I am interested in creating animations from observations or model predictions and then displaying these animations in a web-based viewer such as OpenLayers.

The best example I have found of this functionality is at:

In my opinion, the user interface is very unintuitive. The steps required to get an animated map are:

  1. Select a layer from the tree browser on the left.
  2. Click on a day in the calendar on the right.
  3. Click on the link labeled "first frame" which is to the left of the calendar.
  4. Choose another day from the calendar and click on the link labeled "last frame".
  5. A "create animation" link will pop up- click on that to generate the animation.

What open source toolkits are available with support for visualizing and animating time series? On the front-end I am looking to display the results in a Google Maps-style viewer as that is what most people are familiar with. The back-end is wide open.

6 Answers 6


If you can put your data into JSON, KML, or GeoRSS then timemap handles time in a very elegant way.

UPDATE: Other options to consider:

  • 1
    Wow, that looks great! Is this also usable with OpenLayers?
    – underdark
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 17:07
  • that would be great, unfortunately all examples i've seen so far used google maps.
    – user173
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 12:31
  • 1
    Thanks for the link to timemap- some neat stuff there. Tied to google maps- but that brings some interesting links with google earth. Also open source so it could be adapted to OpenLayers with some work.
    – Sharpie
    Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 18:06

Its not open source, but the free Google Earth API provides an interface and storage mechanism for time series data, see the API's Time documentation.

Sticking with OpenLayers, it does support WMS-T (see example), which could be used in conjunction with something like this patch to provide an interface for controlling the animation.

  • FYI, the first link says "The Google Earth API is no longer available. Thank you for your interest."
    – fatih_dur
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 7:23
  • 1
    @fatih_dur thanks for the comment. Dug up archive.org verisons and linked to those.
    – scw
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 17:39

http://Mapstraction.com, an open-source Javascript mapping abstraction library, has a filter marker control that could be leveraged for animation. Their filter sample uses a http://script.aculo.us/ slider and Google Maps.

Example with code at: http://mapstraction.appspot.com/#filtering_markers

In that Google Maps example implementation, at least, the code could be rewired as either an autopilot animation or via user interaction.


Have you looked into GeoEXT

  • GeoEXT is a nice project- but last time I used it, it was just an integration layer that eased the construction of GUIs using ExtJS and OpenLayers. I didn't notice any explicit support for animation. I will look at it again though.
    – Sharpie
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 0:45

ArcGIS Explorer isn't open source, but at least it's free. It can be used with historic data.

It can be customized to create keyframe based presentations. I'm not certain it uses the REST API for Geoprocessing, which ESRI is releasing as an Open specification, when it calls geoprocessing tasks. If so, you might be able to expose your model so that it gets called by ArcGIS Explorer.

  • 1
    ArcGIS Explorer is very heavy (wont work everywhere), not platform independent, and frankly rather kludgy feeling.
    – westyvw
    Commented Jul 26, 2010 at 23:55
  • 1
    It is also Windows-only and not browser-based. I really admire ESRI's contributions to GIS, but until they broaden their product line beyond the Windows platform, they are of limited use to me.
    – Sharpie
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 0:47
  • I forgot to mention there is also ArcGIS Explorer Online. It's not as heavy as AGX, but uses Silverlight. explorer.arcgis.com Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 17:06

Just for the record: See this HOWTO http://grass.osgeo.org/wiki/Movies for nice raster animations

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