Capturing the dance of the earth: PolarGlobe: Real-time scientific visualization of vector field data to support climate science

Sizhe Wang, Wenwen Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This paper introduces a streamline visualization technique that empowers PolarGlobe, an interactive, virtual globe-based, multi-dimensional scientific visualization tool to facilitate the observation and visual inspection of changes in the climate in real time. Specifically, this technique achieves effective visualization of vector-based earth science data through an automated data processing pipeline which integrates novel strategies including random seeding, finer-granularity parallelization and real-time rendering. The random seeding strategy allows for a vivid visual effect and an interactive framerate regardless of the spatial resolution in the raw dataset. The visualization algorithm is designed to be naturally parallelizable by partitioning the rendering tasks of unsteady vector field into multiple subtasks such that high-performance rendering can be realized. The platform is capable of taking either irregular or regular gridded data as input, and through the proposed data (re)projection pipeline, an automatic transformation of spatially enabled scientific data from the original data projection to the 3D globe-based virtual space is achieved. A series of experiments was conducted to identify the best configuration of rendering parameters to achieve the optimal rendering performance and visual effect. The results demonstrated the scalability and capability of the proposed PolarGlobe system to visualize big and unsteady vector flow data across different spatial and temporal scales. PolarGlobe implements former Vice President Al Gore's vision of a digital earth that enables scientists and citizens across the world to interactively study our planet. We expect the methods and techniques presented in this work to contribute significantly to both the scientific visualization and climate science communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101352
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Big data
  • Climate change
  • PolarGlobe
  • Streamline visualization
  • Virtual globe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modeling
  • General Environmental Science
  • Urban Studies


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