VAPOR visualization software for very large datasets

The Visualization and Analysis Platform for Ocean, Atmosphere, and Solar Researchers (VAPOR) project is an open source software development effort aimed at improving the ability of researchers in the Earth System sciences to analyze and interpret results from some of the largest numerical simulation outputs. The genesis of this work was an NSF-ITR research grant that supported CISL as well as collaborators at the University of California at Davis and the Ohio State University. With subsequent support from the NSF, and the Korean Institute for Science and Technology Information (KISTI), VAPOR has transitioned from a research project into production, and it has become a strategic priority for CISL. Though VAPOR’s origins are strongly rooted in geophysical turbulence, more recent work on VAPOR has focused on expanding its capabilities to support the needs of the broader Earth System sciences community, particularly in the areas of numerical weather prediction, climate, and ocean modeling.

MPAS data reader
This image demonstrates VAPOR’s new MPAS data reader, developed in collaboration with DKRZ. With the pending release of VAPOR version 2.5, users of the MPAS-A and MPAS-O models will have the ability to interactively explore high-resolution MPAS outputs.

Development of VAPOR is closely guided by a steering committee comprised of Earth scientists from around the world that sets development priorities, dictates software requirements, and serves as friendly users for testing and evaluating new software features. VAPOR’s unique features include its use of a wavelet-based, progressive-access data model that permits exploration of some of the largest simulation outputs using only desktop computing resources – a feature set and user interface that is focused on the needs of the Earth System sciences community – and a strong emphasis on supporting quantitative data analysis.

The goals of the VAPOR project are strongly aligned with the cyberinfrastructure components of CISL’s strategic plan in the areas of:

  • Developing and supporting software infrastructure specific to the simulation, analysis, and forecasting needs of the atmospheric and related sciences.

  • Preparing for petascale computing by developing visualization and analysis capabilities in support of extremely large data sets.

VAPOR’s FY2015 efforts were focused on meeting the contractual obligations of grants from the Korea Institute of Science and Information Technology (KISTI) and the NSF, as well as on developing and enhancing core capabilities. The KISTI award funded the development of numerous enhancements to VAPOR’s suite of visualization tools such as support for OSGeo Tile Mapping Service high-resolution cartographic maps, improved contour and hedgehog plots, and stereoscopic rendering. With support from a two-year NSF SSI2 grant, the VAPOR version 3 refactoring efforts – which focus on third party extensibility and improved ease use – were significantly advanced. In particular, VAPOR’s wavelet-based data model was restructured to facilitate use by other communities (and is now the basis for bioimaging data analysis development efforts underway at UCSD’s Center for Scientific Computation in Imaging), and a working, limited-functionality prototype of the new GUI was completed. Other highlights include:

  • The number of registered VAPOR users worldwide has reached nearly 8,000, and VAPOR was cited by 13 scholarly journals to date in CY2015.

  • Development work was completed and version 2.5 of VAPOR was on track to be released in November 2015.

  • A fifth year of funding to support further enhancements was secured from KISTI.

  • A collaboration with DKRZ led to the development of data importers for the MPAS and ICON global models.

  • A visualization of LES data produced by NCAR was accepted into and shown at the XSEDE Visualization Showcase.

This project is supported by NSF Core funds, a subaward from the University of California at San Diego, 54067252, and KISTI grant C15012.