Regular readers know, I love graphs. I use them a lot. I tend to make them “scientifically,” i.e. the kind of graph you’d see in a scientific journal article. Just the fact, ma’am.
For instance, if you asked me to graph global average temperature data from NASA (using yearly averages), I’d do this (have many times):
It’s great! It’s accurate, it’s uncluttered, all the information is there.
Then I happened on this article from CNN which attempts to explain the basics of climate change. They graph NASA’s yearly average temperature data like this:
I like that! It’s not “scientifically optimal” if you ask me, but it has more visual impact for the non-scientist reader. I think the color adds tremendously to the effect. And let’s face it, scientists like color and pretty graphs too.
Personally, I’d modify it to put in the actual data (as dots) and to show some grid lines:
I think that works beautifully. I wouldn’t submit it to GRL, but I like the idea of using more graphs like this (with attractive color and visual impact) on the blog. Not always, mind you! That’s too much work.
Here’s another example: yearly average sea ice extent in the Arctic:
The next time someone points to an article from the “Global Warming Policy Foundation” about how sea ice in the Arctic is “recovering” — show ’em this graph. Hell, show this graph to Judith Curry. She might actually get it (don’t hold your breath).
The explanatory article disappointed me greatly. The first issue was “What is Climate Change?” and it was painted as a change mainly in the average temperature. It’s not just about temperature (at least there was lip service to “weather patterns”) and it sure ain’t just about the average. But at least he had a pretty graph of temperature.
The next big question being “What causes it?” I had high hopes for improvement, but this is where it really falls to pieces. The explanation is so bad, I hardly know where to begin. Go read it yourself, and feel free to notify CNN what a lousy article this is.
Sometimes I worry that I’m wasting my time explaining the basics … again. The whole issue has been in the news so much, it is finally getting talked about prominently on the national stage and at dinner tables … surely folks must have assimilated the basics by now?
Then I see that article, and I think … maybe explaining the basics is still needed, now more than ever.
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