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February 10 2012

Visualization of the Week: Chasing storm chasers

Hundreds of storm chasers and scientists are active during the spring and summer, the months when tornadoes are most likely to form over the Great Plains.

Tim Dye at Data Tech Art has created the following visualization that tracks the storm chasers. His ChaserTracer takes data from the Spotter Network and maps it alongside damage reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Found a great visualization? Tell us about it

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring visualizations. We're always looking for leads, so please drop a line if there's a visualization you think we should know about.

Strata 2012 — The 2012 Strata Conference, being held Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

More Visualizations:

November 03 2011

Four short links: 3 November 2011

  1. Feedback Without Frustration (YouTube) -- Scott Berkun at the HIVE conference talks about how feedback fails, and how to get it successfully. He is so good.
  2. Americhrome -- history of the official palette of the United States of America.
  3. Discovering Talented Musicians with Musical Analysis (Google Research blgo) -- very clever, they do acoustical analysis and then train up a machine learning engine by asking humans to rate some tracks. Then they set it loose on YouTube and it finds people who are good but not yet popular. My favourite: I'll Follow You Into The Dark by a gentleman with a wonderful voice.
  4. Dark Sky (Kickstarter) -- hyperlocal hyper-realtime weather prediction. Uses radar imagery to figure out what's going on around you, then tells you what the weather will be like for the next 30-60 minutes. Clever use of data plus software.

September 13 2011

A new look for weather data

WeatherSpark is tapping into a variety of datasets to deliver a different level of weather engagement. The new website, which provides data from more than 4,000 weather stations, lets you interact with full-screen weather graphs to investigate current forecasts and historical weather patterns.

In the interview below, I talk with WeatherSpark co-founder Jacob Norda (@jacobnorda) about his company's approach to weather data and visualizations.

WeatherSpark full screen forecast and historical trends
In addition to forecast information (left), WeatherSpark also offers access to historical trend data (right). (Click to enlarge.)

What problems with traditional weather information are you trying to solve?

Jacob Norda: Most weather websites present weather data using tables with numbers and icons, and they show maps in very small viewports. This makes it hard to get an overview, and it typically requires a lot of page views to find the relevant information.

We wanted to address these shortcomings by using an integrated dashboard with a powerful map and graph view. This allows for an overall weather impression — "it's raining nearby," "today will be a hot/cold day" — the ability to look for very specific information — "It'll be 70F at 2pm" — as well as an intuitive way to get to historical weather and average weather information, which is not readily available.

We decided to show the historical information because we think it's interesting. People oftentimes say things like, "last summer was unusually hot/cold/wet," and we wanted to provide a way to actually look that up. That information also powers the averages, which we had to have, so it would have been a missed opportunity to not make it available.

In addition, technical restrictions make it so other websites can only show radar animations over very short periods of time, typically two hours. We've solved these technical issues, and that means we can offer full-screen radar playback spanning several days. That allows for things like radar animations of hurricanes.

Where does WeatherSpark get its data?

Jacob Norda: We get the forecasts from a number of sources, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, World Weather Online, and Weather Central. The sources are noted on the about page. The historical data comes from a number of governmental and non-governmental data sources, primarily NOAA.

How can weather data be improved?

Jacob Norda: There's a wild variety in file formats, both for historical and forecast information. The information would be more easily used if this data were somehow unified. However, removing old formats or APIs would break legacy systems, so we don't envision the current sources doing that. We're considering offering a unified API, but it's in the pre-roadmap stage at this point.

This interview was edited and condensed.

Strata Conference New York 2011, being held Sept. 22-23, covers the latest and best tools and technologies for data science — from gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and storing data to communicating data intelligence effectively.

Save 30% on registration with the code ORM30

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