Color and Temperature: Perception is everything

Recently I had some of my readers comment that they thought that The Weather Channel and USA Today (which uses TWC graphics) temperature maps seemed to look “hotter”. They suspected that the colors had changed. I tend to watch such things since my own company (IntelliWeather) produces similar maps.

I searched Google images for some saved older TWC maps, but found none. So I can’t be absolutely sure they have or have not changed.  But looking at the color scheme, nothing sticks out in my recollection of the temperature map colors.

But I decided that it would be an interesting exercise to compare USA national temperature maps from the commonly used services today. I saved national CURRENT temperature isotherms/gradient maps from around 03Z (11PM Eastern Time) tonight. All were generated within about an hour of each other.

What I found was surprising. Here they are in alphabetical order:

Intellicast: (probably the ugliest national temp map I’ve ever seen)




Weather Central:

Weather Channel:


Weather Underground:

A couple of notes on the graphics: The Weather Channel does not show their color key, nor does IntelliCast. From experience it appears the with the exception of the IntelliWeather map, all maps have fixed color schemes. The IntelliWeather map uses a sliding scale of color based on the max and min temps presented in the data. Also, I tried to include AccuWeather, but could not locate a current national temperature map from that company. They had everything else but that.

UPDATE: I decided that even though AccuWeather did not have a CURRENT temperature map, the color and color key on their HIGH TEMPERATURE FORECAST map would suffice for this comparison, since it a similar range of temperatures presented, from (50’s to 90’s) so here it is:

Note the color scale and where the perceived “cooler” colors start on the AccuWeather map.

So what do you think?

Is it just me or does there appear to be a warm bias in the color temperature presentation of the majority of providers shown here? Just an FYI, I designed my color scheme for the IntelliWeather Map in 2001, well before I started blogging, so please no suggestions that I skewed this comparison with my own map color scheme.

Along those lines, I’ll point out that the color choices are usually done either by a meteorologist, or a graphic artist/programmer or both. Usually the color scheme is the result of the input from a couple people. In my case, myself and my graphic artist made the choice. In places like TWC or AccuWeather, the choice may be made initially by one or two then approved by a larger group.

The point I’m trying to make is that each map represents the color and temperature perception of the presenting organization, as I don’t know of any “standard” for map colors used for air temperature presentation. Having said that, somebody will probably put one in front of me that I’ve never known about. 😉

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June 26, 2008 10:39 pm

Accuweather maps are here
From the main page, mouse over Maps on the navigation bar across the top of the page, select Temperature, and then select the map you want.
REPLY: High or low forecast maps, no current temps, been there done that

Rashid Faridi
June 26, 2008 10:46 pm

VERY good post. keep it up.

Leon Brozyna
June 26, 2008 10:55 pm

Warm bias? If you just ‘see’ the colors, it looks like we’re in the midst of a great heatwave with the Unisys map the worst of all, giving an impression of the country in the midst of a great heat wave with temps in the mid-90s {just from the heat generated by the colors}. The NOAA map looks most realistic, with the greens feeling comfortable. I like their color scale the most. Pity we can’t see a pre-AGW color map.

June 26, 2008 11:04 pm

What a bunch of weasels. Cheap bunch of propagandistic, Karl Marx worshipping, goosesteppers, bent on turning the weather into their vehicle to ultimate power.
Nice find Anthony. This post is just the ticket I need to turn some youngsters from the darkside over on the pages of the Bee.

June 26, 2008 11:58 pm

Tell you the truth, the pictures are kind of scary, especially since you lined all those red maps one after the other.
For IntelliMap, I wonder why you choose to display entire band of purple, green, blue, red rather than have the map color reflect the color chart of the current temperature. Wouldn’t that make more sense?
REPLY: No I don’t think it would, because then you can never see at a glance where cool areas are. Just look at all the other maps. A sliding color scale makes more sense to me, but what the heck do I know?

G Alston
June 27, 2008 12:10 am

You may want to check with USA today. As far as I know they were among the first for a colour printed national paper with a weather temp map in every issue. Let’s see if they changed from their inception to now…

June 27, 2008 12:17 am

Actually, I like your map the best – the Intelliweather one. And I’m not kissing ass either. I have no stake in it. I like the sliding scale because you can tell at a glance how the air is moving across/over the country.
As for the rest (all but the Intelliweather and the NOAA), it’s like they’ve added gradations of more oranges to make anything above 50 seem like a heat wave.

June 27, 2008 12:30 am

Historical maps for some of these weather sites are available from the Wayback Machine at this site.
Go to the site, enter the appropriate URL in the field provided, and you will get links to corresponding archived web pages arranged by date. For example, by entering the following URL
I was able to view an archived copy of Weather Underground’s national temperature map from August 15, 2000.
For the weather channel I entered this URL
Clicking on the resulting links for the Weather Channel’s archived web pages were not consistent. Some of them took me to today’s map, which immediately went blank. However, the Feb 15, 2001 link took me to a map for June 3, 2001.
Have a look and see what you think.

