Weather maps used to be primitive and ugly, but technology now allows us better visualizations of meteorological data – especially these gorgeous wind maps.
Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg like to create new, artistic ways of observing data. Their Wind Map project from 2012 (see it live at hint.fm/wind) looks like this:
Although their Wind Map was conceived as an art project, people found other, sometimes more scientific ways to view the map:
The map was created in the cold winter months when wind was much on our minds. It conveys the movement of the air in the most basic way: with visual motion. As an artwork that reflects the real-world, its emotional meaning changes from day to day. On calm days it can be a soothing meditation on the environment; during hurricanes it can become ominous and frightening. … Although we made the wind map as an artistic exploration, we’ve been surprised by the kinds of things people use it for: bird watchers have tracked migration patterns; bicyclists have planned their trips; and we’ve even seen conspiracy theorists use it to track mysterious chemicals in the air.
Cameron Beccario took inspiration from the Wind Map and created a pair of beautiful meteorological projects. Like Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, Beccario grabs freely available data and turns it into a visualization of global weather conditions. Unlike Viégas and Wattenberg, Beccario adds a lot more science to the mix. You can overlay data showing temperature, relative humidity, total cloud water, and more. And just because there’s more science in the mix doesn’t mean the maps aren’t absolutely gorgeous. (Especially for those of us who think science is implicitly beautiful!) Here’s the temperature overlay:
Total precipitable water:
Total cloud water:
You can zoom in and out easily, and even change the map projection. Here’s the conic equidistant version:
You can also view ocean currents:
The wind map data is updated every three hours, and the ocean surface current estimates every five days. Data is pulled from Natural Earth, a public domain map dataset. Natural Earth is a volunteer project supported by North American Cartographic Information Society.