Landscape Diffusion Lab


Students create a STELLA model of two marine terrace platforms separated in elevation by a cliff. They use the hillslope flux equation to simulate the change in the cliff face over time as diffusive processes tear it down. This modeling project is based on a problem of great geomorphological interest: how landscapes evolve over time in response to processes such as raindrop impacts, the annual cycle of freeze-thaw, tree throw, and the action of burrowing animals. All of these diffusive processes act to move soils and sediments from topographic high points to low points.

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Context for Use

This activity was developed for a class introducing dynamical systems modeling to upper level undergraduate students.

Description and Teaching Materials

scarp_diffusion_lab.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 25kB Jun13 05)
scarp_diffusion_v7.STM ( 49kB Jun13 05)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Instructor Notes.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 20kB Apr10 06)


scarp_diffusion_answer_key.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 59kB Jun13 05)

References and Resources

The following are readings for this lab activity:
  • Anderson, R.S., and Humphrey, N.F., 1989, Interaction of weathering and transport processes in the evolution of arid landscapes, in Cross, T.A. (ed.), Quantitative Dynamic Stratigraphy, New York: Prentice Hall, p. 349-361.
  • Rosenbloom, N.A., and Anderson, R.S., 1994, Hillslope and channel evolution in a marine terraced landscape, Santa Cruz, California, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 99, p. 14,013-14,029.