Temporal data

Temporal data represents a state in time, such as the land-use patterns of Hong Kong in 1990 or total rainfall in Honolulu on July 1, 2009. This data comes from many sources, ranging from manual data entry to data collected using observational sensors or generated from simulation models. The following are applications of temporal data in GIS:

  • Visualize the locations of ocean mammals or other populations to understand patterns in their movement.
  • Understand population increases per city or parcel boundary changes.
  • Learn how fatalities from a disease are increasing based on changing colors in the layer symbology.
  • View ocean temperature changes or weather patterns over time.

Store time values

Time values in your data can represent a point in time, sampled at a regular or irregular interval. These time values are stored in a single attribute field and can be used to visualize temporal data at particular times. For example, stream flow data is collected at different points in time at regular intervals. However, lightning or earthquake data is collected at irregular intervals depending on when a particular lightning storm or earthquake occurs.

Time values can also represent durations of time, such as when a particular event occurs over a period of time. Time values in this case are stored in two fields, one representing the start time of the event, and the other representing the end time of the event. For example, polygon features representing a fire perimeter have a start and end time that depend on when the fire started and ended.

Use temporal data

Maps that contain temporal data provide additional functionality and controls to explore the data over time. Temporal data can be visualized with the time slider. The time slider provides controls to explore temporal data and is available at the top of any map view that contains temporal layers or stand-alone tables. Time-configured properties can also be used as an extent filter to work with a subset of records in the table view. If your map contains time-aware layers, the table filters records based on the current map time.


You can also filter the list of layers in the Contents pane of a map or scene to only time-configured layers.

Time properties are also stored when you create a bookmark, so not only can you return to a geographic location, you can display data at a particular time.

Animation can also be used in conjunction with time aware layers in your map. You can use animation to show content changes through time and export it to a video to share with others.

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