The eye of the storm | National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois

The eye of the storm

09.09.11 -

What does a monster hurricane look like as it develops? NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) will show you.

The AVL team created a dramatic new visualization of 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina. A hurricane research team at the Earth System Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, 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 NCAR yielded terabytes of data, which the AVL team then transformed into a striking animation of the 36-hour period when the storm is gaining energy over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and heading for New Orleans.

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.

Ultimately the Katrina visualization will be part of a planetarium dome show called "Dynamic Earth" that is slated to debut later this year. "Dynamic Earth" will use visualizations based on satellite monitoring data and advanced supercomputer simulations to explore the workings of Earth's climate, following a trail of energy that flows from the sun into the atmosphere, oceans, and the biosphere. In addition to the Katrina sequence, NCSA's AVL team is also contributing a flight to the surface of Venus and several other astrophysics scenes to the "Dynamic Earth" production.

View an excerpt of the Hurricane Katrina visualization at: avl.ncsa.illinois.edu.

NCSA AVL contributors
Donna Cox
Robert Patterson
Stuart Levy
Alex Betts
Matthew Hall

NCAR team members
Wei Wang
Ryan Torn
Jimy Dudhia
Chris Davis