Stephen Richards
June 27, 2008 1:05 am

The problem with all temperature maps comes down to whether you want to show temps relative to each other, relative to the season or relative to the norm.
Hence @ accuweather it’s all red (season), at yours it appears to be each other and TWC and the rest seasonal. (IMHO)
It’s extremely difficult thing to do because many people find the change in colour shades a little awkward to percieve accurately.
never the less they are all good a

Pierre Gosselin
June 27, 2008 1:59 am

My personal assessment:
BEST – most non-manipulative, accurately conveying:
WeatherForYou, (just recolour Mex and Can!).
Then followed by Weather Channel
WORST – most misleading and blurred
Environ-Stalinist’s favorite:
Unysis and then Accu-Weather
Country looks red-hot and oven-dried!!
(Water! water! – I need water!…gasp! arghhh!…)
AGW dissenter’s favorite:
Intelliweather and NOAA
(Brrrrr! – take a jacket!)
Wettest looking map:
(I get an April showers feeling)
Dryest looking map:
Unysis, then followed by AccuWeather and Weather Underground.
Country looks hot, baked and dried
Most boring map:
Accu-Weather, then Weather Underground, Unysis and NOAA
Ugly Duckling:
II) GENERAL COMMENTS with school grades:
You really have to concentrate and “read” it to discern the area temperatures. And you’re right: it’s ugly ugly ugly! Grade: C-
Pretty, but the colour scheme makes you think it’s wintertime in the North, and only springtime in the south. At first glance it misleads the reader into thinking it’s cool outside. Grade: B
Looks springlike and wet. It’s similar to Intelliweather’s…misleads the reader into thinking it’s “cool” outside, and no numbers. Grade C
Looks like someone dropped a nuclear HOT bomb on it. It’s got to be the favourite of the AGW loons, as it makes the whole country look like it’s red-hot everywhere. I feel thirsty all of a sudden! Grade: D-
Weather Central:
Looks neither hot nor cold. In fact you’d think the temperature variations nationwide are minimal. Grade: B-
Weather Channel:
Although not the prettiest, it’s probably the one that conveys what the temperature really is like outside. The numerical temps make this map almost impossible to misread, or to be misinterpreted. Grade B+
(Use a different colour for Mex and Can!)
Also conveys what the temperature really is like outside, without exaggerating one way or the other. The numerical temps make this map almost impossible to be misinterpreted too. Grade A-
Weather Underground:
Also has a good graphic scheme that doesn’t mislead the reader. At first glance I neither get a frigid nor sizzling feeling. But no numbers or conditions, and it’s boring. Grade C
It’s high temp-map colour scheme uses only red and orange. It gives me a hot and dry feeling. I think temps in the 60s and 70s ought to be represented by greener tones, No numbers, no conditions. Grade: D+

Pierre Gosselin
June 27, 2008 2:03 am

Good post Anthony!
This one was fun!

Mike Bryant
June 27, 2008 2:49 am

I never thought that anyone could “spin” the weather. Silly me.

Chris Hanley
June 27, 2008 3:19 am

The use of graphics to mislead lay-people (like me) has been explored by John Brignell at Number Watch.
The use of a colour spectrum from blue (cool & calm) to red (hot & bothered) is used extensively, even by ostensibly respectable sources.

Mike Ross
June 27, 2008 3:59 am

Here is a site for Japan:

June 27, 2008 5:01 am

Great point, from looking at the various maps, it is pretty obvious that although the temps are basically the same across all the maps, the ones from sources “pushing AGW agenda” tend to have more traditional hotter colors.
I have used links to your intelliweather maps in some local discussion boards with the twist on the “blue vs red states” to show where the cooler weather is.
Keep up the great work.
P.S. Anthony, I’m working on an article concerning that I call “The Great Trans-Siberian Heat Wave” and how the supposed recent “global warming” in northern Asia is basically driving average global temps, especially GISS. What would I need to do to submit that for consideration for posting on your website?
REPLY: Send it via email, see my email address coming to your inbox. One requirement to have it published: you have to use your real name. I won’t allow any publication under cowardly non de plumes.

Tom Bruno
June 27, 2008 5:04 am

If I recall correctly, TWC uses (or did use) different color maps for summer and winter. In winter highs in the 70’s are red and 60’s are yellow, in summer 90’s are red and 80’s are yellow. However, I do not watch TWC anymore, our cable system has 24 hr weather and I use links to local doppler radar and tropical weather updates. Since I now live in Florida, I really don’t care what the weather is anywhere else where as before when I lived in New England I was always interested in the Florida weather.

June 27, 2008 5:10 am

Most of the weather agncies sell ads, not weather news.
If a summertime temp map has a lot of blue on it ( and I do think 60 degrees is cold for a summer high ) then how can you have an ad for Lemonade or a new AC unit?
Ditto for winter temps.

Stevie B
June 27, 2008 5:21 am

I LOVE this entry. I’ve been pointing this out to my friends for over a year and was wondering if I was going crazy. Apparently not! Entries like this are why I check this page every day…keep it up!

Frank K.
June 27, 2008 5:36 am

This is an interesting comparison. One thing that sticks out to me is the large amount of smoothing that’s done with most of these maps. Compare, for example, the NOAA temperature map (the most highly resolved of the set) with the weatherunderground’s map. If you compare the temperatures in California, you see the detail in the NOAA map shows the cooler temperatures in the mountains, hotter temperatures in the desert areas, etc. This is totally missed in the weatherunderground map. In fact, I would venture to say that the weatherunderground map is misleading, and thus wouldn’t view it as an accurate quantitative presentation.
In addition, I think all of the maps should have a color bar which shows the relationship between the colors and the temperature. Otherwise, the contours presented are truly useless, and only give us an qualitative, approximate view of actual temperatures. Of course, we could talk about what the “actual” temperature really is, but that would lead us back to the surface stations project, right? :^).
Keep up the good work, Anthony.
Frank K.

