The World's Winds in One Map

A new NASA visualization plots all of the world’s winds on one map.

In refraining from citing the obvious Bob Dylan line, I’ll borrow another folksy tune by the first of the “next Dylan” acolytes, which I think works well enough: Donovan’s “Catch the Wind.” The ditty, something about the futility of hanging onto love and such, would make an excellent backing track for a new NASA simulation. The latter, part of a larger visualization project called “Nature Run,” maps all of the world’s winds, from surface winds to cyclones and even stratospheric winds.

The simulation is powered by NASA’s Goddard Earth Observing System Model (GEOS-5), which processes real-world data about the Earth’s atmospheric conditions, like winds but also sea-surface temperatures, biomass burning, and volcano eruptions. The GEOS-5 crunches these inputs and spits out neat, dynamic visualizations, from which the still image above is pulled. Surface winds, the blustery, film-like stuff of Donovan’s plaintive lyrics, can be seen in white, while the bright white orbs bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean and the East China Sea are apparently cyclones. The greenish-blue streaks and pockets of red are the upper-register winds that form the turbulence that racks airplanes and their passengers’ existential states. The cyan-tinged flows represent winds traveling between 0 to 175 meters per second (over 390 miles per hour), with the red masses even faster.

See more of GEOS-5’s visualizations here, where you'll find additional maps devoted to the Earth's surface temperature, total precipitation, and more.

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