Provide advanced visualization services

CISL develops tools, software, and Big Data services to help scientists better understand and communicate scientific findings to their peers, stakeholders, and the general public. In particular, CISL staff work closely with individual scientists to develop engaging and informative visualizations that are used for research, scientific briefings, presentations at conferences, publication, and outreach to NCAR visitors. Additionally, CISL regularly explores new technologies and visualization techniques to examine how they can be applied to advance geoscience research and E&O opportunities.

Stratospheric sulfate aerosols
This image shows the global dispersion of sulfate aerosols that result from continuous sulfur injections into the stratosphere, derived from simulations performed for a climate engineering project led by Jadwiga Richter (CGD) and Simone Tilmes (CGD). The visualization demonstrates how sulfate aerosols are distributed with time in the upper Earth’s atmosphere, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming. Computer simulations like this allow us to conduct climate engineering experiments that cannot be done in the real world. —Visualization by Matt Rehme (CISL).


CISL offers a portfolio of visualization resources including CISL-developed visualization tools – such as the NCAR Command Language (NCL) and VAPOR – as well as other state-of-the-art third party visualization systems that are leveraged to create efficient workflows and customized visualizations to meet the Big Data visualization needs of the researcher. Earth System science is advanced and research productivity is enhanced by this service that helps researchers create informative and educational visualizations for which they may not have the time, skills, or tools to develop.

Examples of visualization services provided to the scientific community in FY2016:

  • Geoengineering visualization provided to Jadwiga Richter (CGD) and Simone Tilmes (CGD) for presentation to the director and deputy director of the Defense Science Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to summarize results of a seedling project and to propose a future effort on climate intervention research.

  • CESM visualization of Justin Small’s (CGD) sea surface height and latent heat flux correlations for a seminar presentation.

  • CESM temperature anomaly visualization for Warren Washington (CGD) that compares 2012 and 2090 global anomalies and was submitted to Argonne for inclusion in their Supercomputing Conference (SC2015) booth.

  • A series of climate change visualizations for Clara Deser (CGD) and Marty Quinn (Plymouth University) as part of an interactive educational exhibit that uses sound and visualization to interpret climate change.

  • Flight path visualization of the ORCAS field project for Matthew Long (EOL) and Britton Stephens (EOL).

  • A series of visualizations showcasing flow dynamics of the CT-ROMS model, which describes the interconnectivity of coral reefs in the western Pacific that suffered an unprecedented bleaching event in 2016. The model is developed and researched by CGD under researchers Joanie Kleypas, Frederic Castruccio, and Dianne Thompson. Work was accepted into to the XSEDE 2016 showcase and featured in a news article by Science Node.

Other FY2016 visualization and collaboration research and advancements include:

  • Implemented virtual and augmented reality apps to make geoscience data more engaging and accessible to the general public.

  • Developed new Autodesk Maya routines for improving runtime efficiencies and volume-rendering capabilities of high-resolution scientific data.

  • Installed and tested the Scalable Amplified Group Environment (SAGE2) tool with the University of Wyoming Shell Visualization Center for conducting collaborative research to enable distributed scientific teams to work together more effectively.

This project is supported by NSF Core funds with supplemental funding provided by NCAR’s Climate and Global Dynamics (CGD) laboratory.