Visualisation of dynamic glacier processes with SVG animation

Yvonne Isakowski
Institute of Cartography, ETH Zurich


In Thematic Cartography dynamic visualisations simplify the understanding of complicated statistical data. For the visualisation of spatial and multidimensional processes of high mountain regions it is necessary to involve a temporal component in the cartographic representation. SVG 1.0, as a language for describing two-dimensional vector graphics, has the potential to generate this dynamic aspect using animation.Thus, the goal was to use existing data to create cartographic-dynamic visualisations of glacier processes with SVG 1.0. The suitability of SVG for such presentations and which problems and benefits SVG may cause is also to be discussed.

A critical evaluation of the dynamic presentations with SVG animation revealed that the generation of cartographic-dynamic visualisations are generally possible. Yet, concerning the controlling of the temporal component SVG is limited, which results in the incorporation of a scripting language. Scripting is also essential for the integration of map functions and instruments. Furthermore it became apparent that the impression of a smooth motion is impaired when animating too many objects at once. Since the entire animation is calculated and rendered in real time, computing power is sometimes pushed to the limits.

The final product is a user-friendly visualisation tool that allows the user to understand the spatiotemporal processes of the Gruben glacier using animation. General requirements for modern glacier presentations as well as cartographic design aspects were able to be brought into effect during the compilation of the tool.