Illustrating Hillslope Diffusion with Physical and Numerical Models
This activity has benefited from input from a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop.
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were provided with a set of criteria against which they evaluated each others' activities. To learn more about this review process, see http://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/review_processes.html#2005.
This page first made public: Oct 23, 2009
- develop the math for a diffusional process
- make predictions from this equation about how a hillslope would evolve through time
- develop a numerical theory (here, the diffusion equation applied to slopes)
- test this numerical theory with data from an analog model
- construct a numerical model of hillslope diffusion, and compare it to the analog model results
Context for Use
This exercise is done in a 300 level course on Surface Processes. The course prerequisite is one introductory geology course, and there are ~15-25 students in the course. The activity is used during two three-hour lab sessions, with the first lab for the analog model (Slope Lab I) and the second for the numerical model (Slope Lab II). I assume that students (with some prodding) can remember both simple algebra and that a delta symbol implies change in a variable. From work in previous labs, students have a basic working knowledge of Excel for data entry and Kaleidagraph for graphing (entire lab could be done using Excel alone). The lab takes place after several lectures discussing hillslope processes, including a basic introduction to hillslope diffusion. But, the majority of the learning about hillslope diffusion is done as part of the lab.
Description and Teaching Materials
Lab 2 Handout (Microsoft Word 268kB Jun29 05)
Excel Spreadsheets (Excel 92kB Mar17 05)
range.avi ( 12.1MB Jul22 05)
range2.avi ( 50MB Jul22 05)
Teaching Notes and Tips
Instructor notes for Lab 1 lecture (Microsoft Word 860kB Jun29 05)
Photos of Activity in Action (Acrobat (PDF) 287kB Mar17 05)