Mississippi RiverWebSM Museum Consortium

University of Illinois logo
GMSlab logo
Geographic Modeling
Systems Laboratory

Funded by the

NCSA logo National Center for
Supercomputing Applications

Scientific Visualization

Fundamental to the quality of the visitor experience with the DRB is its high level of interactivity. For example, in the console visitors can not only view a visual scene of the river stretch but can also navigate through it, whereupon the scene changes quickly in keeping with to their altered location and point of view. In both the console and the common display dynamic processes such as flow are also represented to the visitor graphically.

All this requires scientific visualization in which advanced computer graphics software and techniques are used to turn the underlying data into imagery that can be readily comprehended by visitors. High interactivity requires that rendering and graphical display of the data be done in real time to ensure rapid and appropriate feedback to the visitor. This places considerable demands on DRB hardware and software, but the data preparation and programming to support it poses a yet greater technical challenge.

Wireframe rendering
To meet this challenge, the NSCA-GMSlab technical team employed advanced interactive data visualization, virtual reality, and graphics modeling technologies, particularly Open GL Performer software (for Linux) in conjunction with CAVE™ libraries.
A wireframe rendering of the riverbasin at St. Paul, MN.

Visualizations of river basin landscapes – the channel and adjoining floodplain -- were derived from a variety of external public data sources.
Fully rendered scene

he same scene fully rendered with textures.
Circular objects denote rainfall drops color coded according to the type of landcover they are falling onto.

Simulated channel flow and raindrops Graphics modeling was undertaken to represent landscape and cultural features such as trees, the river pilot simulator, buildings, and bridges, as well as icons (billboards) that draw visitor attention to points of interest. The data to visualize river basin dynamics were derived from numerical simulations based on scientific models.
Flow visualization. Vectors denote direction and rate of flow.

© 2003 University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Last modified: July 10, 2003