Incredible art made with open-source weather data

This is what the wind over the United States looked like on March 27th, 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It's beautiful. And it's even better if you go to the project page, where you can watch real-time wind currents move around the map.

The National Digital Forecast Database is a weather forecasting system that provides open access to weather data collected all over the United States. The National Weather Service has field centers all across the country, that collect information about things like wind speed/direction, precipitation, and barometric pressure. They combine this data with big-picture satellite tracking and algorithms that are based on what we know about how weather patterns work, and that's how you get the kind of daily forecast we rely on to plan our days.

In the process, the National Weather Service generates a lot of data—data that has not, traditionally, been accessible to just anybody. We saw the forecasts, but it wasn't as easy to see the measurements the forecasts were based on. The NDFD changes that. It's a really great example of publicly funded research being made available to the people who help provide the funding.

And when that happens, you get cool projects like this one, where data on wind direction and speed are used to create truly amazing art. The information on current conditions, and predictions for the future, are updated hourly. When you look at the animated version of this map, what you see is the most recent forecast playing out.

Thanks to Chris Noble for sending this in on Submitterator! It's grand!

Read a previous BoingBoing story about using wind forecasts to improve renewable energy.


  1. You can tell that techies are responsible for the above image… most people outside of Silicon Valley would use San Francisco as a reference point on a map of the U.S. rather than San Jose.

    (Note: I have nothing against San Jose.)

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I’m guessing the map is some pre-existing widget though, since it allows zooming (go to the project page and right-click the map), and has a lot of city names when zoomed in close. For example, around San Francisco it shows both Hayward and Fremont…

      That said, I definitely have something against San Jose.

      1. Apparently built by some Google folks so that makes sense. (Their corporate headquarters is based in Mountain View but that’s closer to S.J. than S.F.)

    1. I fascinatedly watched this a few days ago when linked at at New Scientist.

      It really needs to include Canada. At that time there was large northern movements of air west of the Great Lakes and large southern movement to the east.

      I presume the wind looped around in Canada but it would have made much more sense if I could have seen the loop.

      1. Please. Don’t encourage Homeland Security to start looking for terrorist air currents.

  2. Where does all the wind go?  I see wind moving from every direction to a spot just SW of Sioux Falls, and no wind moving away from there (12:00 4/2).

    1. If you know where the mountains are, you can see the effect. Or, if you can recognize how mountains would affect wind patterns, you can see where the mountains are :) 

      I agree that the option to plot other stuff on the map would be great though.

  3. Wow, Chicago really is the windy city. I can also see why Roscoe, TX was such a good place for a wind farm. And it looks like the old joke about Minnesota being so windy because the Dakotas blow while Wisconsin sucks is based in fact. 

  4. I have had this on my computer for over a week here in Louisville. We had several storms pass through this week. I always follow storms on radar, but this map has been showing the wind as if it is moving in the opposite direction as the actual wind – every time. Does anyone think this is showing the air moving backwards?

    1. No kidding. Today, once again, ALL of the apparent air moving on this map is in the OPPOSITE direction of the weather in this area. It is a really cool map, but the creator might think to reverse direction.

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