Data Services Products: EMC-DesktopTools IRIS EMC - Desktop Tools


The contributed Earth models to EMC are available for download from the model overview pages or IRIS’ Searchable Product Depository (SPUD) in netCDF (network Common Data Form) format. These models are compatible with those desktop visualization systems that support netCDF data files. This page provides a short introduction on installation and model loading for some free Java-based desktop applications that allow 3-D visualization of complex solid earth data.


The IRIS Earth Model Collaboration (EMC) 3D Visualizer

EMC’s 3D visualization tool is an open source Python desktop application that uses Python-based MayaVi Data Visualizer 3D application to provide simple 3D visualization capabilities for Earth models.

The UNAVCO GEON Integrated Data Viewer (IDV)

The UNAVCO GEON IDV is a free Java-based desktop application that allows 3-D visualization of complex solid earth data. EMC’s netCDF Earth model data files are GEON IDV compatible and IDV could be used to make complex visualization of EMC’s Earth models, including:

  • horizontal and vertical slices (as contour and/or colored by value plots) in any location
  • 3-D isosurfaces
  • model differences

To view the EMC models in IDV:

1. download and install GEON IDV
2. http://download the desired EMC Earth model(s) in netCDF format

IDV menu
3. launch IDV and from its File menu select
New > Data Source > From the File System

Load data
4. browse and select the desired netCDF Earth model
5. click on Add Source to load the selected file

6. select the display type from the Displays panel and click on the Create Display button

7. the selected display is now plotted and could be tuned using IDV’s Dashboard controls

Man computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS-V)

McIDAS-V is a free Java-based desktop application built on VisAD and Unidata’s IDV and incorporates the functionality of McIDAS-X and HYDRA for viewing data, developing algorithms, and validating results

To view the EMC models in McIDAS-V:

1. download and install McIDAS-V
2. http://download the desired EMC Earth model(s) in netCDF format

Data Explorer
3. launch McIDAS-V and in its Data Explorer window select Data Source > Gridded Data > Local
4. browse and select the desired netCDF Earth model
5. click on Add Source to load the selected file

Create Display
6. select field, display type, level and region from the Field Selector panel and click on the Create Display button

Layer Controls
7. tune the display parameters using the Layer Controls panel

8. selected map is now displayed and you may work with it using the McIDAS-V controls

Parallel Visualization Application (ParaView)

ParaView is a public domain multi-platform data analysis and visualization application built on a library called the Visualization Tool Kit (VTK ). EMC’s netCDF model files are not directly compatible with ParaView package but Pavlis et al. (2012) provide a set of data files that are referenced in a common coordinate system so they can be viewed together in true 3D geometry using ParaView. This bundle also includes coastline, geographic boundary, and topography data that can be used to provide a geographic reference.


Map above, Pavlis et al. (2012) , is a basemap display using ParaView that shows geometry of the cross-section CC’ (images below the map) with its trajectory illustrated with a dashed, orange line with label CC’. The figure is a 3D projection looking radially downward from a point near the center of the scene. The map base shows topography colored by elevation with coastline data (light blue lines) and state and national boundaries (red lines) overlain. The magenta lines are the projection of flow lines on the top of the single surface slab model described in the text. The dashed white lines are backward projected flow lines related to this surface. They heavy white line shows an approximation of the upper limit of the Farallon slab (upper limit of slab window) using this 3D model of the surface. The time shown is time since termination of subduction by passage of the triple junction.


Section CC’ (Figure above), Cape Mendocino to Canada-Minnesota border is viewed from the southeast as illustrated in Figure above (BASEMAP) and slices exactly the same section. The while line on the section is the Earth’s surface with geographic boundaries marked by radial, white colored tic marks. States are defined by postal codes. Tomography models all show fast velocities as blue and slow velocities as red with the scaling shown on each section. The scattered wave image result© shows positive P to S conversion scattering potential in red and negative conversion as blue. The same color map is the same as the tomography models but reversed. (a), (b), and (d) are P wave tomography models from Sigloch (2011) , Burdick et al. (2010) , and Schmandt and Humphreys (2010) respectively. (e)-(g) are S wave models from Obrebski et al. (2011) , Schmandt and Humphreys (2010) , and Bedle and van der Lee (2009).

To view these files in ParaView:

1. download and install ParaView
2. download and unpack the https://supplement files of Pavlis et al. (2012) article in a convenient location

3. launch ParaView
4. click File -> Open and navigate to the location you stored the supplement files
5. from the ImageVolumes of the supplement bundle select the .vts file associated with one of the models
6. click OK
7. click blue Apply

8. box outline of dataset extent displayed

9. to create surfaces, select the desired filter
10. click Filters -> Common -> Contour

11. in the isosurface panel enter the desired value
12. click blue Apply

For a tutorial on use of ParaView see:

Citations and DOIs

To cite IRIS DMC Data Products effort:

  • Trabant, C., A. R. Hutko, M. Bahavar, R. Karstens, T. Ahern, and R. Aster (2012), Data Products at the IRIS DMC: Stepping Stones for Research and Other Applications, Seismological Research Letters, 83(5), 846–854,

To cite IRIS Earth Model Collaboration (EMC) data product or reference use of its repository:

To cite the source or reference the use of a particular Earth model hosted by EMC:


  • Bedle, H., and S. van der Lee. 2009. “S velocity variations beneath North America.” J. Geophys. Res. 114:B07308.
  • Burdick, S., R. D. van der Hilst, F. L. Vernon, V. Martynov, T. Cox, J. Eakins, G. Karasu, J. Tytell, L. Astiz, and G. L. Pavlis. 2010. “Model update January 2010; upper mantle heterogeneity beneath North America from P-wave travel time tomography with global and USArray transportable array data.” Seism. Res. Lett., 81(5), pp. 689-693. doi 10.1785/gssrl.81.5.689.
  • Obrebski, M., R.M. Allen, F. Pollitz, and S.-H. Hung. 2011. “Lithosphere-asthenosphere interaction beneath the western United States from the joint inversion of body-wave traveltimes and surface-wave phase velocities.” Geophys. J. Int. 185:1003-1021.
  • Pavlis, G.L , K. Sigloch, S. Burdick, M.J. Fouch, and F. Vernon. 2012. “Unraveling the geometry of the Farallon Plate: Synthesis of three-dimensional imaging results from the USArray.” in press, Tectonophysics, 2012.
  • Schmandt, B. and E. Humphreys. 2010a. “Complex subduction and small-scale convection revealed by body-wave tomography of the western United States mantle.” Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 297, 435-445,
  • Sigloch, K. 2011. “Mantle provinces under North America from multifrequency P wave tomography.” Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 18(2), Q02W08,