June 27, 2008 5:44 am

I dunno. The only time I look at a national temperature chart is when I’m travelling and then I want to know how the temperature ‘there’ compares to ‘here’. As such, I would find it confusing if it turned out that 85 and 90 degrees were depicted much differently. Other than that, I could care less about how nice (or not) the temperatures are in Boise, ID or where the best golfing/sailing/suntanning is today. It’s not like I’m about to jump into my Gulfstream for some early afternoon fun and just need to know where.
Frankly, I find these far more useful even when I’m not flying. Once upon a time, similar displays were used on even TV weather forecasts.
But I realize I’m an exception. Most people just want to ‘know’ tomorrow’s temperature and chance of precip.

Mike Bryant
June 27, 2008 5:46 am

8 of 9 look hotter.

Lee Ragsdale
June 27, 2008 5:48 am

I have struggled with this concept myself. I used to work on a energy trading floor and discussed visualization with our meteorologists on a regular basis. On the temperature maps, they would produce a map that was only shades of blue andred, but would keep the color consistent across the year – I liked the consistency, but thought the rest of the color spectrum should be used as well.
This and the it references discuss the idea of perception of color and the impact in visualization. Sounds like it would be good read for meteorologists.

Lee Ragsdale
June 27, 2008 5:55 am

I have struggled with this concept myself. I used to work on a energy trading floor and discussed visualization with our meteorologists on a regular basis. On the temperature maps, they would produce a map that was only shades of blue andred, but would keep the color consistent across the year – I liked the consistency, but thought the rest of the color spectrum should be used as well.
This blog post at Flowing Data and the paper it references discuss the idea of perception of color and the impact in visualization. Sounds like it would be good read for meteorologists.

Robert Ray
June 27, 2008 6:08 am

At first glance when you see green on temperature map do you think of a comfortable temperature, no heating or cooling needed, or the temperature inside of your refrigerator?
IMO the NOAA-NWS is the best of the bunch, a good combination of regional detail and readability. (Sorry Anthony)

June 27, 2008 6:13 am

I don’t believe I’m saying this, but I like the NOAA color scheme. I think most people would see 70 deg temps as optimal, and green is a “good” color (green grass, green = go, green = ok). I can look at that map and see where I would be hot, or where I would want a jacket.

June 27, 2008 6:19 am

I’ve noticed this before too, Anthony. I think it’s just mostly arbitrary to what the mapmakers think looked “pretty.” The biggest thing, in my opinion, is that the map should help very easily communicate where the extremes or dangerous temperatures are – so for instance, the ones which differentiate 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures with a color such as purple are the best ones. It’s important that the general public be aware when there is dangerous weather around; I think TWC’s map does the best job of communicating this information.
The issue with the color scales doesn’t seem to be limited to temperature, though; there is the same issue with precipitation. Whenever we’d have severe wx at home, I’d usually tune to the local meteorologist who had the most dynamic colors, because it was always exciting seeing where the really dark reds and purples were heading. Note that on WeatherTap, the RadarLab HD has the option of using several different color sliders for precipitation.
A warm bias? I’m not too sure. There is no universal standard that I’m aware of, but I’d be willing to bet that these graphical representations have been in play a long time, before much of the politicization of modern global warming came around. I could be wrong, though.

June 27, 2008 6:20 am

Interesting to see how many schemes have been tried. I react to them a little differently, which I agree is simply a matter of taste: I much prefer a constant color/temperature match, rather than a sliding, relative scale. I like to be able to compare December and June on the same scale, and thus using the full spectrum to cover all concievable temperature ranges makes sense to me. On that basis, I most prefer the Weather Central color scheme, although I would bump it up by one shade. (40’s are not a “green” feel to me, I put that at getting pretty damn cold. But then I like hot weather.) You’re right about that intellicast map; that is just butt-ugly. And I think Weather Underground (do they have a meteorologist names Ayres?) and Weather For You have made an error by adding white and pink to the top of their temperature scale. This is not an accurate spectrum at all, and serves only to push the reds and oranges farther on down the temperature scale.
Accuweather has too narrow a temperature scale and too few colors on it. This makes their map look like a childs crayon drawing – annoying at best.

Joe S
June 27, 2008 6:35 am

I like the color band and detail of the NOAA chart. I get lots of information at a glance. Note the cool light blue that outlines the Smoky Mountains in west North Carolina. Wish I could get up there and cool off a little bit.
What seems reasonable to me is red=dangerous opressive heat, yellow=caution, green=pleasant. At the bottom of the band, purple seems the right color for what could be called dangerous cold.
Anthony, your chart, while not as detailed as NOAA’s, looks to have the color band where it ought to be.

June 27, 2008 6:38 am

Interesting issue. Perhaps the thing to do is take the daily national average and make that be the neutral color (i.e. between cool and warm). That way the south will almost always have warm colors and the north cool, a theme that all of the maps have, even though some of the maps may be using an annual average.
You could also display the anomaly from average, but then you’d have lots of days with hot colors in perhaps the northeast cold in the northwest or great plains. At least the fronts and precip would show up.
I see Unisys has a scale from 45 to 100, but I bet that just reflects the range on the map. I don’t know if the change the color to temperature mapping over the year, probably not. In fact, for them, I’d recommend they not change it over the year.

