Mare Hirsch // fLUX

carbon flux for a single day

carbon flux for one year

fLUX is a large-scale data visualization project with marine science researcher Kelsey Bisson. Bisson’s research involves the construction of mathematical ecosystem models to understand how efficient the ocean is at absorbing CO2.

The goal of this project is to create some compelling and instructive experiences that convey the complexity and variety of the carbon flux globally (i.e. move beyond 'flat blue ocean' mentality).
To begin this process, we have visualized carbon flux from diatom data in the global ocean.

Diatoms are eerie, beautiful phytoplankton, and their presence, or density, is directly linked to the amount of carbon flux in the ocean. Diatoms floating in the ocean are sometimes referred to as ‘ocean snowstorms’ and, indeed, they appear that way when observed.

[see diatoms here]

To visualize this data, I created an environment that maps Bisson’s data (latitude, longitude, and carbon flux value) to a three-dimensional representation of Earth’s oceans. I then create localized ‘particle storms’ that reflect the carbon flux at each specific location.

To achieve these discrete particle storms, I created a bounding box around each latitude/longitude coordinate, whithin which an array of particles is generated based on the carbon flux value for each location. These particles are then placed at random within the bounding box and, if they leave the box, they are regenerated back within bounds.

The greyscale video demonstrates one day of data while the red video is a visualization of a year’s worth of carbon flux data. Both versions are also available as interactive, navigatable data visualizations.