October 1, 2018
PolarGlobe is a large-scale, web-based four-dimensional visualization tool allowing climate data access to anyone with an internet connection. It’s capable of illustrating changes in the atmosphere vividly in real time. This tool was developed by Wenwen Li, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.
Designed specifically for polar scientists seeking to understand the ice caps, the tool is also useful for high school science teachers and weather fanatics.
“It’s not just for research. Every day, weather watchers can see what’s going on,” said Li, who is also an associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “We would love to inspire the next generation into science.”
Climate data in itself is simply massive. There’s data pouring in every day from weather stations, remote sensors, balloons, planes and observers. There’s air temperature, air pressure, ocean temperatures and wind data. Both atmosphere and ocean interact with terrain, creating more data.
“Climate data is multidimensional,” Li said. “It’s not just covering the earth’s surface. It also extends to space ... There is a huge amount of data about the earth being generated every moment. Traditionally when climate scientists analyze the data, they have to have dedicated software installed on their own computer and they have to do a layer base analysis.”
Analysis with partial data doesn’t give the full scope of what is a very big picture.
“If we just visualize a single piece of data, over a single dimension, in software, the amount of information we can see is very limited,” Li said. “The entire volume of data can be visualized on this virtual globe-based scientific visualization tool. The benefit of this is that it can be seen in action.”