School of Geography

School Research Seminar

6 March 2012

Time: 12:15 - 1:15pm
Venue: City Centre Seminar Room, FB 2.07


Monitoring and Modelling Floodplain Dynamics: shining new light on riverscapes

Professor James Brasington, School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London

Chair: Professor Angela Gurnell

In the last decade a technological revolution has transformed the acquisition and modelling of geospatial data both above and below the
Earth’s surface.  These developments have profound implications for river science and indeed the geosciences more broadly, creating a step-change our ability to characterize the Earth’s surface; radically enhancing the dimensionality, resolution and precision of measurement. The pace of change has been remarkable.  For example, typical datasets of channel morphology have grown from a few tens of cross-sections, containing a few hundred survey observations, to airborne lidar surveys incorporating millions of points.  With wide-area terrestrial laser scans comprising tens of billions observations now set to emerge, our data perspectives have expanded by seven orders of magnitude. Coincident with these advances, methods for non-invasive, spatially-distributed measurement of fluvial processes and fluxes have also emerged, in particular, acoustic Doppler velocity profiling. When combined, these 'next-generation' observational technologies create an unparalleled opportunity to couple the forces, morphological responses and feedbacks that drive the evolution of rivers at time and space scales relevant to river management.  Such rapid modernization nonetheless also brings fresh challenges and requires the development of new algorithms for data management and modelling; novel  multidimensional spatial metrics; and innovative simulation strategies that make optimal use of such dense spatial information. This paper offers some reflections on these opportunities and challenges and through a range case studies, attempts to illustrate how this technological dividend can be used to help bridge the gap between form and process in fluvial geomorphology.