Richard Wright
June 27, 2008 6:41 am

I llike NOAA’s the best for two reasons. Green, a psychologically pleasant color, represents the ideal temperature range for people – the 70’s. Second, it doesn’t have a sliding scale, so green always represents the ideal temperature range. Psychologically, all the colors make sense. Red is hot – red is associated with fire and burns. Blue and purple represent cold – associated with frost bite. When one measures color temperature (like for computer monitors) warm colors are reddish and cool colors are bluish. To me NOAA’s is the most intuitive.

Tom Braunlich
June 27, 2008 6:45 am

Reminds me of Al Gore’s movie, in which satellite images of Katrina showed the the Gulf of Mexico as red, as if it was boiling hot.
Clearly the NOAA and IntelliWeather maps seem a lot cooler than the others based on the psychology of the colors. The big question is, have these organizations changed their color schemes in recent years in such a way as to make them appear hotter.

June 27, 2008 7:04 am

I’ve worked a lot with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and I can state that all the maps are badly presented. I’ve thought this before when looking at random maps over the last several years (I don’t often look at them since I don’t care what nationwide temps are – usually just city temps). A map should give the reader ata glance the most informative means of assessing data. When you have a range that goes from A-Z, there’s a lot of distinguishing characteristics. When your range is X-Z, not so much. Finer detail of colors, with the numbers as guides, gives you a better idea of the distribution. If you’re going to use a fixed scale, NOAA uses the best one – they almost certainly look at historical ranges for the day of publication and use that for their overall color scheme. Its probably the one that I would use if I was setting up a automated scheme.

June 27, 2008 7:05 am

Well, not all – but the ultrared ones that show “50” as orange-red are obviously shown to give a general impression – one of heat…

Bern Bray
June 27, 2008 7:06 am

Colors in a chart or map are meant to be informative. The scales that many of these use, only let us know it summer, and we already know that.
The modern American mind is accustomed to thinking of green as comfortable, so the green scale should be somewhere around 70 F.
The majority of these maps show either a warm bias by the creators, or complete ignorance/laziness. These days, it’s probably a toss up.

June 27, 2008 7:13 am

All that is needed is flames coming out of the hotter regions.

June 27, 2008 7:40 am

Using wayback like Serindipitron did indicates that the color schemes were the same back in 2001. I think either NOAA’s or Intelliweather’s are the best. Visually, I like the full range of colors we get with Intelliweather’s. Notionally, I think NOAA’s is the most “accurate,” i.e., in it we do not get to dark blue — which for me represents “cold” — until temperature is in the 40’s and 50’s, whereas with Intelliweather we’ve got Winnipeg dark blue at 70. Give me some of that Winnipeg “cold weather” any time!
The Unisys map is just plain backwards: darker colors for warmer weather?
I don’t there there’s an “AGW bias” here, just some questionable judgment in the color schemes. I think most people would associate blue with cold, green with mild, yellow with warm, and red with hot. Both Intelliweather and NOAA approach this the best. The main difference I see between them is that Intelliweather’s bands are not as wide, or as graduated, as NOAA’s. I think NOAA’s might be the most “accurate” in matching the colors to “cold–>hot” but I like Intelliweather’s also. The others are too “hot.” But I don’t think it was an intentional decision to emphasize global warming.

June 27, 2008 7:52 am

There is definitly a warm bias in the presentation of temperatures. I noticed most media outlets will use “warm colors” only in thier temp depictions. Rarely do you see a combination of warm and cool colors based upon seasonal averages. For the unitiated it does appear that the nation is baking under AGW induced heat waves.
Another thing I noticed with a few weather companies, is the warm bias in thier long range forecasts (usually 7-15 days out). For my location I kept a record of the 15 day forecast temps and compared them to the actual recorded highs. This was done for Winter, Spring, and now Summer. In each case, the forecast was averaged 5-8 degrees F too warm. Never was the forecast too cold -which is strange if one considers that occaisonally the models will over forecast a cold front or its timing.
One other thing I noticed is that during the summer months, most forecast agencies under forecast cloud cover. In the half dozen tests I performed I found that when the short range forecasts were too high the main reason was the agency under-forecasted cloud cover.
Have things gotten so bad that even forecasters are now fudging thier forecasts in order to pay homage to AGW? Or are thier skills really that bad?

Bill in Vigo
June 27, 2008 8:01 am

I like Intelliweather and NOAA the best. I am about 70% color blind and most of the maps I can’t see that much difference. but you add the blue colors to the maps and I see much better. I don’t know who does the maps for “The Weather Company” from Birmingham Alabama I think headed up by James Spann but their maps are very good.
I agree with Stephen Richards in that the color scheme seems to change with the seasons to reflect what they think we are supposed to feel. Summer hot. Winter cold. After all weather is news and to get readers/audience you must have sensational News. In the summer it means lots and lots of red hues and in the winter lots and lots of white and blue.
l think that lots of this is controlled by market share and MONEY but some are more stable and less sensational than others.
Last thing for me and my color blindness it would be nice to have the colors in good contrast with possibly a line between bands to help these tired eyes.
Just my two cents.
Bill Derryberry

June 27, 2008 8:08 am

I prefer the NOAA-NWS map. It’s absolute regardless of season.
That’s the most sensible approach since 60 degrF in Anchorage or Miami feels the same (well, except to Miamians, who start dying when temperatures dip into the 40’s).

June 27, 2008 8:11 am

I like your intelliweather map (so soothing!), but I think that NOAA’s is the most descriptive, with 50s being blue (vs. yellow on weather underground) – it also has the most detail, vs. huge blocks of color on the orange maps.

