Using ChronoZoom to build a comprehensive timeline of climate change in the cloud


A professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explores the history of climate change in depth in his graduate-level Earth System Science class. To help students visualize events through the ages, he is developing a comprehensive history of climate change by using ChronoZoom, an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything.
Building a historical view of climate change
Each year, Jeff Dozier, professor of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, teaches a course in Earth System Science to between 80 and 100 incoming graduate students. Among the issues he teaches: climate record and how the Earth’s climate has changed through the ages—and what drivers are behind those changes.
Covering millions of years’ worth of warming trends within a class term is a challenge; managing the massive volumes of data, charts, videos, illustrations, and other support materials is even more daunting. Dozier needed a way to pull together his materials into an accessible—and manageable—manner.
He found the solution in the award-winning ChronoZoom tool.
ChronoZoom allows users to navigate through "time," beginning with the Big Bang up until present day events. Users can zoom in rapidly from one time period to another, moving through history as quickly or slowly as they desire. In 2013, a third-party authoring tool was built into ChronoZoom, enabling the academic community to share information via data, tours, and insights, so it can be easily visualized and navigated through Deep Zoom functionality.
Visual aids can have a particularly powerful impact when discussing climate change. Dozier is developing a history of the Earth that illustrates changes in climate from the beginning of the planet through modern day. The source materials include images, diagrams, graphs, and time-lapse movies that illustrate changes in the environment. Dozier plans to use the timeline as a teaching aid in his Earth System Science class.
“ChronoZoom has been easy to master and use,” Dozier notes. “You don’t need any sort of client-side application except a browser. All the data is stored on someone else’s machine. The processing is done in the cloud [through Windows Azure], not on your own computer. And the only thing that really shows up on your own computer is the results.” Moreover, thanks to the power of Windows Azure, the tool has the flexibility to scale up and down, enabling users to zoom in on a particular segment in time or zoom out to review climate change from the beginning of recorded history through today. Plus, content developers can share their presentations or timelines with others by simply sharing a link or posting it to a social media site.
Make your mark on history
ChronoZoom has already been used to illustrate the history of the Earth and explore the impact of climate change on the planet through the ages. There are many unexplored possibilities, however. The tool scales up and down, meaning any project can benefit—whether it’s the history of the world or just a review of the last few weeks. Dozier is hopeful others will use ChronoZoom to tell their stories by uploading their own data, images, and text to the cloud and using those materials in the classroom.

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