Researchers Bill Ribarsky left and Zachary Wartell run a 3-D
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Researchers Bill Ribarsky (left) and Zachary Wartell run a 3-D visualization system and view it

May 28, 2010
Researchers Bill Ribarsky (left) and Zachary Wartell run a 3-D visualization system and view it on a large-screen projection platform called the Virtual Workbench. The PC-based system will ultimately work in real time. Severe weather forecasting may be improved by the 3-D visualization system, under development by researchers in the Georgia Tech College of Computing and Georgia Tech Research Institution. [One of two related images. See Next Image.]

More about this Image Researchers led by the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a real-time, 3-D visualization system to help severe weather scientists improve the timeliness and accuracy of forecasting the formation, path and possible effects of storms.

Weather researchers will use personal computers and large-screen projections to view, question and analyze large observational data sets, including information from radar stations, severe weather detection software, high-resolution weather models, geographic information systems, satellites and aerial photography.

In addition to providing weather information, these sources will also provide data on terrain, building locations and human activities, such as rush-hour traffic. This information will be merged in a platform called the Virtual Geographic Information System (VGIS), which was developed by the project's lead researchers. Weather researchers will use the visualization system to improve storm detection software used by forecasters and the National Weather Service may eventually use the system to help them determine whether to issue watches and warnings. The system may also help forecasters accurately predict general areas of severe weather up to six hours in advance, giving emergency services personnel more time to prepare for response and residents more time to evacuate, if necessary.

An initial version of the system has already begun to receive north Georgia radar data via the Severe Storms Research Center at Georgia Tech, which gets its feed from the National Weather Service. Ultimately, predictions integrated with the visualization system could save lives, reduce injuries and save billions of dollars in lost products, equipment and time.

The visualization system is a collaborative project funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Georgia Tech and the University of Oklahoma's Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Initial prototype work was accomplished under funding from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Tech Severe Storms Research Center (SSRC). The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Oklahoma, is testing and evaluating the system, and also inserting the system's decision-support tools into NSSL severe weather detection software. (Year of image: 2001)

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