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Visualizations show Hurricane Katrina gaining power

Work by NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Laboratory on view at dome festivals

Data-driven visualizations of 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina that were created by the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at NCSA are currently being shown at dome festivals in the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Portugal.

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.

Ultimately the Katrina visualization will be part of a planetarium dome show called “Dynamic Earth” that is slated to debut this summer.

“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.

NCSA team members
Donna Cox
Robert Patterson
Stuart Levy
Alex Betts
Matthew Hall

NCAR team members
Wei Wang
Ryan Torn
Jimy Dudhia
Chris Davis

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