exposed ‘tricks’. Not sure if it’s just me or the information is actually becoming more widespread, but either way there’s certainly enough very good trick-exposing information out there now to make an excellent resource if condensed into one article.

  35. Shanghai Dan says:

    Ryan,

    How about my map colorbar?

    While it makes scientific sense, it clearly is not appropriate for general consumption by the public – it should go from yellow to deep red only, so as to properly represent the impending doom and horror coming to the Earth.

    /s

  36. jim says:

    more like red baiting
    give it up
    already

  37. Frizzy says:

    Seems to me that they should at least show a gray or white area at the center as wide as the measurement range of error.

  38. David Falkner says:

    I don’t even agree with the division of units. Why not use standard deviations? That is much more relevant than some arbitrarily picked temperature deviation. They could change shade for every third of a standard deviation, and change color for every standard deviation. White for 0-1 St Dev, Yellow/Blue for 1-2 St Dev plus/minus, and Red/Cyan for every 2-3 St Dev. Black for exact values of the mean. You cover all the bases here. Even if this would complicate the presentation of data to the general populace, it would enhance accuracy in the graphic presentation.

  39. “…Based on user feedback we developed a new version of our Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies plot with a different color scale. We had been asked to modify the color scale to better differentiate between above and below normal temperatures…”

    This has gone away from data gathering and the science, and moved into an ad campaign – what else can they do to spread the “message”.

    Basing colors on a scientific display of data based on “user feedback”? Sounds like a focus group that a fast-food restaurant would have: “So tell me, would you buy the burger with the red wrapper or the blue wrapper?”

    This goes back to something I’ve believed for a long time – those that hold the data are those who determine what “neutral” or “normal” is.

  40. Ric Werme says:

    Another style worth considering is the Earth Observatory scheme at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=51617

    While it has white for neutral, beyond that it’s just variations in saturation of red and blue. I don’t like it very much, it’s easier to accurately read a point when there’s a variation in hue too.

  41. Brian H says:

    Dr. Maue’s colors are excellent, easy to look at and very clearly informative. +2

  42. Tobias says:

    Our society has assigned colors to various levels of threat or heat for generations. It’s time to change that!!! What were we thinking???

    /sarc

  43. bushbunny says:

    Douglas DC – luv em video clips, gave me a laugh.

  44. Richard111 says:

    Does changing the picture change the reality?

    Shades of Dorian Gray! :-(

  45. the_Butcher says:

    Now it looks more like lava.

  46. John Marshall says:

    Still using the Mercator Projection to make the polar regions look more dangerous than they actually are.

  47. Steve C says:

    Amazing the psychological difference a simple colour change can make. And, examining the psychological difference between the schemes for oneself, it’s pretty obvious which sort of “users” have been moaning about the old one, since the new immediately looks much “hotter”.

    The Earth Observatory scheme is the one I rate best of the suggestions above: mostly; not a lot of colour where there’s not a lot of change, and more colour equals more variation at that point. It’s clear and honest, and its use of saturation rather than hue greatly reduces any chance of misinterpretation by those (like myself; I have Daltonism (RG colour blindness)) who have “non-standard” colour vision. Earth Observatory: cum laude. Unisys: fail.

  48. Ric Werme says:

    John Marshall says:
    September 5, 2011 at 1:28 am

    > Still using the Mercator Projection to make the polar regions look more dangerous than they actually are.

    It’s not a Mercator Projection! See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/12/20/polar-albedo-feedback/#comment-65276

    While that says it’s not a projection, the concept can be stretched to fit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equirectangular_projection says it is a projection, I don’t have trouble with that name.

  49. Ric Werme says:

    Shrnfr says:
    September 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    > Ubisys [sic] the power of one half.

    Unfair dig – while there’s little exciting in their computer division, their free weather data is worth far more than the cost, at least it is to me.

    (The dig is that when Burroughs and Univac merged to become Unisys, their advertising referred to “The Power of Two.”)

  50. LearDog says:

    Ryan – I like the map – but the structure of the mid-pacific current doesn’t pop out like it does on either of the Unisys products…? But I do think the switch to yellows on either side of zero is a flat-out cheat on their part. And they know it.

    I believe a wide-ish green hue band (low saturation) is appropriate for either side of zero (a few intervals) – that grades into yellows-reds (on the high side) or blues – purples (on the low side) might be visually appealing.

    Just a thought…

  51. Greg Holmes says:

    I can absolutley state that this is a Marketing Tool, used for decades is advertising and promotion, red spectrum sells warm thoughts, blue spectrum = cold thoughts. Blatant and self serving, not scientific.

  52. eyesonu says:

    The extreme end of the cooling scale will become almost black which will obscure the land masses. We may see this extreme end of the cooling scale in a few/several years. How about green or bright purple on that end of the scale? I very much agree with a white neutral color presentation. The +- range best determined by those more knowledgeable. Perhaps +- 1/2 degree would eliminate error ranges and better indications of trends and less very short term fluxuations.

    There just seems to be too many coincidential issues with regards to the presentation of data to not suggest something ‘fishy’. Do these people think? Why do they continue to appear to be less than forthcoming in a clear presentation of data? Could it really be that we have a very widespread problem within what seems to be every branch of any organization with any connection to weather or climate? It certainly seems so.

    It may be long overdue to take the hatchet to these organizations.

  53. Dave Worley says:

    Maybe there is a reason to alter the spectrum, but it seems reasonable to me to use the known visible spectrum (for humans), being red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (warmer to colder). That’s the true visual spectrum we have evolved to recognize.

  54. Dave Worley says:

    “I can absolutley state that this is a Marketing Tool, used for decades is advertising and promotion, red spectrum sells warm thoughts, blue spectrum = cold thoughts. Blatant and self serving, not scientific.”

    That infers that we prefer warm to cold. So why are some folks so concerned if conditions for life are becoming more favorable?

    The whole “science” is chock full of bad assumptions.

  55. Ged says:

    @R. Gates,

    That is a sweet page. Thanks for the link. Definitely the bets way to report anomalies: simple and clean.

  56. David Davidovics says:

    I seem to remember Jonova raising a similar concern a while back with a brochure that was being circulated with a misleading colour scale.

  57. George E. Smith says:

    Well I like the black; that’s easy to reference to. And I just did a very crude black addition problem, using their also very crude longitude and latitude grid lines. Whatever happened to the 15 degree longitudes, so that one didn’t have to figure time in one hour and 20 minute chunks.
    Nonetheless, I saw through their craftiness, and was able to confirm; well to within the climatism 3:1 fudge factor range; that between +20 deg lat and -20 deg lat, which is NOT identical to the tropic of Cancer to tropic of Capricorn (C to C) range; that about 3/4 of the earth’s tropics is ocean, and about 1/4 is land. Well I got about 68% ocean at +20, and about a fixed 78% ocean from equator to -20 lat.

    So it is reasonably assured, that at least 75% of all solar energy that strikes the earth surface, lands in the ocean, where the bulk of it can go more than 100 metres deep, and stay there a long time.

    Those with actual digized maps of the real planet, could do that actual integration, and probably even do it from C to shining C, so that in future we all know how much that is.

  58. Louis Hissink says:

    All calibration of colour should start with the “Red Sea”, and proceed from there.

    Ahem.

    Sorry :-)

  59. Bob Tisdale says:

    As always, thanks, Anthony.

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