PolarGlobe: A web-wide virtual globe system for visualizing multidimensional, time-varying, big climate data

WenWen Li, Sizhe Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The increasing research interest in global climate change and the rise of the public awareness have generated a significant demand for new tools to support effective visualization of big climate data in a cyber environment such that anyone from any location with an Internet connection and a web browser can easily view and comprehend the data. In response to the demand, this paper introduces a new web-based platform for visualizing multidimensional, time-varying climate data on a virtual globe. The web-based platform is built upon a virtual globe system Cesium, which is open-source, highly extendable and capable of being easily integrated into a web environment. The emerging WebGL technique is adapted to support interactive rendering of 3D graphics with hardware graphics acceleration. To address the challenges of transmitting and visualizing voluminous, complex climate data over the Internet to support real-time visualization, we develop a stream encoding and transmission strategy based on video-compression techniques. This strategy allows dynamic provision of scientific data in different precisions to balance the needs for scientific analysis and visualization cost. Approaches to represent, encode and decode processed data are also introduced in detail to show the operational workflow. Finally, we conduct several experiments to demonstrate the performance of the proposed strategy under different network conditions. A prototype, PolarGlobe, has been developed to visualize climate data in the Arctic regions from multiple angles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1562-1582
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2017


  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • big data
  • geovisualization
  • multidimensional visualization
  • scientific visualization
  • video stream compression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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