Climate stories

With, and around, data


Data and Digital Storytelling Lead, 360info


  1. Why should I tell stories?
  2. Prime considerations for comms
  3. Handling jargon in climate stories
  4. Conclusions


(Code for these slides is at


A picture of me and my PhD supervisor, Lisa Alexander, at my graduation.

A picture of me and MCCCRH staff members on Zoom.

A picture of me and MCCCRH staff members on a work trip.

A picture of Graham Creed from the ABC presenting climate projections.

A picture of Jane Bunn presenting statistics on shrinking winters.

I used to be a climate + health researcher

Worked with CLEX and MCCCRH on climate change communication

Now I’m a data journalist with

360info is an open access global information agency that tackles the world’s biggest challenges and offers practical solutions.

Open data @

Why should I tell stories?

Scientists are trusted

Sources of climate change news you trust (n = 2038)

Barchart showing various sources of information on the Y-axis and the fraction of surveyed people who trust them to deliver climate change information on the X-axis.

Park et al. (2022, p. 18)

The chart challenge

"Interpretation of graphical representations requires a relatively advanced skill set, and may therefore serve to distance some potential audiences.

“Furthermore, [charts and graphs] lack the perceived realism of photographic images, potentially rendering them less memorable and less likely to be perceived as “truth.”

Rebich-Hespanha (2014), investigating the use of visuals in the media

But charts can break through

Climate Stripes by Ed Hawkins

Climate Stripes by Ed Hawkins (

Climate stripes in their original form

Climate stripes with X axis labels

Climate stripes as a barchart

Climate stripes as a labelled barchart

As researchers, you have the opportunity to build social consensus for a policy action, for change or to just help people understand

(It’ll help you talk to your colleagues, too!)

Prime considerations

Who’s your audience?

The public?

Audience at a university event?



What kind of training do they have?

What are they interested in?

How much time do they have?

What’s your purpose?

Helping people evaluate a policy?

Changing individual behaviours?

Convincing your colleagues to change their analyses?

Convincing funders to 💰?

Advising people in an an emergency?*

* do not do this without specific training!

What’s the point?

Point ≠ purpose: it’s the point for the reader

Avoid a “so what?” moment

What does that mean for a visual?

Jane Bunn presenting climate change messaging on 7news

  • Audience: the public?
  • Audience: evening news audience
  • Time: about 7 seconds
  • Our purpose: present evidence of climate change
  • Our point: summer days warming up near you

What does that mean for a visual?

Jane Bunn presenting climate change messaging on 7news

Primary messages

  • Trend line up
  • Getting warmer

Secondary messages

  • Year-to-year variability
  • Length of data record

Screenshot of an ABC news story about climate change projections

Display time:

7-10 seconds

Screenshot of an ABC Story Lab article about climate change

Reading time:

11 minutes (excluding graphics)

Jargon in climate stories

Relating climate to weather


daily maxima

maximum daily maximum

area-averaged temperature

(Possible) alternative

daytime temperatures

hottest day

temperature across Australia

Trickier jargon

eg. extreme rainfall

Num. days ≥ fixed threshold

Num. days ≥ historical quantile

% total rain falling on those days

Rainiest 3-day stretch

Rainiest 5-day stretch



Your expertise is trusted

Think about audience, purpose and point

Reduce jargon…
but keep your aims in mind

Thanks for listening!