Wind is sort of sneaky. You can usually feel it, but you never actually see it. You only catch a glimpse of wind through the things wind is affecting, like a cloud of dust or a bending tree.
Now, designer/coder Nicolas Garcia Belmonte has given us another way to see the wind. He created an HTML5 visualizer that pulls air-current data from about 1,200 different weather stations to animate the last 72 hours of wind across the U.S. You can see it in action here.
"I just wanted to understand the wind motion patterns in the U.S.," Belmonte explains to Co.Design. After a bit of research, Belmonte discovered that the National Weather Service, coupled with a complementary database, had all of the public data he could ask for. The problem, however, was that this data wasn’t in apples to apples chunks. "Not all weather stations list weather data the same way," he writes. "Some gather data hourly, others only once a day, etc. So the information had to go through a normalization and preprocessing stage before the rendering part."
Lines denote wind direction, orbs denote speed, and color denotes temperature. When you actually watch all of this data play out, the country simply pulsates with currents. And almost immediately, you might actually learn something: much of the South is simply stagnant air, southern California must be fantastic for kite flying and, Mount Washington, with its huge wind-speed orb enveloping much of the northeast, is a total freak of nature. "What appeared to be an outlier in the data around Mount Washington is actually a weather observatory that for 76 years held the record for the highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth’s surface," Belmonte explains. "I think this would have been less obvious to spot among a long list of numbers." We agree. It’s impossible to miss.
Belmonte, despite playing his work down as a rough first iteration, has already been approached by both private and government organizations about taking the idea further—an impressive response for an idea that, we can all agree, more than kind of blows.
[Hat tip: Flowing Data]