Some of the most amazing and elegant visualizations to appear this year have been Particle Flow visualizations. The two stars in this field are NASA’s Perpetual Ocean project, and the US Wind Map by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas of Google’s Data Visualization Group.
The Perpetual Ocean project is stunningly beautiful: like Van Gogh paintings in motion. Unfortunately, the Perpetual Ocean is a static project, it represents over two years worth of data, but just the period from June 2005 – December 2007. On the other hand, the Wind Map amazingly is based on live weather data updated hourly from the National Digital Forecast Database. On any particular day the map is cool, but today Hurricane Isaac hit ground in Louisiana, and the hurricane is evident on the wind map. It’s just really, really cool to play with.
Zoom in on the map by double clicking to see just how small and calm the eye of the storm is. Some noteworthy features:
- Between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, the south blowing wind seems to be unusually accelerated. That’s because it’s flowing south unimpeded over the Mississippi River (in Natchez) and onto the delta flats of the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. Wind generally blows faster over water than on land because it’s unimpeded by trees, hill, buildings, etc.
- At the eye of the storm the wind is at or below 1.0 mph. Using Google Maps to approximate scale, about 5 miles away the wind speed is already at 30 mph, and just 20 miles away we’re already at the peak windspeed of 50 mph.
- The East-West blowing winds hitting Baton Rouge are about 35 mph immediately prior to the city, then 30 mph immediately after. The city is built along the mississippi, so its building are organized perpendicular to the wind and seem to be acting as a physical wall, slowing the wind down. You can actually see the wind in the map parting to go around the city.
Very interesting graphic. Hope everyone’s safe down there.