Earth Science

The Chesapeake Bay Virtual Ecosystem Model: Interacting with a Coupled Bio-Physical Simulation

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, supports a complex, highly productive ecosystem and serves as nursery or spawning area for many commercially important aquatic species. Local environmental conditions and circulation patterns, which are strongly forced by physical processes such as winds, tides and freshwater discharge, strongly regulate the distribution and population dynamics of organisms within the Bay. The challenge in attempting to numerically predict these biological distributions and the behavior of other ecosystem components arises from the varied spatial distribution of the biological variables, the disparate space and time scales of nonlinear coupling between these variables, their response to physical forcing, and changes in animal behavior such as vertical migration.

The researchers are developing a modeling framework that integrates hydrodynamic circulation models and various biological models with the computer visualization paradigm of the virtual world to investigate coupled linkages between physics, biology, and societal pressures within the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Their results show how environmental forcing affects the flow in the Chesapeake Bay and also demonstrate how biological distributions change in response to the circulation in the Bay.


Glen H. Wheless, Cathy M. Lascara, Arnoldo Valle-Levinson, Old Dominion University, Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography
Donald P. Brutzman, Naval Postgraduate School
Bill Sherman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NCSA


Funding from NSF OCE-9416748, NOAA-Sea Grant NA56RG0849, and Old Dominion University Center's for Coastal Physical Oceanography. Thanks to Bill Hibbard and Brian Paul at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center for linking Vis5D with the virtual environment.


Glen H. Wheless
Old Dominion University
768 Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography
52nd St.
Norfolk, VA 23529

Cooperative Coordinated Monitoring Program for San Diego Bay

Although there are a number of components to this work, the central focus of this effort is the development of a visual, 3D model of San Diego Bay based on data contributed by each of the organizations with data collection programs. The visual model is the user interface for the Bay panel to facilitate understanding of the complex physical, biological, and chemical processes at work in the Bay. By centralizing the data at the San Diego Supercomputer Center it is possible to correlate these different kinds of data in both space and time and to present the data in a visual form resulting in a more complete picture of what is and what is not known about the Bay as well as to monitor the success or failure of policy decisions over time.


John Helly, Todd Elvins, Richard Marciano, John Moreland, Max Pazirandeh, John Truong, Rob Russ, and Dema Zlotkin, San Diego Supercomputer Center


San Diego Bay Interagency Water Quality Panel, Port of San Diego, U.S. Navy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California Sea Grant Program, and National Science Foundation.


John Helly
San Diego Supercomputer Center
P.O. Box 85608
San Diego, CA 92186-9784

Exploring Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Models Using Vis5D and VisAD

The visualization shows a 100-year-long simulation of the atmosphere/ocean system produced from a collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin. The joint project is studying atmosphere/ocean coupling dynamics in order to understand the intrinsic low-frequency variability of the climate. This understanding is crucial for predicting and detecting human impacts on the Earth's climate.

Using interactive visualization, one can visually compare various physical fields in the 3D space occupied by the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, and their time dynamics can be examined at coarse or fine time resolutions. Interactivity is essential because it allows scientists to choose which combinations of fields to view and at what spatial and temporal locations and scales, based on data content.


Bill Hibbard, John Anderson, Brian Paul, Rob Jacob, and Mary Tyree, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Space Science and Engineering Center
Ian Foster, Argonne National Laboratory


Supported by the Department of Energy CHAMMP program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency under Cooperative Agreement NCR-8919038 with the Corporation for National Research Initiatives.


Bill Hibbard
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Space Science and Engineering Center
1225 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53706

Interactive Ocean Modeling and Visualization

To improve scientists' understanding of what controls the ocean current patterns in the Sea of Japan, the researchers are simulating flow with a computer model of the ocean running on a remote supercomputer and graphically displaying the results in real time at a scientist's desktop. The researcher interactively controls key parameters (such as the strength of the winds, for which exact measured values do not exist) in order to produce a simulation that best reproduces known features about the circulation in this region.

Ocean circulation and ocean thermal and density structures are inherently 3D, time-dependent phenomena. Scientific insight is quantitatively and qualitatively improved by being able to visualize such datasets and computer simulation experiments in a true 3D, time-dependent, and interactive environment.


Steve Aukstakalnis, Billy Couvillion, Kelly Gaither, Robert Moorhead, Scott Nations, and Rhonda Vickery, Engineering Research Center
Peter Flynn, Daniel N. Fox, Ole Martin Smedstad, and Alan Wallcraft, Naval Research Laboratory
Dan Williams, Naval Oceanographic Office


Advanced Research Projects Agency; Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program; Office of Naval Research; Silicon Graphics, Inc.; Naval Oceanographic Office; and the GeoSphere Project.


Daniel N. Fox
Naval Research Laboratory, Code 7323
Bldg. 1103, Rm. 238F
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529

Interactive Simulation of Contaminant Evolution Through Porous Media

To understand and preserve our water resources, it is important to model the motion of water, air, and contaminants such as oil or benzene through the Earth into the water table. Modeling the physics and chemistry underlying these problems involves capturing on a scale such as centimeters or meters the effects of several fluids flowing through tiny pores and cracks that are smaller than a millimeter. A nominal model might describe the motion of water, air, and oil through a cube of Earth measuring ten meters on each side. Inside this cube, the soil might have different compositions varying from topsoil to clay to sandstone. By approximating the physical model on a supercomputer, scientists and engineers have a tool by which they can investigate, anticipate, and design methods of controlling the spread of contaminants into the ground.

Using this virtual reality porous media simulation, scientists and engineers can visualize contaminant and water saturations together with soil permeabilities in three dimensions. Investigators can add wells to extract contaminants and air lines to modify subsurface pressures to test the efficacy of different recovery methods.


Jon Goldman and Rob Stevenson, University of Illinois at Chicago, Electronic Visualization Laboratory
Louis Rossi, Northwestern University, Departments of Applied Mathematics and Engineering Sciences and Mechanical Engineering
George Sohos, Enviro Engineering, Inc.


Supported by National Science Foundation grant DMS-9407660.


Louis F. Rossi
Northwestern University
Department of Applied Mathematics and Engineering Sciences
2145 Sheridan Rd.
Evanston, IL 60208-3125


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The National Center for Supercomputing Applications
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Last modified: April 4, 1997