Researchers at City University London's giCentre [city.ac.uk]have developed a new interactive visualization tool which visually analyzes centuries of global storm activity in order to support insurers assess the financial impact of atmospheric risk and the effect of climate change on it. This work was honored with the Discovery Award at the IEEE VisWeek 2010
The climate modellers' initial requirement was for a tool that could produce animated video clips of the simulated tracks to accompany presentations given to wider audiences in science and the insurance industry. However, as the tool was being developed, the exploratory research potential was quickly recognized by the climate modellers.
The interactive tool consists of a zoomable world map, upon which storm tracks are displayed within an adjustable temporal window. A track's thickness indicates windspeed. Transparency relates to age relative to the temporal window (tracks fade over time). Details of the time, temporal window and atmospheric level are displayed at the top and bottom of the screen.
Using the tool to 'play' through the storm database helped the modellers assess the spatial and temporal storm generation process. By narrowing the temporal window and reducing the playback speed, one can observe the co-genesis and co-evolution of individual tracks. The tool also allowed the modellers to unearth deviation from expected patterns. This is difficult to study using standard analysis tools because of the a priori assumptions that, by their very nature, often relate to what we expect. For example, 1980 saw a very busy season in the Atlantic, but the storms occurred much later in the season (October to December) than the expected most active period (August and October). This is related to the different atmospheric conditions of these years, which once the periods have been established, could be investigated further using standard tools.
Watch a documentary video below.