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

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