June 27, 2008 8:18 am

I have always wondered about the spread of colors in the IntelliWeather map. For example, in the IntelliWeather map shown above, why is NY in blue at 75 F and NM orange at 76 F? Similarly, why is Montreal deep blue at 76 F and LA is yellow at 67 F? Are other temperatures surrounding these cities that determine color so that the temperatures of these large cities are not representative of the region? I’ve noticed this mish-mash of colors is worse during the summer than during the winter. I’m assuming it’s likely a programming thing. By the way, one day I do plan to purchase the IntelliWeather software.
REPLY: It is automatically smoothed, we apply a gradient rather than isotherms, and if only a couple of datapoints exist in an area that are significantly different (like NM mountains) then it will be averaged out.
Our map was designed for TV use, so it was a choice mostly for the low-res NTSC signal.

June 27, 2008 8:34 am

If I had to critique your colors I would only broaden the green range somewhat so that it covered most of the “comfortable” zone of temp ranges.

June 27, 2008 8:37 am

Many in NW Europe would consider anything over 70 deg F to be “hot.” For me, it’s anything over 90 deg F (I live in one of the “cooler” parts of the SW US). For those who live inland from me, 100 deg F is where “hot” begins.
You can see where problems may arise in these color schemes.

Pamela Gray
June 27, 2008 8:50 am

I’m an NOAA junkie. Have been for years. I hate sliding scales. A lot of what goes on in NE Oregon depends on the temperature. Not the sliding scale kind but measured temperature. On a sliding scale, just because its green doesn’t mean the temp is right for planting. On a non-sliding scale, green means go. Blue means prepare for possible freezing or cows going dry on fall calves (just like us human moms, it’s hard to feed babies when the teats are cold). The color also immediately tells us if we should harvest. Warm colors tell us its time to check the moisture content of hay to see if we can cut it without it rotting. So for us farmers and ranchers, sliding color scales don’t mean squat.

June 27, 2008 8:57 am

Anthony– Do your color meanings change with the seasons? Because 52 is cool in summer, but hot in winter.
I think for weather news for the US on television, changing colors with the seasons is sort of good. After all, if it’s 60 in January in Chicago, I consider that “war”. But I consider 60 in July “cool”. When watching television, I know the date, and know I’m thinking “in the US”, and I automatically calibrate for the season.
In that context, as in indication of whats warm or cold today, your map is much, much better than UNISYS’s map which makes it appear the midwest is experiencing infernal heat. (I’ll be mowing the lawn today after it dries a bit. I can assure you I will not feel over heated.) In fact as a quick look at “weather in the US, today”, Itelliweather is the best.
(For tv weather reporting this month, your map tells “the truth” relative to what I think viewers want to know best. The next best is NOAA– which is not designed for TV! )
I think the NOAA maps are best for their intended purposes. These maps getused for different things– comparing Jan to July etc. So, I think their colors are best for illustrating seasonal variations. If you need to pick a stable color, green for 70 is perfect. 70 is close to the temperature people prefer when setting A/C or heating. June in Chicago is beatiful– and NOAA is showing that!
Honestly, I think intellicast is the worst map in all possible ways:
* the colors are hideous. (Did they add grey to those? They are all depressing shades of red/orange/blue green.)
* it’s too busy. The superposition of the lines to mark 5 degree increments makes it too busy. (And there is no way I would see which likes are 70 vs 75 or 80 watching that on tv. I have a hard time on the screen.)
* right now, Chicago looks “hot”. That’s wrong for tv weather casting and for a newspaper. In my opinion, it’s on the cool side of perfect. (I like warmer weather than most people and think 85 is perfect. My brothers in law think it’s on the warm side of perfect. They like 65.)
REPLY: The IntelliWeather scale is relative to the data, the color remains the same through the seasons, but you’ll see less oranges/reds in winter and more cool blues and violets. When a cold wave hits, you’ll see it coming.
I also offer an animation with isopleths, see this:
Note how the you can watch the cooldowns and warmups. Hard isotherms don’t animate well for TV.

June 27, 2008 9:17 am

My first thought was “you can tell who made these”.
NOAA was made by someone from the southwest, maybe a Texan. Why? Because they don’t show warm weather as hot (face it, y’all, if it’s under 90, it’s cool outside).
Unisys and WeatherUnderground have to be made by Alaskans. They are worthless in the summer, but display ranges of cold.
I don’t think it’s deliberate, but more of a reflection of culture and what they consider normal.

John Nicklin
June 27, 2008 9:17 am

Ok, I’m looking at the IntelliWeather map (above) and I’m confused. It’s 52 degrees in Moosonee, Ontario which shows some purple colour indicating Cool. It’s 56 degrees in San Francisco where the colour is green/blue indicating mild to warm. And its 64 degrees in Seattle where the colour is the same as Moosonee. Boise (80) seems to be in the same colour zone as Los Angeles (67).
Do the colours mean anything? The map seems to indicate that 67 degrees in Great Fall is much cooler than 67 degrees in LA. No wonder people from the southern USA are disappointed when they come to Canada in the summer and don’t find any snow. ;^)
REPLY: Try this version:

Patrick Henry
June 27, 2008 9:35 am

Over here in Northern Colorado we have been bright red on NOAA maps all through June, yet the weather has been very mild to cool. The only “hot” weather we have had was last night ahead of a cold front. “Hot” being mid-70s at 11:00 pm. Today is back to cool and breezy.

