Visualization Critique Part I

Full report:  http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp


This visualization does an excellent job of presenting an accessible means to compare wind power density by geographic location.  The color coded overlay provides an easy way to compare locations, and from that one can infer the potential viability of wind power production at any given site in the United States.

Causality, Mechanism, Structure, Explanation

This map doesn’t provide much in the way of causality – without more information I cannot immediately guess why certain areas have a higher wind density than others.  Providing an additional component, such as elevation or ocean current patterns, may help to solidify our undertstanding of why wind blows more in one place than another.

With that said, the purpose of this map is not to describe to us why the wind blows more in one place.  It is simply showing us the observed phenomena, and the intended goal here is to show us the possibility of harnessing wind power to produce electricity within a specific geographic region.  It does this very well by providing a label for each wind power classification (“Good”, “Excellent”, etc)

Multivariate Analysis

This map shows multiple variables by mapping geographic location to wind power density.  There are really only two variables at play, though one can infer more by looking more closely at the map.  For example, wind power potential tends to be higher along the coastlines.  One can assume that the specific heat absorption rate between land and water is causing an imbalance that is causing wind to blow in a more pronounced manner.

Integration of Evidence

The visualization integrates data by providing a color-coded legend that breaks down the observed phenomena and converts it to an easily understandable visual representation.  We don’t need to see raw data in the form of 50 meters per second overlayed on the map itself – this information is abstracted out and integrated using an easily understandable overlay technique.


The image above is documented insofar as it contains the logo of the NREL organization.  However, visiting the full report yields a wealth of information, including links to published articles and white papers that cite numerous data sources.  One must be careful when takeing a visualization out of its originally intended context!

  1. Pingback: The Pixel Farm » Blog Archive » Wind Power Classification: Relief Map in Augmented Reality

Leave a Reply


captcha *