From North Pole to South Pole, from the surface of the planet to the top of the atmosphere, at its most basic, wind is caused by differences in pressure. The sun heats the Earth's surface unevenly and causes the air to heat unevenly, as well. Since hot air rises, the hot air lifts up and up, leaving a low pressure zone underneath. In colder places, where the pressure is higher, air rushes away, moving to balance out this difference in pressure. That's how wind happens.
Working with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg made a stunning Wind Map, which shows real time winds as they flow around the U.S. And now computer programmer Cameron Beccario has produced an even more powerful creation—a mesmerizing tool that helps visualize the winds all over the globe and is known simply as “Earth.”
In the animated photo above, we've used Earth to show the wind conditions at 250 hectopascals, a region of the atmosphere that flows between around 30,000 and 50,000 feet, and includes the well-known northern subtropical jet stream—what you'd normally just call "the jet stream."
But Beccario's map can also be used to show what the wind is like on the surface or way high up in the stratosphere, where winds rage in massive polar vortexes. It also lets you play with different styles of map projection, from Waterman and Winkel to the super-trippy stereographic.
H/T Dan Satterfield
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