(Video from Siffer, Teddy TV. Animator: Ole Christoffer Hager)
This simple animation, illustrating the difference between variation vs. trend, or weather vs. climate, has become an instant classic.
It demonstrates most of the characteristics of a great metaphor, by. . .
explaining something that is… in terms of something else that is…
- unfamiliar familiar
- complex simple
- abstract concrete
- serious fun
- cerebral engaging the senses
The meandering dog captures the random changes of daily weather vs. the slow upward climb of average temperature (i.e. climate). If you’ve ever walked a puppy, you can almost feel the tug on the leash, as the excited dog races back and forth, sniffing everywhere.
The two words that appear at the end are in Norwegian. “Klima” = climate. “Vaer” = weather.
Like every metaphor, this one is imperfect. A good metaphor compares two things that are very different, but similar in one key aspect. This one breaks down over who is following whom. The dog’s path wanders within a limited range determined by the leash length and the walker’s line of motion. In reality, the relationship between trend and variation is the opposite. The climate trend follows — or, more precisely, is determined by — the long-term average of weather variations.*
Tom Curtis at Skeptical Science cleverly complemented the above animation with an earlier excellent graphic that makes the same point, somewhat differently, minus the logical flaw. This one highlights the way “cherry picking” skeptics use short term variations to confuse people about the long-term trend. This animation avoids the misleading implication that variations follow the trend, rather than vice-versa.
But for catching the readers eye, making the message “stick” and sheer cuteness, it’s hard to beat the excited pup.
*It might be possible to fix this logical flaw without too much difficulty, by simply modifying the dog walkers steps so they trace the actual trend line (e.g. running mean) determined by the dog’s movements. I’ve written the animator to suggest this!