All posts by Cara Harwood

Global Lake Warming Trends

Did you dive into a lake this summer expecting teeth-chattering cold water, and instead found it surprisingly warm?  Scientists are finding that the world’s largest lakes are getting warmer.  While this might seem nice for summer lake swimming, lake warming has much more severe consequences for water quality and lake ecosystems.

A recent article in the National Geographic column “Water Currents” describes research being conducted on global trends in lake temperatures. Scientists studying lakes from around the world, including Lake Tahoe, are finding that over the past 25 years lake temperatures have been increasing.  Increasing lake temperatures can cause water quality problems and have serious ecological consequences.  Check out this article for more information on how climate change is impacting lakes around the world.

Global trends in seasonal nighttime lake surface temperatures, 1985-2009. Yellow and orange symbols indicate lakes that warmed over this time period. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Originally pubished on


3D Visualization of the Tahoe Basin

The 3D Visualization team is using a suite of applications developed by the KeckCAVES group (UCDavis) to create 3D visualizations.  These visualizations can be projected in an immersive 3D visualization environment, such as a CAVE, in an non-immersive 3D environment, such as a 3D TV, or in 2D on a desktop computer.

Here are a few examples of how we are using KeckCAVES applications to create visualizations to teach science center visitors about freshwater ecosystems.

Exploring the Tahoe Basin with a Virtual Globe Application

Crusta is a visualization application that combines elevation models and imagery on a virtual globe.  Imagery, including air photos, land cover, and geologic maps, and satellite imagery, can be draped over 3D topography.  The 3D globe allows users to take virtual field trips to inaccessible field sites, and geologists can virtually map and measure geologic features.

In this fly through using Crusta you can see how variable resolution imagery is displayed, with low-resolution imagery covering the entire globe, and high-resolution imagery as we zoom in on the Tahoe Basin.  The imagery is turned off and back on to show how just the bare surface can be displayed, which allows highlighting landform features.

Watch Peter Gold explore the Lake Tahoe region in the UCDavis KeckCAVES using Crusta.
Continue reading 3D Visualization of the Tahoe Basin

More about that magic sandbox

The augmented reality (AR) sandbox is a hands-on exhibit that teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts.  It combines a real sandbox with virtual topography and water by using a 3D camera and a digital projector.

Users create topography models by shaping real sand.  In real time, the sand surface is scanned into a computer from a camera above, and then an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water appear based on the surface below.

The Augmented Reality Sandbox was designed to be used as a hands-on exhibit in science centers and museums with minimal supervision.  Accompanying materials will encourage museum visitors to explore:

1) How 3D landforms are expressed on 2D maps, and

2) How landforms influence water flowing through a watershed.

Visitors will be encouraged to construct landforms, observe how they interact with simulated water, and relate what they see to real topographic maps.

Continue reading More about that magic sandbox