Visualization Theater

Modern data visualizations on the world ocean, waterways, water supplies, climate and weather provide a fun and engaging alternative to the more traditional ways of graphing information.


A vast treasure of critical minerals lies on the ocean floor. Should they be extracted to help fight climate change?

"The International Seabed Authority is working to set regulations for deep-sea mining as companies engaged in the clean energy transition clamor for more minerals. That transition will be a central focus at the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12." By Daisy Chung, Ernest Scheyder and Clare Trainor for Reuters.

In the summer of 2017, a total solar eclipse occured: with the moon passing in front of the Sun. Now, six years later, there will be two solar eclipses across America within nearly six months of each other. In honor of these momentous occasions, NOAA's Science on a Sphere have created new datasets that will inspire viewers to see the alignment of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth near them. This SoS feature includes art, classroom activities and two citizen science data collection apps and classroom lesson plans. In addition, NOAA has created a FAQ page to help you answer all the questions that will come as part of this astronomical event.



Oceans and coastal habitats produce a variety of benefits for coastal communities. A series of Mapping Ocean Wealth infographics has been produced by to help illustrate some of these benefits, with specific, quantitative examples about how and where these benefits are produced and delivered.

Global Fishing Watch published a global analysis of fishing effort using AIS data. Visit the link to more materials associated with the paper, including how to download and used the data released with the paper.

Updated, precise elevation models of coastal areas reveal the inundated land area in the first 1 to 2 meters of sea level rise could be double previous estimates. (Advancing Earth and Space Science)

FEMA Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper as provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recently expanded to include the Great Lakes region. View FEMA flood zones along with societal, infrastructure, and ecosystem exposure.

Scroll down, down and down into the water column to see what creatures inhabit the ocean at what depths. The water column is the largest, most under-explored ecosystem on the planet. Scientists explore it to gain better understanding of the larger ocean ecosystem and its inhabitants. We explore it to better understand the ocean as a whole, including the huge biomass that lives there and the relationship to the many cycles of the planet, including carbon, currents, temperature and the food web.

What did the world look like 1 billion years ago? In one of the most complete models of tectonic plate movements assembled, scientists condensed 1 billion years of movement into a 40-second video of interaction over time.

As they move, tectonic plates affect climate, tidal patterns, animal movements, evolution, volcanic activity, the production of metals, and muchmore. Tectonic plates are the life support system that affects everything that lives on the surface of the earth.

How much water is on the Earth and how does it move around the globe? The US Geological Survey (USGS) newest diagram of the global water cycle was released in 2022 and depicts not only the water cycle but also how human water use affects where water is stored, how it moves, and the quality of it.

The Ocean: A Driving Force for Weather and Climate

This visualization uses Earth science data from sensors on NASA Earth-observing satellites. Measurements visualized include oceanography parameters such as ocean currents, winds, sea surface height and temperature. These measurements aid scientists' understanding of ocean impacts on weather and climate and what this means for future life on Earth.

Source: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA Scientific Visualization Studio has created this deceptively simple yet highly effective data visualization showing monthly global temperatures between 1880-2021. Be sure and watch to the end...

Visualization by Mark SubbaRao Released March 7, 2022

The Canadian Ocean Literacy Map and Database are designed to connect Canadians to ocean literacy initiatives, programs, events, opportunities, stories, and resources from coast to coast to coast. The platform was built and initially populated using data compiled during the Understanding Ocean Literacy in Canada study (2019-2020). It represents an important resource for Canada’s growing ocean literacy community of practice. Explore the map and add your initiative.

Seapiracy: Fishing for Truth

The 90 minute Seapiracy film has recently brought the topic of marine sustainability into sharp focus. In this TSC influence mapping tool, they help us understand a complex set of issues in one sharp data visualization.

There are over 510 million square kilometers of area on the surface of Earth, but less than 30% of this is covered by land. The rest is water, in the form of ocean! This visualization uses data primarily from the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to rank the world’s countries by their share of Earth’s surface. Learn more more in this great article by Visual Capitalist.

Access high-resolution ocean data sets from Saildrone Data Explorer, designed to make Saildrone data easy to find, download, and use for scientific and educational purposes. Saildrone’s global fleet of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) has traveled more than 500,000 nautical miles in the Arctic, the Antarctic, across the Atlantic and the Pacific, and in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and North Seas. Each vehicle is equipped with a suite of science-grade sensors to measure nearly two dozen variables above and below the sea surface every minute. The result is a series of large-scale data sets describing many parts of the world ocean that have never been observed in such detail.

The Coastal Risk Screening Tool enables users to explore sea level rise and coastal flood risk over time, for anywhere in the world, and under multiple pollution scenarios. The maps allow users to choose between leading sea level rise models and to incorporate the most accurate elevation data available

SEDAC, the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, is one of the Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) in the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Focusing on human interactions in the environment, SEDAC is a data center in NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System.

The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), jointly developed by the European Commission and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), is a global hydrological forecast and monitoring system independent of administrative and political boundaries.

Space-based measurement, mapping, and modeling of surface water
for research, humanitarian, and water management applications.

