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Explainer: Animated 3-D Arctic Ice Volume Graph


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Posted for the Dot Earth blog, this is an explanation by Andy Lee Robinson -- a remarkably interesting mix of engineer, musician and other things -- of how he produced his three-dimensional graph of changes in Arctic sea ice volume over recent decades. Here's the video:
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Published in: News & Politics

Explainer: Animated 3-D Arctic Ice Volume Graph

  1. 1. Posted for the Dot Earth blog, this is an explanation by Andy Lee Robinson -- aremarkably interesting mix of engineer, musician and other things -- of how heproduced his three-dimensional graph of changes in Arctic sea ice volume over recentdecades: Im an Englishman in Budapest, a Linux system administrator/programmer/integrator, graphic designer, consultant and pianist/composer passionately interested in everything to do with science, technology and nature. I used to work for Cap Gemini years ago and until recently was CTO of a social networking software development company trying to compete with Facebook in native languages but lost. I designed the server infrastructure and maintained the application platform, and still do out of my own pocket for the few users that are left. Ive been lucky to be relatively financially independent for the last few years beholden to noone, and this gave me freedom to spend far too much time reading and following the state of climate and the denial industry in the mainstream media, twitter, realclimate, skepticalscience, youtube, Nevens blog, thinkprogress etc etc and of course your blog and nytimes. I have been through some battles with denial trolls on youtube and other places, but it gets to be a bit soul destroying after a while, like playing tennis with smoke or playing chess with pigeons and there is no shortage of them! I also became quite fascinated with what was happening in the Arctic. (The closest I have been to it was spending an amazing weekend in Iceland in 1999). After seeing the PIOMAS Sea Ice volume data last year on and Jim Pettitts graph on it struck me how utterly profound and frightening this was, and that few seemed to be aware of it. While alarmists and deniers were squabbling, this was the real Titanic going down. I read a tweet from Richard Betts last month about an animated gif graph that Tamino did, where he would have liked the x-axis to cross where y=0, so I proactively modified it for him: and shared it on my site: followed by: and half-size versions: After these, I thought it would be nice to see the data in proper 3D, and with some sense of urgency, as it looked like the ice was going to crash.
  2. 2. So as a personal project, I used my graphics and programming experience tomake a professional looking animation that I hoped would illustrate whatwas happening to the Arctic sea ice in a clear and digestible way to awide non-technical audience, and hoped it would attract some attention.I used a raytracing program called PoVRay ( whichprocesses a script-like object and scene description language and lendsitself well to rendering scenes that have been generated by otherprograms.The data comes from ice-volume-anomaly/and I wrote a program to unpack the daily PIOMAS sea ice volume data intoan x,y,z set of smooth spline strips separated by year, and designed agraph to place them onto.I wanted to show the data evolving over time, expand and rotate the graph,so wrote another program to control the parameters in the script anditerate over them for the various stages over 453 frames at 1920x1080resolution.1. Start with Year 1979 data and pause for a second for viewer to take in.2. Slide the year traces backwards in depth and add new years on top toshow evolution.3. Pause on current year 2012 for viewer.4. Rotate to show the trend of all years and their months headinginexorably downwards.5. Rotate back to end on current year.I have automated the entire process from data download to animationproduction, and I can produce variations on request, but it takes manyhours of processing.I am working on a slightly different spiral version, and hope to havesomething within a few days.Seems obvious and inevitable that September will reach the floor in a fewyears time, and I think (hope?) that the general population would be ableto infer that too, and that it could be a bad, or even *really bad* thingto happen. I think they are starting to connect the dots, even if themedia are doing everything they can to avoid the subject.