As part of a new planetarium show called “Dynamic Earth”, the NCSA working with NCAR to visualize terabytes of data related to the devastating Katrina hurricane. The result is this beautiful, if not a bit scary, visualization of one of the worst hurricanes to land on US shores.
A hurricane research team at the Earth System Laboratory, led by Wei Wang, computed the evolution of the storm using a complex numerical weather prediction model. Running this mathematical model on the Bluefire supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research yielded terabytes of data, which AVL then transformed into a striking animation of the 36-hour period when the storm is gaining energy over the warm ocean. Volume-rendered clouds show abundant moisture. Trajectories follow moist air rising into intense “hot tower” thunderstorms and trace strong winds around the eye wall; rapidly rising air is yellow, while sinking air is blue. The sun, moon, and stars show the passing of time.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is getting ready for a big new IBM iDataPlex system named “YellowStone” that will give them 1.6 Petaflop of HPC goodness along with 149.2 TB of RAM across 74,592 Intel cores (with Sandy Bridge). Press releases like these come regularly, but this one actually makes note of how they plan to manage the massive amounts of simulation data coming from the system. They’ve setup a dedicated 17PetaByte filesystem shared between YellowStone and a pair of dedicated Analysis & Visualization systems.
The DAV resource is made up of two systems, one designed to facilitate large-scale data analysis, and the other for parallel processing and visualization activities. Taken together, these components will dramatically improve capabilities central to NCAR’s mission, such as climate modeling, forecasting, and preservation of critical research data. The NWSC will serve researchers across the United States and around the world who will interact with its systems remotely.
Nice to see the visualization aspect in the same press release as the computational announcement. Apparently we have their director to thank for some of this:
CISL director Al Kellie emphasizes the importance of the integrated computing resource, explaining that what makes this system exceptional for geoscience research is the linking of a very large centralized file and data storage system to a high-performance computational cluster and visualization resource. “While we wanted to make sure we had adequate computing capacity, we knew that it would be of limited use if we didn’t ensure easy access to the data and appropriate resources for storing and analyzing it,” Kellie says. “In addition to high-performance machines, researchers need quick access to their data and a way to analyze it, to see what it means. This system addresses those needs elegantly.”
As the Deepwater Horizon continues to spill oil out into the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s best efforts still a few months away from completely stopping the flow, several people are asking “Just how far will the oil slick grow?” Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have run some of their best models to find out just that.
The animation is based on a computer model simulation, using a virtual dye, that assumes weather and current conditions similar to those that occur in a typical year. It is one of a set of six scenarios released today that simulate possible pathways the oil might take under a variety of oceanic conditions. Each of the six scenarios shows the same overall movement of oil through the Gulf to the Atlantic and up the East Coast. However, the timing and fine-scale details differ, depending on the details of the ocean currents in the Gulf.
The animation above is just one of six runs, the other 5 of which you can see here.
I feel it only prudent to specifically point out these two sentences in the article:
The dye tracer used in the model has no actual physical resemblance to true oil. Unlike oil, the dye has the same density as the surrounding water, does not coagulate or form slicks, and is not subject to chemical breakdown by bacteria or other forces.
“We have been asked if and when remnants of the spill could reach the European coastlines,” says Martin Visbeck, a member of the research team with IFM-GEOMAR, University of Kiel, Germany. “Our assumption is that the enormous lateral mixing in the ocean together with the biological disintegration of the oil should reduce the pollution to levels below harmful concentrations. But we would like to have this backed up by numbers from some of the best ocean models.”
For all of you visualization scientists out there, NCAR has just released version 1.5.2 of their multiresolution analysis tool VAPOR. In addition to several bug fixes, they’ve added a few new features:
Improved support for transparency
VAPOR now provides limited support for display of semi-transparent surfaces. Multiple two-dimensional semi-transparent surfaces (Probe, 2DData, and Image) will correctly display in a scene provided:
The surfaces do not intersect each other
All the surfaces do intersect the line from the camera to the scene rotation center
This capability enables users to apply multiple images upon a terrain surface image (e.g. political boundaries, rivers, etc.) by positioning the partially transparent surfaces slightly above the terrain image. If there are additional semi-transparent shapes in the scene (volume rendering, isosurface, flow lines) they may not render correctly. Best results are obtained by keeping semitransparent objects separated from one another and in the center of the view.
Improved diagnostics for OpenGL and for application startup. If the user sets the VAPOR_DEBUG variable, the console will report more extensive information about the graphics capabilities and the initial progress of the application. This can be useful in understanding many VAPOR failures. On Windows, these messages are reported to the log file.
Freely downloadable at their site, it’s a very powerful tool for visualizing multiresolution or structured data, used a lot in atmospheric work.
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