Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Back from AGU

December 21st, 2010 by Robert Simmon

I got back from AGU last Saturday, picked up the pups from the kennel, and now I’m getting things together here so I can go on vacation right after Christmas.

Kumi and Jaya hunting at Oregon Ridge Park.

Visualizing dogs can be harder than visualizing data.

As always it’s an overwhelming conference—there’s probably 1,000 posters on the floor at any given time, and at least ten simultaneous sessions. I got some very good ideas wandering through the posters (a map of ice flow speed for all of Antarctica, research on a paleo lake in Kenya, and a global dataset of limiting factors for tree growth being highlights) that I’ll hopefully be working on in the New Year. Tuesday’s special session on communicating climate change was also worthwhile (and packed). I think both my talks went pretty well, even if I can’t pronounce Eyjafjallajökull—despite professional help from a native Icelandic speaker. One conclusion we came to in the visualization session: it would be helpful for AGU to start promoting good visualization techniques. I plan on following up on that, hopefully I’ll have more to say soon.

A few words of advice for poster presenters (I originally planned on showing some examples of good and bad design, but chickened out). White space is good: try not to jam your poster full of every last detail of your research. Do not use Comic Sans (avoid it on slides, too). Seriously. Your research may be groundbreaking, but it’s hard for me to take you seriously if you try to be cute. Especially since the new Microsoft typefaces that ship with Vista, Windows 7, and recent versions of Office are very, very good. Make your graphics big. Avoid the rainbow palette. (I’ll have more to say about this—a lot more—soon. It was a big part of my Eyjafjallajökull talk.) Print up a one-page summary to distribute. Include a conclusion, written for non-experts. Your poster will be up all day, you’ll only be there for an hour or two. Finally: if you can figure out a way to add multimedia, do it. Rolf Hut of the Delft University of Technology had an amazing, temperature-sensing interactive LED display:

Rolf Hut AGU poster.

Rolf Hut, Delft University of Technology, presents his poster at the 2010 Fall Agu.

Fall AGU Meeting December 12-17, 2010

December 7th, 2010 by Robert Simmon

If anyone is going to the AGU fall meeting in San Francisco and would like to know more about the Earth Observatory and/or data visualization, I’ll be giving two talks, both on Thursday the 16th:

The Communication Strategy of NASA’s Earth Observatory at 8:45 a.m. in session ED41D. Climate Change Adaptation: Education and Communication I.

Visualization Case Study: Eyjafjallajökull Ash at 1:55 p.m. in session ED43B. Visualization of Geophysical Processes for Science, Education, and Outreach II.

I’ll be there all week, so if you want to meet to chat (or know of any sessions you think I’d be interested in, or excellent restaurants), send a message to the “Design Feedback” topic on our contact page, and I’ll get back to you.

More Pyrotechnics from Kilauea

November 3rd, 2010 by Robert Simmon

In the process of researching captions I can run into some amazing stuff, like this photo (taken yesterday) of incandescent rocks arcing through the sky during the collapse of a lava bench near Kilauea:

Incandescent rocks fly through the air during a lava bench collapse along the Hawaiian coast.

© Leigh Hilbert Photography 2010.

The USGS explains: “lava can instantly transform seawater to steam, causing explosions that blasts hot rocks, water, and molten lava fragments into the air.” No kidding.

Leigh’s site, Hawaiian Lava Daily, has some of the best photos of Hawaii’s active lava flows I’ve ever seen. He also pointed me to this description and photo essay of the last moments of Gary Sleik’s house in Kapana Gardens—destroyed by lava in July—as well as a recent “wake” for the house. An intimate look at events that can appear quite impersonal from space.

Tropical Storm Danielle

October 15th, 2010 by Robert Simmon

Strong convection created these “hot towers” near the eye of Tropical Storm Danielle.

Tropical Storm Danielle.

Astronaut photograph ISS024-E-12954, taken August 30, 2010.

Photographs of Kilauea Lava Flows

October 5th, 2010 by Robert Simmon

I found these while researching the caption for a satellite image of lava flowing into the ocean on Hawaii’s Big Island. Large versions (and more photos) on the USGS Kilauea Images site.

Glowing lava visible through a skylight on the Pulama pali (steep hill/cliff), Hawaii.

Exploding lava at the Puhi-o-Kalaikini ocean entry.

Time Lapse of San Francisco Fog

October 1st, 2010 by Robert Simmon

A little bit off topic, but worth it. Time lapse photography of clouds & fog in the Bay Area. Watch to the end, it’s worth it. From the Mother Jones Blue Marble blog.

G. Projector

September 27th, 2010 by Robert Simmon

In the comments to my Natural Earth post Jim Meyer suggested I make copies of the global maps centered on the Poles. Rather than just making a few images I’ll mention G.Projector: the simplest map projection conversion software I know of. Developed by NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, it features 93 map projections, (assuming I didn’t lose count) decent customization options, and a good coastline database at multiple resolutions. Even better, it’s free.

The conversion process is straightforward: import an image in the equirectangualr map projection, pick a new projection, set options for coastlines and other overlays, then export. Very, very, simple (in contrast to many other remapping applications which seem to be written for people with GIS degrees). Here’s some examples:

North Pole, orthographic projection

North Pole, Orthographic Projection

North Pole, stereographic projection.

North Pole, stereographic projection to 45° North.

South Pole, stereographic projection.

South Pole, stereographic projection to 60° South.

Odds & Ends: Gulf Oil Spill

August 20th, 2010 by Robert Simmon

We sort through a lot of imagery at the Earth Observatory, and not all of it makes it onto the site. A picture might be cloudy, we might not be able to tell a good story about it, it’s not quite relevant, the quality might not be good enough, or—as in this case—we might find something after it’s no longer newsworthy. These three satellite images show oil slicks on the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion. All are from Landsat-5 in May and July. I found them earlier this month while looking for image ideas. (Click for large images.)

Gulf Oil Spill, July 12, 2010.

Oil sheen, July 12, 2010.

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, May 25, 2010.

Thick oil, May 25, 2010.

Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, May 9, 2010.

Oil sheen, May 9, 2010