Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, now co-directors of Google’s Big Picture visualisation group in Cambridge, MA, are the dynamic duo of turning intangible numbers and pattens into tangible images. They’ve collaborated on numerous visualizations to share data in unique, striking ways. Today, as the winds howl outside, their wind visualization project seems the most suitable one to share.
Their map shows the motion of the wind over the entirety of the United States on a scale from 1-30 mph based on data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which is updated hourly. They mapped wind swirls over the country in long trails, varying in color from black, through scales of grey, to white which represents the highest winds. The partners created the piece as an artistic expression illustrating the invisible power of the wind and the powerful energy that comes from it, described as the “energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future.” The image below shows the wind pattern of Hurricane Isaac as it made landfall in early September, 2012.
Their maps are mesmerizing to watch and though they created the project as art, it has since been used for many other purposes:
[W]e’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.
We don’t get strong hurricanes in the Northeast very often. Even very strong storms (nor’ easters, blizzards) are relatively unusual. I’ve experienced two hurricanes in memory – Gloria and Bob. Others have threatened, but always died off before the reached this far north. Sandy is not slackening. While looking at a map like this shows the invisible beauty of nature, it gives pause because on a day like today, that beauty is only skin deep, so to speak.
- via FB and the Economist