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Front. Earth Sci. | doi: 10.3389/feart.2019.00274

Well-posed Geoscientific Visualization through Interactive Color Mapping.

  • 1School of Natural Sciences, College of Sciences and Engineering, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • 2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, College of Sciences and Engineering, University of Tasmania, Australia

Scientific visualization aims to present numerical values, or categorical information, in a way that enables the researcher to make an inference that furthers knowledge. Well-posed visualizations need to consider the characteristics of the data, the display environment and human visual capacity. In the geosciences, visualizations are commonly applied to spatially varying continuous information or results. In this contribution we make use of a suite of newly written computer applications which enable spatially varying data to be displayed in a performant graphics environment. We present a comparison of color-mapping using illustrative color spaces (RGB, CIELAB). The interactive applications display the gradient paths through the chosen color spaces. This facilitates the creation of color-maps that accommodate the non-uniformity of human color perception, producing an image where genuine features are seen. We also take account of aspects of a dataset such as parameter uncertainty. For an illustrative case study using a seismic tomography result, we find that the use of RGB color-mapping can introduce non-linearities in the visualization, potentially leading to incorrect inference. Interpolation in CIELAB color space enables the creation of perceptually uniform linear gradients that match the underlying data, along with a simply computable metric for color difference, ∆E. This color space assists accuracy and reproducibility of visualization results. Well-posed scientific visualization requires both ‘visual literacy’ and ‘visual numeracy’ on an equal footing with clearly written text. It is anticipated that this current work, with the included color-maps and software, will lead to wider usage of informed color-mapping in the geosciences.

Keywords: data visualisation, seismic tomography, Feature identification, Color mapping, Color space, CIELab, RGB

Received: 18 Jul 2019; Accepted: 04 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Morse, Reading and Staal. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Peter Morse, School of Natural Sciences, College of Sciences and Engineering, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia,