Summary of “End of the Rainbow? New Map Scale is More Readable by People Who Are Color Blind”

Data visualizations using rainbow color scales are ubiquitous in many fields of science, depicting everything from ocean temperatures to brain activity to Martian topography.
Now scientists at a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory have developed a color scale that is mathematically optimized to be accurate for both color blind people and those with normal vision.
There are several reasons why the rainbow color scale is problematic.
The tool takes an existing color scale, simulates what it looks like to people with red-green color blindness, and then adjusts it so that both color and brightness vary at a steady rate through the entire scale.
By mathematically optimizing their scale to be perceptually consistent among people who are color blind and those with normal color vision, Nuñez and Renslow avoided another major pitfall of the rainbow color scheme: With cividis, the perceived change in hue and luminance matches the actual change in the data.
A particularly striking example is a 2006 study that identified boundaries between colors on a rainbow map of ozone data in the atmosphere as important “Fronts.” But those boundaries disappeared when the data were replotted using a different color scale.
Even though a map with just a single color that varies from light to dark to show increasing values would in many cases be far clearer and easier to read, some people may find it dull relative to its full-spectrum cousin, Field says.
Hawkins is hopeful more scientists will start making informed decisions about which color scale to use, but he thinks it may take some nudging to precipitate real change.

The orginal article.