Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Zhang, Song

Committee Member

Swan II, J. Edward

Committee Member

Amburn, Philip

Committee Member

Moorhead, J. Robert

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Computer Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Computer Science and Engineering


Ensemble simulation is a commonly used technique in operational forecasting of weather and floods. Multi-member ensemble output is usually large, multivariate, and challenging to interpret interactively. Forecast meteorologists and hydrologists are interested in understanding the uncertainties associated with the simulation; specifically variability between the ensemble members. The visualization of ensemble members is currently accomplished through spaghetti plots or hydrographs. To improve visualization techniques and tools for forecasters, we conducted a userstudy to evaluate the effectiveness of existing uncertainty visualization techniques on 1D and 2D synthetic datasets. We designed an uncertainty evaluation framework to enable easier design of such studies for scientific visualization. The techniques evaluated are errorbars, scaled size of glyphs, color-mapping on glyphs, and color-mapping of uncertainty on the data surface. Although we did not find a consistent order among the four techniques for all tasks, we found that the efficiency of techniques used highly depended on the tasks being performed. Errorbars consistently underperformed throughout the experiment. Scaling the size of glyphs and color-mapping of the surface performed reasonably well. With results from the user-study, we iteratively developed a tool named ‘Noodles’ to interactively explore the ensemble uncertainty in weather simulations. Uncertainty was quantified using standard deviation, inter-quartile range, width of the 95% confidence interval, and by bootstrapping the data. A coordinated view of ribbon and glyph-based uncertainty visualization, spaghetti plots, and data transect plots was provided to two meteorologists for expert evaluation. They found it useful in assessing uncertainty in the data, especially in finding outliers and avoiding the parametrizations leading to these outliers. Additionally, they could identify spatial regions with high uncertainty thereby determining poorly simulated storm environments and deriving physical interpretation of these model issues. We also describe uncertainty visualization capabilities developed for a tool named ‘FloodViz’ for visualization and analysis of flood simulation ensembles. Simple member and trend plots and composited inundation maps with uncertainty are described along with different types of glyph based uncertainty representations. We also provide feedback from a hydrologist using various features of the tool from an operational perspective.