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Colin Ware is leading a multi-faceted flow visualization project at CCOM. It is aimed at producing both optimized static 2D images of flow patterns and highly interactive 2D and 3D flow visualization tools. Currently, other participants include Daniel Pineo who is investigating perceptual theories relating to flow visualization through a computational model, Matt Plumlee who is working on optimal weather displays, and David Pilar who is developing a better alternative to the wind barb glyph. (Click on the images to see larger versions.)



Flow Touch 3D

Flow Touch 3D is an interactive visualization system for visualizing ocean forecast model data. It combines a multi-touch screen with a stereoscopic display and can be used to understand the effects of pollutant release or in submersible mission planning. This tool gives the user the ability to simultaneously focus on flow patterns at any depth range, while preserving the context of how those patterns relate to the rest of the model. Interactive virtual dye release devices support the exploration of particular flow structures.

Butkiewicz, T., 2012, Exploring Ocean Flow Models with a Multitouch 3D Interface, Sea Technology. p. 44-46.

FlowVis2D Preview  

Optimized Flow Visualization

A major research goal of the vislab is to be able to produce reliably high quality visualizations of flow data. This visualization of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico appear on the NOAA NOS Office of Coast Survey's nowCOAST GIS-based web-mapping portal. It is generated by the FlowVis2D software package that has come out of this research.

Mitchell, P., Ware, C. and Kelley, J., 2009, Designing Flow Visualizations for Oceanography and Meteorology using Interactive Design Space Hill Climbing, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics.

Wind Capture Preview  

A Better Weather Display

One of our current projects is aimed at producing a legible weather display that can simultaneously show wind speed and direction, temperature, and atmospheric pressure in a way that is both legible and which shows overall patterns well. This uses different perceptual channels for the different kinds of information. Color for temperature, texture for pressure, and animate streaklets for wind direction. We will shortly be carrying out an empirical evaluation to compare with other methods. This relies on a GPU implementation by Matt Plumlee based on a design by Colin Ware. Learn more here>>

Perceptual theory preview  


We are developing a perceptual theory of effective flow visualization (Pineo and Ware, 2010; Pineo and Ware, 2008). In our most recent work, this involves a computational model of the primary visual cortex of the brain (V1). This is used to evaluate which flow representations are likely to best take advantage of the human brain’s contour finding mechanisms. The image on the right shows a flow visualization (lower left) as it is processed by the model.

Pineo, D., and Ware, C. (2010) Data Visualization Optimization Computational Modeling of Perception, ACM Transactions on Applied Perception. 7(3).

Global Flow preview  

Global Ocean Flow Patterns

In collaboration with NOAA, Northern Lights and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Colin Ware developed this visualization of global Ocean Flow Patterns. It appears animated and wrapped around the globe on the Science on a Sphere exhibit that is part of the newly renovated Sant Oceans Hall at the Museum in Washington, DC.

See a video of Global Ocean Flow Patterns.

Touch the Water preview  

Touch the Water

A museum exhibit the SeaCoast Science Center. Using a touch screen participants can learn about currents and tides in the Piscataqua. Touching the water deposits tens of thousands of particles in the flow. [With Ata Bilgili, Dartmouth]

SigmaView Preview  


A 3D visualizer for sigma coordinate flow models. Virtual dyepots and cutting planes can be interactively placed.

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FlowVis3D Preview  


A 3D visualizer for gridded atmospheric and ocean models. Handles nested GRIB data from NCEP hurricane forecasts.



  1. Pineo, D. and Ware, C. (2010) Neural Modeling of Flow Rendering Effectiveness. ACM Transactions on Applied Perception. 7(3).

  2. Ware, C. (2008) Towards a perceptual theory of flow visualization. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. 28 (2),6-11.

  3. Mitchell, P., Ware, C. and Kelley, J. (2009) Designing Flow Visualizations for Oceanography and Meteorology using Interactive Design Space Hill Climbing. Proceedings, IEEE SMC.

  4. Ware, C. (2006) 3D Contour Perception for Flow Visualization. Proceedings, ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization (APGV). 1101-106.

  5. Fowler, D. and Ware, C. (1989) Strokes for Representing Univariate Vector Field Maps. Graphics Interface Proceedings, 249-253.


CCOM-JHC Logo   The VisLab is part of the Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center
at the University of New Hampshire
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