Programming Tools for
Visualization of GIS Data
Wednesday, March 5, 2003
CPSC601.82 –Advanced Algorithms in GIS and Scientific Applications
Introduction – Visualization in GIS
– Application Areas
Specific Problems in Application Areas
Survey of Programs and Programming Tools
Future of Visualization in GIS
Conclusion and Summary
Visualization in GIS deals with displaying
information regarding geographical data
Challenges include accuracy, integrity, and
Commercial and Specialty software and
programming tools exist that focus on
visualizing geographical information in
specific areas of GIS
General Challenges in GIS
Moving from photos/data to digital images
Displaying such information in a way that
Manipulating data easily
Creating databases of GIS information that
Level of detail (coarse vs. fine-grain)
The area of GIS focuses on specific areas
that require specialized visualization
The areas we will focus on today include:
1. Geological Information (Oil, Gas, Mining)
2. Climate Information (Weather Prediction)
3. Residential Information (Maps)
This area specializes in visualization
This includes minerals, precious metals, oil
and gas deposits.
Courtesy of: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/gsc/calgary/labs/geologic1_e.html
Challenges in Geo Visualization
Geological Visualization attempts to
abstract information regarding the earth’s
strata from surface information
Problems in Visualization deal with:
– Volume representation (e.g. mountains)
– Layer representation (boundaries)
– Accuracy (from picture to digital images)
Many companies make use of their own in-
However, there are many commercial
software packages that are used as well.
The most common package is the ArcView
group of programs
ArcView and Geology
ArcView is an interactive product that
allows for customization.
It provides a host of built-in tools for
geological information visualization.
It allows for the creation of application
specific scripts and macros
It also allows for the creation and linking of
spatial databases to information
Used extensively by weather forecasters,
these systems attempt to model climate
This includes air current, precipitation,
temperature, and dew point information.
Courtesy of: http://www.ocs.orst.edu/prism/prism_new.html
Challenges in Climate
Dynamic updates from databases
Representation of many aspects of climate
over the same area
Extrapolation of weather conditions over
Tracking weather changes over time
Climate Visualization Programs
For the most part, climate visualization deal
with static maps that attempt to convey
Numerous companies exist that provide
climate and weather maps for regions and
We will consider one such commercial
product popular with weather forecasters:
Digital Atmosphere 2000.
Digital Atmosphere 2000
Digital Atmosphere 2000
This program allows you to import almost
any map in a format accepted by the World
It allows you to create scripts and run
simulations over time of weather patterns
Allows hook-up to digital satellite photos so
you can see the weather as it is happening.
Provides ways to view all types of climate
DA2000 – Digital Satellite
This focuses on visualizing man-made
structures such as roads.
Used in a variety of areas such as urban
development, residential planning, and GPS
Courtesy of: http://ca.maps.yahoo.com/
Challenges in Residential
Focus (coarse vs. fine grain)
Intelligent Navigation (GPS)
Intelligent Search (Databases)
Simulation (e.g. Traffic Planning)
Most commercial applications in this area
simply provide maps for residential
One of the leading companies that deals
with residential information is Autodesk.
The Autodesk Map software package is run
on an AutoCAD base.
The main advantage of AutoDesk Map is its
ability to incorporate satellite photos and
directly manipulate them.
AutoDesk Map 2002
AutoDesk Map 2002 Features
Easy creation of spatial databases.
Direct manipulation of maps, aerial, and satellite
Automatic coordinate geometry information
extracted from maps.
Ability to add spatial information (polygons) and
convert polygons/polylines into polyobjects for
export into spatial databases.
Basic Algorithms: shortest-path, network tracing,
and polygon overlay.
Future of GIS Visualization
The future of GIS Visualization will
ultimately be based on new paradigms of
Current traditional models work on bringing
the 3D to the 2D.
Future visualization will work on allowing
information to be visualized on the 3D level
Working Towards the Future
Terrain model – a CAVE Perspective @ the
University of Illinois – Urbana, Champagne
GIS Visualization is specific to the
application area that is being applied to.
Each area faces different challenges in
understanding their own types of
We have looked at the problems involved in
3 different GIS Areas: Geological, Climate,
Various commercial software solutions are
available for the GIS practitioner.
Each software solution provides a wide array of
functions and tools for manipulating and
As our understanding of GIS information
increases, software will move towards providing
the tools necessary.
Programming tools are generally in the form of
scripting tools that allow for specific manipulation
AutoDesk Map 2002:
Digital Atmosphere 2000: