The Polar Vortex…Or Not

If you live in the United States, you probably have heard the term polar vortex by now. People have been using the term to describe the bitterly cold temperatures affecting the eastern two-thirds of the country. But the term polar vortex is a meteorological term that means a specific phenomenon. In other words, it’s more than a hashtag along the lines of snowmageddon. The Washington Post explains what the polar vortex is.

The Post explains the polar vortex
The Post explains the polar vortex

My caveat for this piece is that from my understanding, it’s not entirely correct. Or perhaps not detailed enough. In brief, we turn to the National Weather Service out of New York for a more technically correct, but more poorly designed graphic.

National Weather Service explanation
National Weather Service explanation

Poor type, poor colours, poor hierarchy. Those are abundantly clear, but the important part is that the NWS wants to correct many of the popular misconceptions. Somewhere between the well-intended but less-than-entirely-clear Post piece and the accurate-but-also-unclear National Weather Service piece is an opportunity to explain the concept to the public.

Credit for the Washington Post piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Richard Johnson, Katie Park, and Gene Thorp.

Credit for the National Weather Service goes to the graphics team at the National Weather Service of New York.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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