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Thinking Out of the Flat Box: Software Renders Earth's Atmosphere in 3d Splendor


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A a time-lapse view of easterly (blue) and westerly (red) winds circling the Earth.

The pv-atmos software package enables users of the ParaView program for visualizing data to create correctly proportioned 3D models of atmospheric data.

Credit: Martin Jucker, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Princeton University scientist Martin Jucker has developed pv_atmos, a free software package for use with ParaView, a popular open source program for visualizing scientific data that calculates the true spatial dimensions and curvature of Earth's atmosphere. Jucker's program enables users to create spherical and correctly proportioned three-dimensional (3D) models of atmospheric data.

"I want to model the stratosphere, but I also want to model what's happening on the ground. I needed something that shows me both," he says. "The models are much more real to people if they see the atmosphere as it really looks instead of as a flat box."

Jucker has used the software to create several 3D images and films based on atmospheric data. "It's helped me show people work that might not have been as interesting or understandable when presented as a flat box," he says.

He notes the open source software is similar to a perpetual group project that is never finished as long as users see room for improvement. "What I'm hoping for is that people around the world will start adding to it," Jucker says.

From Princeton University
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