NSF-EAR: The EarthScope/GMT Analysis and Visualization Toolbox

Paul Wessel, Leonardo Uieda, Bridget Smith-Konter



This is my first grant as co-PI and it will fund the development of the new GMT "modern mode" on which the GMT/Python wrapper is based. It also includes many other improvements to GMT and the development of a new interpolation method for GPS data. The latter is where most of my efforts will be directed. The interpolation method will rely heavily on the infrastructure developed in Verde.

All outputs (posters, papers, talks, etc) related to this grant will be collected under the earthscope2018 tag.


Research under the EarthScope umbrella involves both data processing and display of results. The Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) is a set of scientific analysis and plotting modules that are widely used in the Earth Sciences, particularly because they allow for specialized processing and imaging suitable for the geosciences. GMT is a long-lived (~30 years) and robust NSF-funded software toolset that originated in the ocean sciences but has spread to all aspects of the geosciences and beyond. This project will add numerous enhancements to GMT, including a much simplified usage syntax called modern mode. In addition, new modules for simplifying the creation of animations, 3-D stacking and interpolation of grids, conversion of imagery for placement in Google Earth, and greatly improved interactive documentation will be built during the project.

The Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) scripting has remained remarkably similar over its 30 years of existence. Because thousands of GMT classic scripts have been written, making major changes has been problematic, even if such changes would simplify its usage. The proposed modern mode will solve this dilemma as it introduces two new commands (begin and end) that starts and end a modern mode session. Hence it is not possible to accidentally enter modern mode without the use of those commands, thus allowing all existing GMT scripts to run unchanged. Once in modern mode, the required syntax will be simplified to avoid repetitive options and the user will no longer be responsible for assembling a composite PostScript file. The default output format will be PDF but more than one format may be selected, including standard raster image formats. Improved interactive documentation will be added to showcase modern mode (while maintaining the documentation for classic mode). To strengthen EarthScope science there will be new modules for 3-D grid stacking and interpolation, KML image quadtree building for Google Earth, and a new animation module that vastly simplifies the task of building scientific animations. It is anticipated that UNAVCO will assist with annual workshops aimed at EarthScope scientists using GMT in shell, MATLAB, or Python environments.

Related pages

Comments? Leave one below or let me know on Twitter @leouieda.
Found a typo/mistake? Send a fix through Github and I'll happily merge it (plus you'll feel great because you helped someone). All you need is an account and 5 minutes!