Turning scientific data into 3D animated videos for ECMWF

Credit: ECMWF

For ECMWF we have produced 3D animations illustrating the evolution of ozone in our atmosphere in 2017 and 2018. The animations have been shared across its social media channels and throughout its network.

We were commissioned to take real scientific data and turn it into a 3D animated video to visualise the ozone hole over time. The process involved the use of NetCDF (Network Common Data Form) files from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. NetCDF files handle scientific data arrays, which contain datasets grouped by type of product (analysis or forecast), level type (surface parameter, pressure level or model level), by step or forecast range and by parameter. For our visualisation purposes we extracted only the GMES Ozone (go3) pressure level and GEMS total column ozone (gtco3) parameters. A total of 25 layers of ozone data were contained within each NetCDF file.

An in-house developed Python script allowed us to process the NetCDF files. This allowed us to generate an alpha and a coloured image. The 25 layers of ozone data were then mapped to a 3D model of Earth.

In order to create the animation we used NetCDF files that were processed in 6-hour intervals, which resulted 4 frames per day. For the entire period 07.07.2018 – 02.01.2019, a total of 728 data sets were processed to generate the final 57-minute animation. We added a counter on each frame to illustrate the date during that year so that the time period of the ozone hole occurring could be visualised accurately.

We successfully created the first 3D animation for 2017 (below), which tested the process of 3D visualising real NetCDF data files as described. This process was then used to create a 2018 version on a weekly basis, demonstrating the current actual evolution of ozone in our atmosphere. The resulting animations have been received positively by ECMWF and have been shared across its network.

  • Animations