John Nicklin
June 27, 2008 9:51 am

Thanks, that chart shows overnight temperatures which were admittedly cooler. It does indicate that it was downright frigid in the Vancouver, BC region where it was about 52F last night while at the same time it was just mild(ish) in Winnipeg (54F).
I suppose it all depends on where your personal set point is. I was recently in Peru, it was about 25C to 32C during the day, we were walking around in shorts, the locals were wearing sweaters and parkas.
Here’s the Canadian take on colour
From my vantage point, I don’t see how the colours help. I’d rather see a map with no colour, just the temperature readings. I can decide for myself whether its warm or cold.
The colours on the IntelliWeather charts are much more pleasing to the eye than the other charts though.

June 27, 2008 10:03 am

That’s the most sensible approach since 60 degree in Anchorage or Miami feels the same (well, except to Miamians, who start dying when temperatures dip into the 40’s).

Which Miami are you talking about?
I stopped at an airport just north of Daytona one February (many miles north of Miami) and had lunch with a friend of mine who had taken a job there as airport operations manager only a year before. He was wearing an undershirt, a flannel shirt, a sweater and a ski jacket. When it came time to leave, I was invited to use the phone in his office to call flight service so i wouldn’t have to “stand outside in the cold.” In his office were three running quartz space heaters. The outside temperature was 75F.
When I left MD that morning it was in -5F weather. Needless to say, I didn’t think 75F was “cold.” S’all relative I suppose.

June 27, 2008 10:10 am

Speaking of cooler and graphs.
Take a look at this. Its pretty stunning – a 2-3 Degree C cooler this year. I do not see any Hurricanes forming at all for at least a month if not longer – if at all this year.
SST in the Carib this year:
SST in 2006.

June 27, 2008 10:33 am

I think the NOAA map is the gold standard. It uses a very nice algorithm… enough detail to help those of us in California who might be driving from San Francisco to Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. When I see maps that do not even represent the coast, valley, and mountain range (~200 miles apart), I think “useless.” So…
Good: NOAA, Weather Channel
Fair: Intelliweather, Weather Central, Unisys (though the colors are outlandish)
Poor: Accuweather (does their computer support more than 16 colors?), Weather Underground, WeatherForYou, Intellicast (can anyone actually see where California is on this map?),
As others have suggested, the NOAA colors seem to align well to how comfortable you would feel standing outside in shorts and a t-shirt. About the only thing that could capture comfort more effectively would be a graphic based on heat index rather than temperature.

June 27, 2008 10:38 am

It’s clear the farther you are along with your support for the global warming hoax, the more red you see. I would say 72-75 degrees F would be about the right pivot point.

Pierre Gosselin
June 27, 2008 11:02 am

Right you are. But the Carribean is just about at the normal temperature.

Pierre Gosselin
June 27, 2008 11:03 am
Pierre Gosselin
June 27, 2008 11:05 am

However, I don’t believe SST has much of an effect on Hurricane production. At least there is no link between warming and hurricane frequency or intensity. That dead horse has been beaten over and over.

June 27, 2008 11:21 am

I think I would almost like to see them in anomaly fashion where “normal” for that time of year is in some neutral color like green and the more above normal moving through yellow into red and colder than normal going through blue to violet.
So in the summer an area in “blue” would be experience cooler than normal temperatures. In other words, you use the average temperature for an area to determine the center. That would require additional resources to generate that map, though. You would need to generate an “average” map, and then overlay that with a “current” map and the “difference” between then gives you the color value.

June 27, 2008 11:53 am

Wow, just looking at some of them makes me feel hot. Color does affect how you feel about something. One of our football coaches at the Un. of Iowa painted the opponents locker room pink. I do think yours is the most simple to read and pleasant to look at. Good work.

Evan Jones
June 27, 2008 11:56 am


June 27, 2008 12:54 pm

Reminds me of this:
Still, I don’t see anything quite so sinister here. It probably has to do with, as some readings suggested, whether you want to display temperatures relative to one another or to their annual average etc. All methods have their biases and are all somewhat misleading, much as different map projections are.

June 27, 2008 1:07 pm

Temp looks normal, but I am starting to get really annoyed by discussions of temp. We need to be looking at Heat capacities and flux from here on in.
Take a look at the Hurricane Heat Potential maps. Its even more stunning. There is no way to get anything over a weak TS going this year in the Eastern Caribean. Make a movie from 2005 forwards my modding the URL.
The tropical cyclone heat potential, is defined here as a measure of the integrated vertical temperature from the sea surface to the depth of the 26.C isotherm. This parameter is computed from the altimeter-derived vertical temperature profiles estimates in the upper ocean. The temperature profiles are estimated using four points: (a) the sea surface temperature obtained from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission’s (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) fields, (b) the altimeter-estimates of the 20.C isotherm within a two-layer reduced gravity scheme (Goni et al, 1996), (c) the depth of the 26.C isotherm from a climatological relationship between the depths of the 20.C and 26.C isotherm.
My Comment:
Just from looking at the HHPs, there is a HUGE amount of heat “missing” from the Western Central Atlantic as compared to just a few years ago. Its just not getting into the water like it used to. You can see the trend from 2006 as being down. Typically TS form in the moderate HHP water in the Atlantic and then intensify as they move into the higher HHP waters of the W Carib and Gulf and Atlantic Gulf Stream. If the TS cannot form in the traditional grounds for them, then that will cut down if not eliminate the numbers of storms altogether.

