Color Me Confused



Is anyone else confused by the weather maps these days? I don’t know exactly what’s happening, or just when it started, but for the past year or so, I’ve become more and more baffled by the color coding on the weather maps we see on the nightly news. Either there’s some sort of competition going on to see which channel can get the most colors into the forecast maps, or the standards for these colors have gotten lost somewhere along the road to new, sparkly technology.

It used to be that weather maps used symbols to note the conditions. A smiling sun, a blowing wind face, clouds with raindrops below them, bolts of lightning…it was easy to quickly tell what was coming your way…just like the weather map in your kindergarten classroom. No codes, no colors. Then we moved into the radar weather days, and the colors seemed to stick to four basics: red for severe storms, yellow for serious storms, green for rain, and blue for snow. Then we started seeing varying shades of each of these colors, which was still fairly manageable.

But this year, I’ve seen maps with pinks, purples, grays, whites, browns, oranges…just about any color combinations you can imagine. And the worst part is there is no key, or explanation by the weather person to guide you through interpreting what you are seeing on the screen. And sometimes, they flash the map in the corner of the screen, so small, that you can’t even find where you live! Then, to make it even more confusing, one of our nearby stations decided to illuminate their call letters on their sign in various colors to indicate the weather. But instead of using the existing colors we’ve come to know, they decided to go with slightly different meanings for the colors, just to confuse us, I guess. Blue is cold, red is warm, green means rain OR snow, and white means no change. Hmmm…they even had to come up with a jingle to teach us the colors!

And it’s not just the colors that have become confusing. We now have wind chills, dew points, wind speed, drops in temps, ozone codes, humidity, barometric pressure, degree days, heat index, jet streams, la nina, el nino, and now, the polar vortex. And what’s the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny?  


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