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
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.
- A color scheme change for the SST map
- ENSO color tricks from NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Lab
- Color and Temperature: Perception is everything
- Coloring the Models: Climate Change through Color Change
While Unisys paints the town red, other organizations offer a zero/normal presentation. For example:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.