Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weather Report

Weather patterns and other natural phenomenon are an endless source for creative ways to display data. From plotting disasters to recording blustery days, information about weather across the globe can be used to create a stimulating picture of both the mundane and extraordinary. The following are a few visualizations that caught my eye:

-Major Earthquakes Compiled in NOAA Global Significant Earthquake Database

We may get our fair share of snow and freezing temperatures in Michigan, but there is a tradeoff: we rarely need to worry about earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis. This benefit of life of in the Midwest is made clear in the map below, which highlights the density and magnitude of seismic activity from 2150 B.C. to present day and the populations most at risk. The visualization was featured in a Mother Jones blog post late last year. The blog explored recent research, presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in fall 2011, that suggests that large earthquakes could be triggered by tropical cyclones.

Map credit: Credit: Benjamin D. Hennig, Sasi Research Group, University of Sheffield.

-2011 Hurricane Season
This four-minute video is another NOAA visualization found through a Mother Jones blog post. Through these timelapse images, you can see each of last season’s tropical storms – from Arlene to Sean – emerge, swirl, and die out. While many never approach land, others, including Hurricane Irene, which gathered the most U.S. news coverage in 2011, come dangerously close to shore.

Video credit: NOAA Visualizations,

-United States Wind Map
Part art project, part weather map, this constantly updated visualization tracks wind speed across the country in real time. The map, created by Google visualization researchers Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, uses data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which collects information about a variety of weather elements, including dew points, temperature, and humidity. Note that the site is best viewed in the Chrome browser.

Image credit: