When people talk about Big Data, they often talk in terms of Messianic solutions for economy-size systems. Roads and highways. Diagnoses and treatments. Buyers and sellers.
But some of the most interesting work being done with data addresses a different kind of complex system. The information for this system is neither private nor proprietary: In fact, its ownership is a little more evergreen.
It’s the weather. And this week, one of the more interesting recent online weather data products opened to the public and explained itself.
It’s called Quicksilver. Quicksilver aims to provide the highest-resolution, most up-to-date map of global temperatures ever created. Click around its maps or zoom in, and it paints hot reds, frigid blues, and temperate greens at a more detailed, more local level than any previous planetary* temperature map ever has.
It does all this without adding any new sensors to the world: Humanity’s raw observational power wasn’t increased to make the Quicksilver map work. Rather, the Quicksilver team merged and correlated existing data, from different public sources, for the map.
A blog post, just posted on the Quicksilver website, explains how they did it. The map relies on temperature data from a number of sources. One of those is the Global Forecast System (GFS), a service of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GFS measurements are “live,” or updated so frequently as to be essentially live, but they're at one-tenth the resolution of the Quicksilver map.