Why should we care indeed. Rows and columns of numbers have done just fine for humanity’s data visualization needs for hundreds of years, why change now?

Simple. Because rows and columns (or pie charts and bar graphs for that matter) are not easily consumed or comprehended. That’s because there’s an added layer of abstraction in those methods. The real data is being generated and then it’s being translated into this foreign language that bears no resemblance to the real thing and only a handful of analysts are qualified to interpret and get any sort of meaningful insight from.

We understand that numerical data representation is often necessary for a couple of glaringly obvious reasons. Much of the data generated today is coming from digital measurement devices that require such language. Also, numbers make measurement quantifiable. It’s hard to conduct a serious, long-term study of, say, global temperature by saying “well, it feels hotter today than it did yesterday.”

But just because data comes in numbers doesn’t mean it has to, or should, stay that way. Transforming numbers into visualizations that everyone can see and immediately understand is an art form in and of itself. It requires no small degree of creativity, ingenuity and courage to break away from the spreadsheet.

That’s why we fell in love with Cameron Beccario’s earth.nullschool.net. What Beccario has done is found a way to turn (from what we could tell having done a cursory browse of some of the data sources he uses) limitless charts, sheets and lifeless maps into a near real-time data visualization of wind, temperature and other meteorological information presented in a way that anyone, regardless of training, can understand.

The result is both breathtakingly beautiful and highly informative

A wind map of the United States
a dynamic representation of where the wind’s blowing.

What we especially love about it is what happens when you click on “earth” in the bottom right. From the menu you can choose from various options and customize your experience.

The popularity of Beccario’s site speaks to the basic premise of why we should care about data visualization: we crave data that is easily consumed. The way to do that is through intuitive, unique visualizations such as this.

Earth.nullschool.net is a great starting place, and there is more to do. We need more ways to interact with and understand the information that surrounds us. That’s why visualizations such as this inspire us.

To see more from Cameron Beccario, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Do you have a visualization that inspires you or makes some piece of information clearer? Leave us a comment below or Tweet it @visualcue.