Earth Observation Science for Society

Planetary Visions is producing a series of animations combining computer graphics with data visualisation for the European Space Agency, helping to explain to the public how satellites are revealing new scientific knowledge about the Earth.
Hurricane-force winds can now be measured from space using microwave emissions detected by ESA's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite (SMOS). To show the processes involved we simulated the development of ocean waves during a tropical storm before visualising three months of hourly wind speed data from the 2015 hurricane season.
ESA's Earth System Data Lab is a novel data analysis tool and data collection enabling the exploration of complex interactions between the different components of the Earth system. Here the computer graphics task was to explain the concepts involved, linking observed and modelled data through temporal and multivariate 'datacubes', anomaly analysis and data fusion into an extreme event data cloud highlighting the spatial and temporal extent of the 2010 Russian heatwave.
Ice loss in Antarctica is explored in several visualisations of data from ESA's GOCE and CryoSat missions, including ice mass loss from the catchment areas of major glaciers (left) and melting focused by ocean currents into channels on the underside of a floating ice shelf (right).

Planetary Visions has so far produced seventeen animations for ESA's Science for Society and Support to Science Element (STSE) programmes, working closely with science teams in universities and research centres across Europe. Many of these have been picked up by major broadcast, print and digital news outlets.