Blue landmasses? Green clouds? Red ice shelves? Maybe you’ve seen a colorful map and said to yourself, that’s not how it looks in real life!
A color-mapped image may have puzzling colors like these because scientists used different colors to represent data. Color is one of the tools that scientists use to visualize data about complex phenomena, from storm intensity to land surface temperature or the heights of underwater geologic formations.
To do this, scientists map data to a specific color scale they design. You can usually find this scale at the bottom of a map in a legend that explains the values represented by each color. This helps users not only interpret a lot of information, but also effectively understand findings and discoveries.
The Ozone Hole poster used in this activity brings together colorful images of over 30 years of satellite observations of the ozone hole. Once you understand the meaning of the color scale, you can interpret the colors on the globes and see how the ozone hole has changed over time.
For more NASA classroom activities on mapping, go to http://bit.ly/esw13nasamapping.