Donna Cox

Visualization Of An F3 Tornado Within A Supercell Thunderstorm Simulation /

Donna Cox /

2004 /

“Scientists used pre-storm conditions from an observed F4 tornado in South Dakota in 2003 to initialize a simulation that produces a severe supercell storm that produces a powerful tornado and terabytes of data.

Data driven visualization components reveal the inner-workings of the simulation. Interactively filtered stream tubes colored orange when rising and blue when sinking represent the path of air through the storm. A swirling mass of red spheres in the low pressure tornado vortex delineates the developing tornado.

On the ground plane, tilting cones represent wind speed and direction. Colored by temperature, they show a surface boundary where warm and cold air interact at the tornado’s base.

This visualization represents one hour of storm evolution. Large scale thunderstorm simulations have only recently produced small scale tornadic features as seen here.”


Donna Cox is: Professor in the School of Art and Design, Director Advanced Visualization Lab (AVL) Culture & Society Theme and Illinois eDream Institute National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Cox received the international Coler-Maxwell Award for Excellence granted by the Leonardo International Society in Arts Science and Technology for her seminal paper founding the concept of “Renaissance Teams,” interdisciplinary groups of experts collaborating to solve visualization challenges. As an artist, she collaborates with scientists and technologists to create cinematic presentations of scientific data and concepts. She has created a large body of work and converged art and science through the cinematic presentation of scientific numerical data. Cox has published on the art of visualization, information design, and cultural theory and coined the term “Visaphors” to describe digital data visual metaphors, synthesizing concepts in art practice and the philosophy of science. More…


Science Director: Robert Wilhelmson Scientific

Simulation: Lou Wicker, NSSL; Matthew Gilmore, UIUC; Glen Romine, UIUC; Lee Cronce, Mark Straka

Music and Narration: Robert Patterson

Visualization by NCSA AVL: Donna Cox, Robert Patterson, Stuart Levy, Alex Betts, Matthew Hall, Lorne Leonard, Jeff Carpenter