Artists Turn Weather Data into Swirling “Living Portraits” of Continental U.S. Wind Patterns

Like an invisible sculptor, the wind slowly shapes the natural world, bending Monterey Pines along California’s coast to reach horizontally towards the land, and whipping dry beach dunes into peaks.

Artists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, working as HintFM, used the aerial view of wind blowing around the United States as the template for a dynamic art piece, Wind Map. About every hour, Wind Map downloads wind circulation data from the National Digital Forecast Database. The site’s image of the continental U.S. refreshes with new data, showing the most current traces of wind patterns, in varying shades of white depending on wind speed.

Like grass on an expanse of hillside, the wind becomes visible against the dark background of the country. It’s possible to see, vividly, the wind’s strength as it swoops from the north west and the south, up into a single corridor that blasts up from Mobile Bay in Louisiana to Chicago and beyond.

HintFM calls the site a “living portrait” of the wind’s footprints at any given moment, but they make sure we know it’s art, not science. Please, they note, do not use the map or its data to fly a plane, sail a boat, or fight wildfires.

But the Wind Map archive can’t help but offer meteorological value. Watch the wind patterns as Hurricane Sandy brewed off the Eastern seaboard in October and again when it hit land. Other images in the archive gallery include days that produced some beautiful whorls of wind.

The site includes links to information about wind power. Made visible, the wind can be seen as the force it is, beautiful, powerful, harnessable.

Related Content:

Watch a Cool and Creepy Visualization of U.S. Births & Deaths in Real-Time

Perpetual Ocean: A Van Gogh-Like Visualization of our Ocean Currents

Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Read more of her work at katerixwriter.com



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  • Cathleen Palmer

    Simply awesome!!

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