Fluvial modeling – research and sketches

September 26, 2011
Process , , , , ,

Here is a photoshop sketch of (what we had hoped would be) the blue print for our upcoming 3D fluvial model for Visual Earth. The sketch shows how a river changes its course over roughly sixty years; the faintest river outlines are the oldest.

As the river ages, its meanders become more pronounced and loopy. The inside bends accrete successions of sandy point bar beds (shown as yellowy repeating curves), while the outside bends carve deeper and deeper into steep cliffs. The meanders in the river can become so circular, that eventually the loop pinches off, leaving an oxbow lake. The newly straightened river then begins the increasing-sinuosity process all over again, and the lake often dries up or fills with silt.

After further reading on fluvial deposition and looking at many a research image, we realized that we could not have such a lovely, loopy, meandering stream as we had originally imagined, if we also wanted to have a lot of sandy, well-defined bedforms. Like all our visualizations, the 3D fluvial model has to balance artistic value with scientific accuracy.


I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.

- Joan Miro