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Visual Analytics in Environmental Decision-Making: A Comparison of Overlay Charts versus Simulation Decomposition

M. Kozlova1 and J. S. Yeomans2*

  1. School of Business and Management, LUT University, Lappeenranta 53850, Finland
  2. OMIS Area, Schulich School of Business, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada

*Corresponding author. Tel.: 416-736-5074. E-mail address: (J. S. Yeomans).


Various components within environmental decision-making problems often contain considerable uncertainty. Monte Carlo simulation approaches have frequently been used to incorporate a wide array of this uncertainty into environmental planning. Simulated outputs summarizing these uncertainties are commonly portrayed in the form of probability distributions. Visualization of the disparate uncertainties within these distributions is a key aspect for effective decision support in Monte Carlo analysis. This study contrasts the performance and benefits of two visual analytics tools – overlay charts and simulation decomposition. Overlay charts enable the display of multiple sources of uncertainty overlaid on top of each other in a single graphical representation and come as a standard feature in numerous commercial Monte Carlo software packages. Conversely, simulation decomposition combines user -defined sub-distributions of the simulation uncertainties and collectively displays them in a combined graphical output figure. This paper contrasts the efficacy of overlay charts versus simulation decomposition for the visual analysis uncertainty into the environmental decision-making process.

Keywords: simulation decomposition, overlay charts, Monte Carlo simulation, visual analytics, probability distributions

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