Rapid Prototyping of Hydrologic Model Interfaces with IPython

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Matthew W Farthing1, Kevin D Winters1, Aron Jamil Ahmadia2, Ty Hesser1, Stacy E Howington3, Brad D Johnson1, Jennifer Tate1 and Christopher E Kees4, (1)US Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, MS, United States, (2)Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, Vicksburg, MS, United States, (3)Engineer R&D Center, Vicksburg, MS, United States, (4)US Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, Vicksburg, MS, United States
A significant gulf still exists between the state of practice and state of the art in hydrologic modeling. Part of this gulf is due to the lack of adequate pre- and post-processing tools for newly developed computational models. The development of user interfaces has traditionally lagged several years behind the development of a particular computational model or suite of models. As a result, models with mature interfaces often lack key advancements in model formulation, solution methods, and/or software design and technology.

Part of the problem has been a focus on developing monolithic tools to provide comprehensive interfaces for the entire suite of model capabilities. Such efforts require expertise in software libraries and frameworks for creating user interfaces (e.g., Tcl/Tk, Qt, and MFC). These tools are complex and require significant investment in project resources (time and/or money) to use. Moreover, providing the required features for the entire range of possible applications and analyses creates a cumbersome interface. For a particular site or application, the modeling requirements may be simplified or at least narrowed, which can greatly reduce the number and complexity of options that need to be accessible to the user. However, monolithic tools usually are not adept at dynamically exposing specific workflows.

Our approach is to deliver highly tailored interfaces to users. These interfaces may be site and/or process specific. As a result, we end up with many, customized interfaces rather than a single, general-use tool. For this approach to be successful, it must be efficient to create these tailored interfaces. We need technology for creating quality user interfaces that is accessible and has a low barrier for integration into model development efforts. Here, we present efforts to leverage IPython notebooks as tools for rapid prototyping of site and application-specific user interfaces. We provide specific examples from applications in near-shore environments as well as levee analysis. We discuss our design decisions and methodology for developing customized interfaces, strategies for delivery of the interfaces to users in various computing environments, as well as implications for the design/implementation of simulation models.