This paper explores the iconography of the media coverage on climate science through selected Spanish daily newspapers - El PaísCountry, El Mundo, ABC and Expansión - from 2004 to 2010. We have analyzed the content of the iconographic elements to know further about how the Spanish press has managed the power of the image to rhetorically build its discourse on climate change, its causes, its consequences, the involved social agents and even their victims. According to our main results three out of four news stories on climate science are illustrated by some kind of iconographic element, mainly photographs (61%) along with computer generated images (CGI) (22%); the most frequent photos show -what we have called- the “rhetoric frozen universe” of climate change with pictures including ice, snow and glaciers; the most common CGI are maps, followed by graphs, charts and visual representations of complex processes. By analyzing a sample of 203 news stories, this synchronic and diachronic study has revealed that the rhetoric of the image could have improved the transmission of information about a complex phenomenon such as climate change from scientific sphere to the public. This is how journalistic iconography contributes to the translation of the always expert lexicon used by scientists to explain phenomena such as the formation and evolution of hurricanes, the operation of the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Ocean Stream or the impact of climate change on the Polar Jet Stream. Adding visual support, the press images have illustrated the characteristics of climate change, a complex global problem characterized by a high amount of scientific and technical information and whose cause-effect relationship is not obvious. This work about iconographic discourse on climate science news stories is part of a broader research focused on analyzing media coverage about climate change science in the Spanish daily press.

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The iconographic discourse of climate science, examined through the press coverage of Spanish daily newspapers

Emilia Pareja   Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas, Spain

Carolina Castro   University of Valencia, Spain

This paper explores the iconography of the media coverage on climate science through selected Spanish daily newspapers - El PaísCountry, El Mundo, ABC and Expansión - from 2004 to 2010. We have analyzed the content of the iconographic elements to know further about how the Spanish press has managed the power of the image to rhetorically build its discourse on climate change, its causes, its consequences, the involved social agents and even their victims. According to our main results three out of four news stories on climate science are illustrated by some kind of iconographic element, mainly photographs (61%) along with computer generated images (CGI) (22%); the most frequent photos show -what we have called- the “rhetoric frozen universe” of climate change with pictures including ice, snow and glaciers; the most common CGI are maps, followed by graphs, charts and visual representations of complex processes. By analyzing a sample of 203 news stories, this synchronic and diachronic study has revealed that the rhetoric of the image could have improved the transmission of information about a complex phenomenon such as climate change from scientific sphere to the public. This is how journalistic iconography contributes to the translation of the always expert lexicon used by scientists to explain phenomena such as the formation and evolution of hurricanes, the operation of the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Ocean Stream or the impact of climate change on the Polar Jet Stream. Adding visual support, the press images have illustrated the characteristics of climate change, a complex global problem characterized by a high amount of scientific and technical information and whose cause-effect relationship is not obvious. This work about iconographic discourse on climate science news stories is part of a broader research focused on analyzing media coverage about climate change science in the Spanish daily press.

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