The flattened staircases

Elizabeth left a comment on a previous post, pointing to this NYT chart comparing this snow season with last on the East Coast.


Quite a lot can be read from this small multiples chart of cumulative snowfall:

  • Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia endured extraordinary amounts of snow that ranged from 4 to 8 times those of the last season
  • New York pretty much had the same amount of snow up to this point in time although the snow came earlier this season
  • Boston had a milder season. By the way, because of regional differences, it is just wrong to conclude that there is "global cooling". Evidence of that must take into account what is happening across the globe, not just in the east, or southeast, of the U.S.
  • Snow also came much earlier in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia although not so in Boston.

I find the placement of the city names odd. But the one thing keeping this a good chart, not a great chart, is the fumbling of the average. They need to plot the historical snowfall accumulation, not the total average snowfall.  As it is, the red line makes the unconvincing case that historically, the entire season's snow came in November. 

The chart can be fixed by either turning the red lines into red dots at the end of the time window, or by plotting another series of staircase charts which can be directly contrasted with the blue lines. Best yet, plot the past 10 to 20 seasons' staircases in the background to show both the historical average and variance.


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Can we please have a link to the NYTimes page? The link that you would expect to take you there (NYT) instead takes you to the decidedly less helpful list of all NYT-related posts.


Anon: I found the article..."East coast confronts storm's aftermath", Feb 11. here

Nanoo Geek

Edward Tufte has long given examples of how to improve visual presentation. See for example: www.edwardtufte.com .

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