The GPlates Portal: Cloud-based interactive 3D visualization of global geophysical and geological data in a web browser

TitleThe GPlates Portal: Cloud-based interactive 3D visualization of global geophysical and geological data in a web browser
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMuller R.D, Qin X.D, Sandwell DT, Dutkiewicz A., Williams S.E, Flament N., Maus S., Seton M.
JournalPlos One
Date Published2016/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1932-6203
Accession NumberWOS:000371992300084
Keywordsbasin; earth; history; models; topography

The pace of scientific discovery is being transformed by the availability of 'big data' and open access, open source software tools. These innovations open up new avenues for how scientists communicate and share data and ideas with each other and with the general public. Here, we describe our efforts to bring to life our studies of the Earth system, both at present day and through deep geological time. The GPlates Portal ( is a gateway to a series of virtual globes based on the Cesium Javascript library. The portal allows fast interactive visualization of global geophysical and geological data sets, draped over digital terrain models. The globes use WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics and are cross-platform and cross-browser compatible with complete camera control. The globes include a visualization of a high-resolution global digital elevation model and the vertical gradient of the global gravity field, highlighting small-scale seafloor fabric such as abyssal hills, fracture zones and seamounts in unprecedented detail. The portal also features globes portraying seafloor geology and a global data set of marine magnetic anomaly identifications. The portal is specifically designed to visualize models of the Earth through geological time. These space-time globes include tectonic reconstructions of the Earth's gravity and magnetic fields, and several models of long-wavelength surface dynamic topography through time, including the interactive plotting of vertical motion histories at selected locations. The globes put the on-the-fly visualization of massive data sets at the fingertips of end-users to stimulate teaching and learning and novel avenues of inquiry.

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