ESRL Global Systems Division

Science On a Sphere® - The 100th System Installation Worldwide

The 100th worldwide installation of a Science On a Sphere® (SOS) System took place during the week of July 29 – August 2, 2013, at the headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland. NOAA is thrilled to have its premier educational visualization tool installed in its own headquarters. The enthusiasm was evident in the packed training sessions during the installation week. NOAA employees across line offices were invited to attend the training sessions and the response was overwhelming, prompting the addition of an extra session.

SOS is now seen by an estimated 33 million people annually in 16 countries, 27 U.S. states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territory of American Samoa. "We developed Science On a Sphere® to help illustrate the dynamic Earth System to people of all ages," said Dr. Alexander "Sandy" MacDonald, Director of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colorado and OAR Chief Science Advisor. "I never imagined it would go this far, this fast." An open house at ESRL in Boulder will be held on Tuesday, August 13 to celebrate the milestone, with special events in September to commemorate the occasion both in Boulder and in Silver Spring. SOS sites around the world contributed to a video montage to honor the 100th SOS installation, which can be viewed on YouTube,

SOS is a large visualization system that uses computers and video projectors to display animated data onto the outside of a sphere. It was invented by Dr. MacDonald in 1995 when he came up with the concept for SOS as an outgrowth of other visualization projects he was directing within the former Forecast Systems Laboratory. The SOS Program is administratively managed and technically supported by the Technology Outreach Branch of ESRL's Global Systems Division (GSD).

Researchers at NOAA continue to develop and advance SOS as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth system science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere, which is used to explain complex environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating. Using an iPad app, SOS presenters are able to effortlessly display, annotate, zoom, and layer the more than 400 datasets that are available for SOS.

SOS is a NOAA program that has developed a revolutionary system for educating the public on the holistic nature of Earth's ever-changing oceans, atmosphere, and land. SOS presents NOAA's global science in a new and exciting way by providing an engaging three-dimensional representation of our planet as if the viewer were looking at the Earth from outer space.

SOS extends NOAA's educational program goals, which are designed to increase public understanding of the environment. Using their collective experience and knowledge of the Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere, NOAA uses SOS as an instrument to enhance informal educational programs in science centers, universities, and museums across the country and globally.

Contact information
Name: William Bendel
Tel: 303-497-6708
william.b.bendel@noaa.gov