Introductory Animation.
Displayed March 22, 2012

In March of 2002 NASA launched the GRACE mission. It consists of two satellites, designed to measure and map the Earth's gravity fields. Each month the two satellites complete a full scan of the earth, allowing scientists to study how variations in the earth's gravity fields — from which changes in groundwater levels can be derived — are developing over time.

This 30 second data visualization uses the measurements collected by the GRACE satellites over a period of 10 years to show seasonal and longterm changes in groundwater levels. The Nasdaq screen shows a map of the world through the eyes of GRACE, a topography made of measurement data. It shows the yearly cycle of groundwater depletion and replenishment, the rainy seasons in the Amazon and parts of the world suffering from yearly droughts. These measurements allow us to see this natural spectacle on a global scale for the first time. However, they also reveal that some areas show a steady decline in groundwater levels. These longterm changes in groundwater levels are indicated both on the map and on the narrow but very high screen of the Reuters building, where groundwater levels in several key areas are visualized as a virtual gauging rod. It shows that while some areas have been able to reverse the trend of declining groundwater levels, others show a sharp decline starting from the 1960's.

The aim of this visualization is to show on one hand the beauty and overwhelming complexity of the natural cycle of wet and dry seasons, and on the other hand highlight the challenge of carefully managing our use of groundwater.

The animation was designed and made by: Richard Vijgen

GRACE data provided by Prof. Jay Famiglietti and NASA
USGS data provided by Leonard Konikow

HeadsUp! is an international competition challeng­ing designers to visualize critical global issues and create a shared sign for the pub­lic square. Work­ing with global data on issues such as global groundwater levels, climate change and ocean acidification, designers will create a series of visual dis­plays to trans­late ab­stract metrics into recognizable and actionable news.

The inaugural HeadsUP! competition, produced in collaboration with, challenges designers to visualize global groundwater Levels with the winning visualization to be displayed on Times Square2, Thomson Reuters/NASDAQ digital signboards in Times Square. This is the first of a series of challenges to be implemented across a spectrum of physical and mobile media.

About Thomson Reuters

As one of the world’s leading news and information companies, Thomson Reuters is proud to partner with HeadsUp! on this important project. We believe that the right information in the right hands leads to amazing things and nowhere is that more evident than in the confluence of technology, design and information that is Data Visualization. Our TS² display, in the heart of Times Square, is a multimedia channel that seamlessly integrates web and mobile technologies to enable large scale, global events and messaging to be experienced by millions. We’re pleased to be donating display time to showcase this use of intelligent information and draw attention to the issue of global groundwater levels.

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Heads UP!

Groundwater levels of