If you want to see the season’s first named tropical storm whirl off the Atlantic coast this week, take a peek at this new visualization that paints winds as ethereal, peacock-colored gyres of light.
“I’m a surfer, and wasn’t entirely happy with the wind and swell maps I could find for predicting surf conditions,” Frampton says. “So I thought I’d see if I could make something that suited my needs better.”
The visualization uses Global Forecast System model data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to display six days of expected wind behavior as lines that grow brighter when stronger. Predicted temperatures are shown in colors that range from dark blue (below freezing) to green (roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to yellow and red (about 80 to 105 degrees). The altitude represented is surface level, and the time zone is wherever you’re sitting when you load the model.
While other wind simulations exist, notably Hint.FM’s “Wind Map” and Cameron Beccario’s “Earth,” which contains simulations of many other atmosphere and ocean variables, Frampton is proud of the technical effort he’s poured into his creation. For instance, he developed his own open-source tool to process GFS data that in a browser generates 131,072 individual curved lines at any one time. If you ever want to stress-test your graphics card, “Majic Weather” might do the trick.
“What makes it unique is probably the way I'm using lines with multiple moving parts instead of dots with tails in the simulation,” Frampton says. “That made it a bit more complicated, and I had to get a bit creative to make it all work and run fast in your browser.”
So what are those fickle winds up to? Well, here’s Monday’s simulation of Tropical Storm Arthur lashing North Carolina:
Zooming out and stepping back, this shot from Saturday depicts Arthur strengthening near the Bahamas, a severe storm that triggered tornado warnings in the South, and an upper low bringing rain to the Pacific Northwest:
Here’s a projection of the menacing eye of Amphan, the first tropical cyclone of the 2020 North Indian Ocean season, crashing ashore northeast India on Wednesday:
The global picture is a witch’s brew of oily sheens — hot, languid gusts over Africa and the Middle East, and powerful storms in cooler oceanic regions such as the Bering Sea:
When making this visualization, Frampton says, he became intrigued with the behavior of inland winds on large continents such as Africa and North America.
“The wind behaves completely differently there than to an island nation like New Zealand, and it’s amazing seeing these continents almost breathe each day as the wind flows in and out through the valleys,” Frampton says. “Also convergence zones are really noticeable, and how mountains can block wind flows is fascinating, too.”
Frampton has included an option to switch from winds to ocean swells, which are colored according to their direction. “I find this to be very useful as a surfer,” he says, “but it might only have limited utility for most people!” The swell data also comes from NOAA, an institution that, as a guy who values open data, he’s particularly fond of.