An Approach to a Visual Language for Convective Fluid Flows: Visualization of Geophysical Simulations

R. Zia, D. A. Yuen, T. A. Cortese, A. P. Vincent, S. Balachandar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It was known that deep within numbers and binary data from simulations of geophysical convective flows resided various patterns. Two models of convective fluid flows were being considered. One was a model of two-dimensional (768×256) air convection with finite Prandtl number of one and Rayleigh number of 108-106 , and another was a model of three-dimensional (up to 120×120×90) mantle convection with infinite Prandtl number and Rayleigh number of 106-108. Clearly, phenomena existed which superceded each individual dimensionless computer model to provide a piece of information regarding actual fluid flows. The problem was how to find, prove, and communicate these patterns and phenomena for convection simulations with gigabytes of data. In a search for such an analytical and communicative tool, the alternative of visualization was considered. The need for visualization was recognized and discussed. Then, utilizing both two- and three-dimensional models of high Rayleigh number convection, basic techniques of style and content were developed. Applications of the visualization techniques were designed utilizing IBM's Data Explorer in order to create communicative images and movies, and after the applications, the problems of data storage and transfer became apparent. Throughout the process though, it became clear how important the language of vision actually could be in the geophysics community. In a field in which words such as "plumes" and "internal waves" have in ways replaced mathematics as the basic language for science, there is a need for another resource, another language-the visualization of convective fluid flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalElectronic Geosciences
StatePublished - 1998


  • Convection
  • Geophysics
  • Language
  • Numerical modelling
  • Visualization

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