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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

The fascinating thing our airports reveal about the natural world


The world's runways are like a weathervane, revealing wind patterns around the world.

An airport runway is just a strip of tarmac—a glorified, straight road for planes to drive on while taking off or landing. But in aggregate, the runways of the world reveal something amazing. They depict the wind patterns across the globe. You can see the phenomenon for yourself at Trails of Wind, an interactive visualization by the data visualization firm Figures.

At first glance, Trails for Wind looks like a wind pattern map, with a series of hashes depicting wind direction. But Trails of Wind is actually an extremely accurate map of runways across the world, with each runway angled in the exact direction it is in real life. As it turns out, the two phenomenons are synonymous, because runways actually point in the same direction as the wind. Why? Aircrafts take off and land better from upwind, so air doesn't tip the plane left or right.

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