Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich


Vector Field Topology of Time-Dependent Flows in a Steady Reference Frame

I. Baeza Rojo, T. Günther

Proceedings of IEEE Scientific Visualization (Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 20-25, 2019), IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. , no. , 2019, pp.


The topological analysis of unsteady vector fields remains to this day one of the largest challenges in flow visualization. We build up on recent work on vortex extraction to define a time-dependent vector field topology for 2D and 3D flows. In our work, we split the vector field into two components: a vector field in which the flow becomes steady, and the remaining ambient flow that describes the motion of topological elements (such as sinks, sources and saddles) and feature curves (vortex corelines and bifurcation lines). To this end, we expand on recent local optimization approaches by modeling spatially-varying deformations through displacement transformations from continuum mechanics. We compare and discuss the relationships with existing local and integration-based topology extraction methods, showing for instance that separatrices seeded from saddles in the optimal frame align with the integration-based streakline vector field topology. In contrast to the streakline-based approach, our method gives a complete picture of the topology for every time slice, including the steps near the temporal domain boundaries. With our work it now becomes possible to extract topological information even when only few time slices are available. We demonstrate the method in several analytical and numerically-simulated flows and discuss practical aspects, limitations and opportunities for future work.


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