A gorgeous, mind-blowing visualization of the world’s winds

December 17, 2013

In 2012, weather visualizations took a new turn when Google scientists unveiled hint.fm/wind – a mesmerizing real-time display of wind currents in the U.S.

They’ve taken a giant leap with software engineer Cameron Beccario’s new creation: Earth – an interactive animation of winds around the entire globe.


Screen capture of Earth visualization tool (Earth)

Links: Earth visualization tool| Earth on Facebook | Cameron Beccario on Twitter

Earth allows users to pan around the world, and zoom into any region.  On its fluorescent color palette, the strongest winds pop out at you.

Did you see the viral video of winds so strong in Norway that pedestrians couldn’t cross the street late last week?

The Earth interface, fed by NOAA data, lets you go back in time and see exactly what was going on.  A rip-roaring jet stream was then crashing into Norway (see the screen capture below – the green circle shows the location of the video).


Jet stream crashes into the west coast of Norway last Thursday. Green circle is region around Aelsund , Norway (Earth)

Remember the “biblical snowstorm” we discussed last week, that dumped 12-20 inches of Jerusalem and even a dusting near Cairo?


This image from the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument on December 15, 2013 shows areas of snow in Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territory. (NOAA)

The storm’s upper level vortex as well as the powerhouse winds cycling around it stunningly stand out in the Earth visualizations.


High altitude vortex responsible for historic snowstorm in Middle East late last week (Earth)

A look at today’s river of winds on Earth (below) reveals a potent jet stream diving across the eastern U.S. helping to spirit along “clipper” disturbances producing snow showers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.


Screen shot of today’s global jet stream visualization (Earth)

This same jet stream is likely to carry ferocious storms into Europe in a few days.

The Earth interface can show you much more than what I’ve shared here. I’ve discussed jet stream images, but you can also view animations of winds – either from today or from the past – at different altitudes, from the surface to the stratosphere, and on different map projections.

“The end-product is an interactive experience that is not only effortless to navigate but incredibly rich, informationally,” writes Robert Gonzalez at IO9.com.

Agreed.

The best way to appreciate this tool is to head on over and play around. You may become addicted…

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Matt Rogers · December 17, 2013