Different Weather Maps Don’t Prove Climate Change Isn’t Real

The overwhelming consensus among scientists is that climate change is real and very likely human-caused.

But many social media users are trying to convince others that the media is exaggerating the effects of climate change, with weather forecasts now displaying normal summer temperatures in scary red colors to fool viewers.

A July 22 Facebook post showing two maps reads “Proof that climate change is real. See how the map gets redder???”

The maps appear as screenshots of two weather forecasts from Germany. The top image is from 2017 and shows temperatures with a green background. The bottom image is from 2022. It shows slightly lower temperatures on a red, orange and yellow map.

The post, which we found shared on other social networks posts, was reported as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Learn more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The message is misleading, said Sabine Renken, spokeswoman for Hessischer Rundfunk, a German public broadcasting company that runs the ARD Weather Competence Center. The center produces weather forecasts used in the broadcasts of ARD, an association of the country’s regional public broadcasters.

The footage, although from the same TV program, was designed to show two different things.

The 2017 image with its green coloring shows the high temperatures expected for the next day. This is a screenshot of a June 21, 2017 weather report from a daily news magazine called “Tagesthemen”, which translates to “Daily Topics”.

The green card was not designed to reveal anything about temperatures, Renken told us. In the full video for this weather report, forecaster Claudia Kleinert points to additional graphs that show showers and thunderstorms, wind direction and the forecast for the next few days, with falling temperatures, on the same green background.

The 2022 image with the red background similarly shows the next day’s highs – this time on a color-coded heat map specially designed to show a change in temperature over the course of the day. It appeared in a June 20, 2022, weather report from “Tagesthemen”. The video shows that just before showing the red map, it indicated cooler early morning temperatures in green.

The red, orange and yellow heatmap was part of a graphics format change implemented in 2020, according to a spokesperson for the broadcaster who produced the weather segment.

“Until 2020, there was no uniform weather forecast in the ARD,” Renken said. She said the weather reports were provided by different newsrooms and companies and looked different on different shows.

Hessischer Rundfunk resumed production of the weather forecast in January 2020, Renken said, and the design and layout was then adapted for broadcasts.

Renken disputed the idea that the two different maps show a conspiracy by meteorologists to advance a climate change agenda.

“The two graphs differ in design and presentation. Until the end of 2019, the temperature maps provided in the “Tagesthemen” only depicted the temperature in numbers – the green background had no relation to the temperature “said Renken.

Indeed, in 2017, a weather report on a separate public news program called “Tagesschau”, a daily newscast that appears on the same channel and uses the same set as “Tagesthemen”, showed the same map style as those shared in this post, with a green background to show lower temperatures early in the morning, then changed to red to show the weather getting warmer during the day.

The color of time

Many weather forecasts traditionally use colors to differentiate cold, moderate and warm temperatures.

A look at national forecasts July 25 from The Weather Channel, which is based in the United States, shows that the color red is used to show warm temperatures, with pink being used for extreme heat and yellow and orange for milder temperatures.

Weather Central uses a similar color scheme, as does the National Weather Service, although red is reserved there for temperatures above 100 degrees. WGN-TV, a Chicago station, uses a similar method to differentiate temperatures.

Renken pointed us to a 2019 article by an ARD fact-checker who debunked a similar claim about the 2009 and 2019 maps alleging that “Tagesschau” manipulated them to exaggerate the effects of climate change.

Our decision

A Facebook post claims that the green and red colors indicating temperatures on two different weather maps five years apart in Germany show that the media is manipulating the maps to advance a climate change agenda by adding red to make it look hotter.

But the maps in the post show two different things – one, from 2017, shows a general weather forecast with a green background; one, from 2022, only displays temperatures on a red background. The earlier green background had nothing to do with temperatures, unlike the red background of 2022.

We rate this claim as false.

PolitiFact developer Mark Wirblich contributed to this report.

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