Not all visualizations are created equal. Some stand out for their elegance in conveying information efficiently. Others are outstanding for the beauty they achieve without abandoning the goal of conveying information.
The Perpetual Ocean visualization, which we are featuring as this week's visual, falls squarely in the latter category. Created by NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio, Perpetual Ocean shows ocean surface currents around the world for the period between 2005 and 2007. Unlike many visualizations, it omits narration and annotation; instead the creators focused on creating a "simple, visceral experience."
This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2. ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans. ECCO2 provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.
—The Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio's website.
The effect is nothing short of mesmerizing.