This Eyeo 2012 talk describes the process that led to the wind map, including some funny false starts.
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 wind map shows the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.
Martin Wattenberg and I created the wind map in the cold winter months when wind was much on our minds. It conveys the movement of the air in the most basic way: with visual motion. As an artwork that reflects the real-world, its emotional meaning changes from day to day. On calm days it can be a soothing meditation on the environment; during hurricanes it can become ominous and frightening.
Images from Hurricane Isaac (September 2012):
Although we made the wind map as an artistic exploration, we've been surprised by the kinds of things people use it for: bird watchers have tracked migration patterns; bicyclists have planned their trips; and we've even seen conspiracy theorists use it to track mysterious chemicals in the air.
Even on a day of mild weather, patterns can be dramatic. There's much more to the wind than a west to east flow.
About the data: Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. These are near-term forecasts, revised once per hour.