Critique: Data Visualization



This data visualization project depicts the wind patterns flowing across the U.S. in real time. The data is sourced from the National Digital Forecast Database, updated once every hour. Described as a “living portrait,” this feature creates an illustration of the active yet invisible movement happening around us at all times.

One can simply stare at the mesmerizing effect of the larger picture or zoom in to specific regions for a more intimate look. Hovering one’s cursor over the image reveals wind speed at a specific latitude and longitude. Top speed, average speed, date, time and a map key help the viewer understand the visualization in context. It’s a simple construction, approachable to the general public and scientifically accurate enough for its purposes.

The inverted black and white tones are a visually pleasing take on what normally might be a black-lined, white background type of map. The ever-flowing white lines are soft and easy to watch as they wind around the country. This is an artistic and friendly introduction to wind science and weather patterns, which usually we don’t care about more than how they will affect out daily outfits and activities. Viewers can come back to this hour after hour, day after day, and compare its happenings with those of where they live and across the country. It might inspire some to continuing looking up data on weather or investigate curious patterns they see on the map.

A gallery of screenshots since this project was launched document events such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Issac and other unique jet stream flows. In a way that full color or more detailed maps cannot demonstrate, these images give simplistic gravity to major weather events with large-scale consequences.

This website is a fabulous example of using technology and data visualization to understand and further appreciate a complex scientific phenomenon over time.

I thought it was so cool when it launched in 2012, that I made an intaglio print of it. Intaglio is a method of printmaking in which marks are carved into plexiglass, ink is applied to the plate, and it is run through a special press that makes the ink in the cracks come out onto the paper. Yes, each of those black lines was painstakingly carved into plexiglass with a sharp little tool. And the black border is typical of residual ink from the plate. I probably made about 10 or 12 prints total. Don’t ask me what day, what time or what the wind speeds were though. This one still hangs in my apartment today.

untitled, 7″ x 9″ intaglio print, 2012. Kelsey Simpkins