AN OPEN SOURCE GEOVISUAL ANALYTICS TOOLBOX FOR MULTIVARIATE SPATIO-TEMPORAL DATA IN ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE MODELLING
Keywords: Geovisual Analytics, Geovisualisation, Open Source, Multivariate Spatio-temporal Data, Change Modelling
Abstract. In environmental change studies, often multiple variables are measured or modelled, and temporal information is essential for the task. These multivariate geographic time-series datasets are often big and difficult to analyse. While many established methods such as PCP (parallel coordinate plots), STC (space-time cubes), scatter-plots and multiple (linked) visualisations help provide more information, we observe that most of the common geovisual analytics suits do not include three-dimensional (3D) visualisations. However, in many environmental studies, we hypothesize that the addition of 3D terrain visualisations along with appropriate data plots and two-dimensional views can help improve the analysts’ ability to interpret the spatial relevance better. To test our ideas, we conceptualize, develop, implement and evaluate a geovisual analytics toolbox in a user-centred manner. The conceptualization of the tool is based on concrete user needs that have been identified and collected during informal brainstorming sessions and in a structured focus group session prior to the development. The design process, therefore, is based on a combination of user-centred design with a requirement analysis and agile development. Based on the findings from this phase, the toolbox was designed to have a modular structure and was built on open source geographic information systems (GIS) program Quantum GIS (QGIS), thus benefiting from existing GIS functionality. The modules include a globe view for 3D terrain visualisation (OSGEarth), a scattergram, a time vs. value plot, and a 3D helix visualisation as well as the possibility to view the raw data. The visualisation frame allows real-time linking of these representations. After the design and development stage, a case study was created featuring data from Zermatt valley and the toolbox was evaluated based on expert interviews. Analysts performed multiple spatial and temporal tasks with the case study using the toolbox. The expert interviews were helpful to gain initial insight into the usability of the tools and to highlight further improvements and challenges; revealing certain usability issues and indicating that analysts consider the linked views to be potentially very beneficial and they appreciate seeing the data in its spatial context.