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  • We ventilate or spaces with hydrocarbons. Mother Earth ventilates the outdoors with wind. As with any ventilation system, there's not much to see except the movement of trees, flags, litter and dust. Wind itself is invisible, even at close range. You can't see wind from an airplane either. Some weather stations can see wind using radar, but coverage is spotty.

    So when someone shows you a map of winds across the United States, a map that displays patterns with gossamer subtlety, you pay attention. This has never been done before, certainly not with such aplomb.

    Wind farm entrepreneurs could use this map to site new turbines. Airline pilots could use maps like these, stratified by altitude, to anticipate flying conditions they are heading into. You and I, on the other hand are free to sit back and enjoy the show. I do mean show, even though this is just a map.

    The site updates its map about every hour, so you are viewing a near-real-time visualization of current wind conditions at 5 km resolution. It gets these updates from a database maintained by NOAA, and renders it continuously on the Web page.

    You can zoom into any part of the country to see more detailed – almost fractal – maps of local areas. More city names appear as you do. I could describe techniques they use to make this all happen, but that would be boring.

    Instead, just go see the map and be prepared to be hypnotized. Take care not to hyperventilate.

    @image: Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, Snapshots of Winds Past
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