CISL Contributes New Animation to NOAA’s Science on a Sphere

By Marijke Unger
06/03/2015 - 12:00am

CISL’s Scientific Visualization Services Group (SVSG) recently partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to enhance one of NOAA’s premier science education tools for explaining Earth System science to people of all backgrounds and ages, known as Science on a Sphere (SOS).

Matt Rehme with his animation displayed on SOS
Photo courtesy Tim Scheitlin.

Matt Rehme, Software Engineer in CISL’s Scientific Visualization Services Group, pictured with NOAA’s Science on a Sphere educational tool. The sphere, featuring Rehme’s newly added animation from a data set portraying the 1997-1999 El Niño/La Niña event, was recently on display at NCAR’s Center Green campus.

SOS is a global display system that uses computers and projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot-diameter sphere, essentially bringing a globe to life using animations of Earth System processes and human interactions with the system. Matt Rehme, a software engineer in SVSG, produced an animation of the 1997-1999 El Niño/La Niña event that could be projected on the sphere.

“The animation is based on NOAA data, and it was originally intended for showing in the VisLab,” says Rehme. “After attending Science on a Sphere training, it looked promising as an animation they could use. It was several months of work for the original animation, and a few more weeks to tailor it for SOS.” This was Rehme’s first visualization project at NCAR. The 1997-1999 El Niño/La Niña event was the largest ever recorded, with a particularly strong La Niña. The data set for the animation consists of observed data at ¼-degree resolution. Any large-scale events that occur in the near future could quickly be added and animated in this format.

“Our goal is to keep updating El Niño visualizations that we can use in the VisLab and also submit them to the NOAA SOS library as these climate events unfold,” said Rehme. “Once in the library, the animation can be projected on any of the spheres deployed around the world.”

Rehme, who just obtained his MS in bioinformatics from Johns Hopkins University in May, is excited about future possibilities for this technology and other opportunities for collaboration with NOAA’s SOS program.

SOS installations currently span the entire globe and can be found in museums, libraries, educational institutions, and science learning venues in over 20 countries, with 64 installations in the United States.