"Earth" relies on supercomputers to paint an almost real-time picture of the atmosphere's feverish churning.
Where on the planet are people's hats being knocked off by roaring wind? Where are the ghastly doldrums, where the air's so still not a single leaf rustles?
The answer lies within this trance-inducing model of near-real-time wind patterns from Cameron Beccario, a software engineer based in Tokyo. For "Earth," Beccario has taken the concept behind Hint.fm's wind map for the United States – which displays atmospheric movements as wispy, snaking lines – and expanded it to a global scale. Grab the planet with your mouse and spin and zoom to see the atmosphere's fevered incarnations: warm currents slowly drifting at the Equator, frosty stratospheric gusts doing doughnuts around the North Pole, Indian Ocean disturbances twisting the air into screaming whirlpools.
The simulation relies on the raw power of supercomputers and reams of weather data from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction. In particular, it's running off the widely used GFS model, one of several weather prediction tools used to forecast major storms and whatnot. Slower winds are represented as green and yellowish streaks, whereas the real roarers are painted in angry purple-and-crimson hues. (There's no color-coded key, yet.) Here's the circulation for the North America on Monday for the default surface-height layer:
You'll find the bulk of the stronger gusts far above the surface, though. Try switching to the jet-stream layer about 6 miles up, and you'll understand why these rushing rivers of air can shorten a coast-to-coast plane ride by a matter of hours:
One "Earth" fan has gone to the trouble of assembling a visual comparison showing how winds strengthen in higher and higher slices of the atmosphere. From top to bottom, these images show winds at surface level up to 11 miles above the Arctic, writes Kathryn Prociv:
This global wind animation is too cool. From the coastal low at 1000mb to the surface to the polar vortex at 70mb. pic.twitter.com/aOcZzVn2SL— Kathryn Prociv (@KathrynProciv) December 16, 2013
Head to the opposite face of the planet and you'll see great storm activity at the height of the seas. A massive area of unrest in the North Pacific is producing gale winds and huge waves around Japan. Southward, a rowdy pack of low-pressure systems patrol the waters around India and Indonesia:
A satellite shot from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center gives a clearer picture of these cloud-veiled spinners:
Beccario is in the process of tweaking "Earth," adding wind patterns over lakes for instance, so if you have suggestions hit him up on Facebook. That's also the place to go to discover his latest dabblings with the model, such as this "conic equidistant projection" for the winds about 3 miles above the Eastern Hemisphere:
Images courtesy of Cameron Beccario's Earth