This tool from NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) provides the capability to interactively browse global, full-resolution satellite imagery and then download the underlying data, including data from the Global Precipitation Measurement Missions. Many of the 600+ available products are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks "right now". This supports time-critical application areas such as wildfire management, air quality measurements, and flood monitoring. Arctic and Antarctic views of several products are also available for a "full globe" perspective. Browsing on tablet and smartphone devices is generally supported for mobile access to the imagery.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation is working with Canada, Mexico and United States to enhance and strengthen conservation initiatives in North America's marine ecosystems. Layers can be added to Google Earth for additional functionality.

A catalog of NASA images and animations of our home planet NASA’s Visible Earth site offers numerous such visualizations of ocean optics, winds, sea- ice movements, tidal energy dissipation, storm tracks, and many other changes over time.

Data derived from ocean scatterometers is vital to scientists in the their studies of air-sea interaction and ocean circulation, and their effects on weather patterns and global climate.
From the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This web site contains a comprehensive review of the surface circulation of Earth’s ocean and classroom investigations appropriate for various disciplines at the high school level.

Earth's oceans are the greatest influence on global climate. Only from space can we observe the vast ocean on a global scale and monitor critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage.


Visualizing Marine Geology and Geophysics: Explore the ocean's features with animated dives and colorful bathymetric and topographical maps.

The goal of the research presented here is to estimate and visualize the global impacts humans are having on the ocean's ecosystems. The cumulative impact map can be viewed in Google Earth or as an interactive feature by visiting the companion website.


This video from NASA is a compelling 26-second animation depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880. The data come from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. As NASA notes, “in this animation, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.”


Watch the world change over the course of nearly three decades of satellite photography. Of all the cosmic bodies studied in the long history of astronomy and space travel, the one that got the least attention was Earth. That changed when NASA created the Landsat program, a series of satellites that would perpetually orbit our planet, looking not out but down. Pictured: Iceland's northern coast resembles a tiger's head complete with stripes of orange, black, and white. The tiger's mouth is the Eyjafjorour fjord that juts into the mainland between steep mountains.

This COSEE NOW community blog offers a compilation of some of the top sites on ocean, climate, and environmental data and science with excellent visual displays of data. This image represents the gradient of sea surface temperature (SST) at each point, and is based off of a 7-day composite of SST collected by the AVHRR instrument on NOAA’s polar orbiting satellites.

How much water is in America’s rivers, and where is it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, people have little sense of how their local water resources compare in size to others. 'Is that a big river? A little river?” Now, thanks to the Pacific Institute, it is possible to visualize the nation’s water resources in different ways.

(Google animates 315 years of ocean data)
The International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) is the most complete collection of surface marine data in existence, consisting of a digital database of 261 million weather observations made by ships, weather ships, and weather buoys spanning the years 1662 to 2007. These data have now been animated by Google Maps developers Paul Saxman and Brendan Kenny in a stunning visualization.

Information from the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) provides real-time data from offshore IOOS buoys, acting as an early warning system for shellfish hatcheries. They are our eyes on the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes. These data signal the approach of cold, acidified seawater one to two days before it arrives in sensitive coastal waters where larvae are cultivated. IOOS is an integrated network of people and technology gathering observing data and developing tracking and predictive tools to benefit the economy, the environment, and public safety at home, across the nation, and around the globe.

What did your town look like on a global map 540 million years ago? How about 90 million years ago? Or during the Jurassic period? This fantastic interactive map by Ancient Earth allows you to enter an address and track the location of the geological change occurring since before the Pre-Cambrian period.

For perspective on climate and weather changes since the late 1800s, plot map and time series from climate reanalysis models; view daily station data from the Global Historical Climatology Network; visit the Climate Change Institute's Climate Reanalyzer for a daily-updated Global Weather overview; see animations of current global 7-day and U.S. Regional 48-hour weather forecasts. The Climate Change Institute is affiliated with the University of Maine System, Orono, Maine.

Public opinion about global warming is an important influence on policy and political decision making to reduce global warming and to prepare for climate impacts. The Yale Program on Climate Communication team of scientists has developed a geographic and statistical model to downscale national public opinion results to the state, congressional district, and county levels. These visualizations estimate public opinion across the country and offer a rich picture of the diversity of Americans’ beliefs, attitudes, and policy support. Maps are based on data through the year 2016.

Earth : : Null School
A global map of wind, weather and ocean conditions

Use this web-mapping tool to visualize community-level impacts from coastal flooding or sea level rise (up to 10 feet above average high tides.) Learn about data and methods through documentation; share maps; view photo simulations of how future flooding might impact local landmarks; find data related to water depth, connectivity, flood frequency, socio-economic vulnerability, wetland loss and migration, and mapping confidence.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has a fantastic interactive map of American rivers. Click any river or stream and it will highlight the entire length of it, from the source to the mouth along with its tributaries. Follow the water.

Streamer is a great way to visualize and understand water flow across America. With Streamer, users can explore our Nation's major streams by tracing upstream to the source or downstream to where they empty. Streamer can also create reports about specific stream traces and the places they pass through.