June 27, 2008 2:34 pm

I think crosspatch has a good idea about mapping anomalies. Might indicate more cooling anomalies than warming ones [I know, weather =/= climate, but still would be interesting.]
And I agree with JP (07:52:08). I have weather widgets on my computer screen for three different U.S. cities, and I’ve noticed too that they consistently show warmer temps several days out. The forecasts are so inaccurate that it’s hard to believe it’s not deliberate. Only the current temps are accurate. Maybe they’re just inept forecasters, but like JP, I’ve noticed that they never err on the low side.
Most weather maps use the Roy G Biv spectrum — but the way they use it is skewed. Like other folks, I would prefer that they use green for comfortable temps like 70 – 79 DegF. I’d like to see red used only for temps above 100 DegF, and violet only for temps under 0 DegF. Using several shades of red for temps starting in the 80’s, like some of the maps do, or red, light red and orange in other maps for temps down into the 50’s only serves to misrepresent and sensationalize the weather.

June 27, 2008 4:35 pm

I also believe in havng dynamic maps based on anomolies is preferable to all others. In fact two such types of maps may be better than one. The first based on anomolies germain to a given city/town etc., and a second using the country of origen’s average temperature as the base against which each city’s anomoly is computed.
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate Project

Herman Dobrowolski
June 27, 2008 4:50 pm

In answer to Chris Hanley:
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is not respectable. They have been caught using Hansen’s methods of fraudulent data presentation. They also make statements such as X-part of the country has been subject to record temperatures, when they really mean the 21st century. They keep misrepresenting rainfall data – claiming drought when it clearly it is near or above average.
Herman Dobrowolski
Queensland Australia

June 27, 2008 5:00 pm

[…] Color and Temperature: Perception is everything Recently I had some of my readers comment that they thought that The Weather Channel and USA Today (which uses TWC […] […]

June 27, 2008 5:06 pm

Smokey wrote: ” Only the current temps are accurate. Maybe they’re just inept forecasters, but like JP, I’ve noticed that they never err on the low side.”
I disagree that only the current temps are accurate. I’ve been monitoring O’Hare and Palwaukee fields for several months using the Predator for temp info from those two sources and three electronic thermometers for local measurements. Although the three local readings are in sync, the O’Hare and Palwaukee fields can be so out of whack it’s laughable. I should mention that O’O’Hare is about 30 miles south southwest and Palwaukee is roughly 10 miles south southwest.
Although the UHI effect could be impacting both to some degree, it’s inconceivable they could be so far different than my reading. Another example is the sky condition: although the sky in my area may be cloudy, both Palwaukee and O’Hare (but especially Palwaukee) may report clear skys! Since I’m on a high piece of ground and can see for 50-60 miles or so, I’m at a loss of figuring out how they get such readings!
Jack Koenig, Editor
The Mysterious Climate project

Chance Metz
June 27, 2008 5:28 pm

yeah accuweather is so accuare they say 94 next tuesday for youngstown ohio even tohugh all other sources so it may hit 80. they are always off the most.

steven mosher
June 27, 2008 5:32 pm

You NEED to look at Kenneths work on CRN1-5.
As you know, JohnV, Kenneth and I all went at the analyis is different manners.
Kenneth is very diligent and his approach is impeccable.
Please have a look. It confirms some of the things I found about the CRN5,
but with a different approach.

Evan Jones
June 27, 2008 6:31 pm

Yes! Check it out, Rev! Getta load!

Evan Jones
June 27, 2008 6:49 pm

I like so definitely think this one merits a thread of its own, Rev!

Evan Jones
June 27, 2008 7:53 pm

Let me be the eleventeenth million to re-congratulate you!
REPLY: Thanks but save it for when it really matters. We only have about 50% of the network surveyed. Everything is preliminary. There are no conclusions yet, only preliminary analysis.

June 27, 2008 10:27 pm

global warming….let’s save our earth with all effort we have..

June 28, 2008 12:15 am

It may be the fact that TWC recently went HD, and a lot of the maps are based off what is used for television.

June 28, 2008 12:51 am

The Australian BoM quietly reduce the isotherem interval now and then, finishing up with darker red for the same temp, making the map look “hotter” – y’ gotta watch ’em.

June 28, 2008 8:46 am

Well, I’m one of those people that found 100F to be in the comfortable range when I lived between Sacaton and Casa Grande, Arizona; in Florida, the 80s are my idea of perfect weather.

Michael Ronayne
June 28, 2008 10:52 am

This is one of the most extreme examples of this practice. The mistake they make here was to include a temperature scale. For this type of fraud to work, you don’t want to include a verifiable scale.
Here is the animation.
Here is the full report.
Coloring the Models: Climate Change through Color Change

I put this on the main page, thanks. – Anthony

June 28, 2008 11:04 am

[…] 2008 NOTE: Mike alerted me in comments about this article he wrote along the lines of my story on Color and Temperature: Perception is everything. So I thought this would be good to examine again.  This article below is re-posted from John […]

steven mosher
June 29, 2008 6:33 am

we dont need 100% coverage to do the statistical analysis. Effectively what you have is a sample of the population of stations. A healthy sample. Kenneths regression corrects for possible sampling bias by looking at lat and lon and alt.
When you add the 40 stations one would hope there would be more 1&2 sites
but that isnt necessary. Anyway, invite him to do a guest post. Its a straightforward statistical analysis that demonstrates that CRN rating matters.
looking at the trend lines in his work you can clearly make a case that class5 sites should be taken out of any dataset.
REPLY: The stations I’m adding fill in some significant hole sin the midwest. So I think it is important. I could have claimed a healthy sample at 33% but true or not it would meet with a lot of criticism. I see the value of the analysis, but at the same time I am keenly aware of the issues with coverage and the criticisms that will bring. Thus, I see continuing the survey equally important.

