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Google artists create a real-time 'Wind Map'

Thousands of white streaks course across a map of the U.S. in a visualization designed to show detailed live wind speed.

"Wind Map" on March 29, 2012 at 9:00pm ET.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Two technology artists who head Google's "Big Picture" visualization research group debuted a new project this week that shows a time-lapse animation of wind speeds across the U.S.

"An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us--energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future," the artists wrote in a post yesterday. "This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US right now."

The black map, simply named "Wind Map," displays white streaks that show varying wind speeds from 1 to 30 miles per hour. The stronger the winds, the more dense the white streaks. As the wind courses across the county, certain patterns emerge, such as swirls around the Rockies and powerful blasts coming off the Great Lakes.

Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, the map creators, got the surface wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which is downloaded once an hour. They wrote that they would like to design a visualization for the entire Earth but haven't yet found a global source for detailed live wind data.

In a similar project, NASA recently created a visualization of ocean and sea currents over a two-year period.