Towards more effective visualisations in climate services: good practices and recommendations

Climatic Change, 172, 18, 2022.

by Marta Terrado; Luz Calvo; Isadora Christel (Barcelona Supercomputing Centre – BSC)


Visualisations are often the entry point to information that supports stakeholders’ decision- and policy-making processes. Visual displays can employ either static, dynamic or interactive formats as well as various types of representations and visual encodings, which differently affect the attention, recognition and working memory of users. Despite being well-suited for expert audiences, current climate data visualisations need to be further improved to make communication of climate information more inclusive for broader audiences, including people with disabilities. However, the lack of evidence-based guidelines and tools makes the creation of accessible visualisations challenging, potentially leading to misunderstanding and misuse of climate information by users. Taking stock of visualisation challenges identified in a workshop by climate service providers, we review good practices commonly applied by other visualisation-related disciplines strongly based on users’ needs that could be applied to the climate services context. We show how lessons learned in the fields of user experience, data visualisation, graphic design and psychology make useful recommendations for the development of more effective climate service visualisations. This includes applying a user-centred design approach, using interaction in a suitable way in visualisations, paying attention to information architecture or selecting the right type of representation and visual encoding. The recommendations proposed here can help climate service providers reduce users’ cognitive load and improve their overall experience when using a service. These recommendations can be useful for the development of the next generation of climate services, increasing their usability while ensuring that their visual components are inclusive and do not leave anyone behind.