June 29, 2008 8:21 am

It’s just that your color scheme is horrible. You have white for the 30s. What do you do for the 20s? 10s? 0s? Beyond that? There’s at least 40 degrees of temperatures that you don’t have a color for. That’s why you think there’s a bias: your colors are off-center, not theirs. If you showed your map from February, 100% of Canada and half the US would just be white, and you couldn’t tell if it was 30 degrees or negative 60. It’s sad that you took all that time to notice the “problem,” research it, and make this post without realizing it’s you that’s off.
There’s no bias. They need to center yellow/green at the middle of the yearly temperature range so that there are different colors for the hottest and for the coldest temperatures throughout the year. Not everything is political to everyone else, even if it is to you.

June 29, 2008 10:25 am

The liberal media is using subliminal messages in weather charts in order to brainwash you into believing the hoax called global warming.

June 29, 2008 10:32 am

Hmm now I’m even more confused, because the numbers don’t match the colors on the IntelliWeather map.

Michael Ronayne
June 29, 2008 5:03 pm

There is something seriously wrong with the color temperature scale which Intellicast is using in the graphic which you referenced.
It is really comprised to two graphics.
A color temperature scale:
And the actual color temperature map:
There is one very big problem; the color temperature scale is a low resolution GIF file, while the color temperature map is a high resolution JPG file. The color pallets in each graphic file are totally unrelated. I use ACD Photo Editor and the difference is unbelievable. The colors don’t match at all.
The Intelliweather is more consistent.
The color temperature scale and map are in one high resolution JPG file but there is no numeric calibration scale for temperatures, which is a serious short coming.
The NOAA graphic looks very good until you start analyzing it in detail and then some of the short comings become obvious. For example the color pallet is inconsistent. It is very easy to extract colors with a virtual eyedropper and plot the Red/Green/Blue components for the NOAA color temperature scale or any other color temperature map for that matter. Here is the NOAA color extraction vs. temperature.
Try it your self, it is very easy to do with any decent photo editor.
We need to establish some guidelines for color temperature maps.
1. The color temperature scale and map must be in the same graphic.
2. The color temperature scale must be calibrated for temperature.
3. The color temperature scale must use reasonable minimum and maximum values for the time of year.
4. The color transition must be uniform and consistent over the temperature range.
The color temperature map may be a deliberate distraction and should be ignored, other than to determine what is esthetically pleasing; we should focus of the color temperature scale itself. That needs to be done is collect a number color temperature maps for various times of the year, rank them and then plot the Red/Green/Blue components of the color temperature scale to determine what does and doesn’t work. This could become a guideline for meteorologists.
This would be a good project for a meteorology undergraduate program.

June 29, 2008 7:25 pm

I normally use Accuweather, primarily for radar. I believe they had altered their radar colorings so that there is more red (indicating heavy precipitation). I seems now that every storm has red and even magenta spots in the middle of storm cells when last year about the same time, red spots appeared very rarely. I suspected they changed the colors because the first few times my reaction was that a strong storm was headed my way; I was much more likely to check back thinking the storm was severe ( and thus contributing to greater clickthrough rates on )

June 30, 2008 5:55 am

It only looks hot…
Summertime, and the living is generally on the warm side. That’s pretty much a given, particularly in my neck of the woods. I’d be suspicious, though, were someone to try to make me think it was hotter than it really……

June 30, 2008 1:06 pm

I’m not sure what the confusion is. In all the maps you’ve posted the color key is completely legible and clear. 50-60 is yellow to light orange, 60-70 is light orange, 80-90 dark orange, 90 – 100 red, 100+ dark red to purple.
How does this have any relation to global warming? Honestly? Do you think that the colors used on the weather man’s charts are causing glaciers to melt?
That NOAA one looks pretty nice, but how does it handle temperatures lower than 30 degrees? In fact, the blue scale is quite small on the NOAA at a 10-15 degrees spread, whereas with the other models, the blue scale is closer to a 30-35 degrees spread.
Let me put it another way, there are only three primary colors. If you put blue at 0 and red at 100, then yellow is in the middle at 50. Between 50 and 100 will all be shades of yellow -> orange -> red. Get it?
I can’t believe that such an ignorant post exists or that I am actually taking the time to reply to it.

June 30, 2008 1:59 pm

[…] blue light has a higher energy, and thus temperature, than red light. Watts has a recent post about Color and Temperature: Perception is everything. He questions, “Is it just me or does there appear to be a warm bias in the color temperature […]

June 30, 2008 2:51 pm

Mark (13:06:59) :
“Let me put it another way, there are only three primary colors”
Red, green, and blue are the primary additive colors. The true primaries.
Yellow, magenta, and cyan are the subtractive primaries.
“If you put blue at 0 and red at 100, then yellow is in the middle at 50. Between 50 and 100 will all be shades of yellow -> orange -> red. Get it?”
No – you just switched to talking about talking about the spectrum instead of primary colors. Roy G Biv and all that.
“I can’t believe that such an ignorant post exists or that I am actually taking the time to reply to it.”
Me either. Primary colors and spectra are so grade school science.

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