Mid-level spreadsheeting and complex modeling of real-world scarp evolution

Bill Locke
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SCARP2 is the second in a sequence of spreadsheet modeling exercises (SCARP, LONGPRO, and GLACPRO).

This exercise is a second or familiarization exercise in spreadsheeting, but is also a mathematical model for slope evolution. It uses the concept of "erosivity" (generally, the relative ratio of driving and resisting forces) and slope angle to reshape an initial topography. Finally, it asks the students themselves to come up with a real-world situation worth modeling.

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Learning Goals

  1. To familiarize students with moderately complex Excel??? manipulations
  2. To reinforce good technical graphical techniques, and
  3. To introduce basic mathematical modeling of natural systems

Context for Use

  • I use this exercise in a 3XX Geomorphology class with an enrollment of about 40 in two 20-student labs, three hours in duration. The students in the class typically represent five colleges and as many as eight majors, thus only an introductory Earth Science course is required as a prerequisite.
  • The lab has ten computers (each running Microsoft Office) in groups of two, so work is typically performed in groups of two (for this lab) or four (for more complex activities).
  • This lab takes place in the fourth week of the semester in the context of class discussion of tectonic geomorphology, so it includes fault scarps and broader issues of slope evolution especially the contrast between discrete events in time and space (landslides, extreme erosion events) and the functional assumption of quasi-equilibrium processes.
  • This is intended to be the second of four or five spreadsheet modeling exercises of increasing complexity. This exercise requires 3-5 hours with instructor/assistant oversight.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips


See Instructors Notes for assessment suggestions.

References and Resources

  • Bucknam, R. C. and R. E. Anderson, 1979, "Estimation of fault-scarp ages from a scarp-height - slope-angle relationship". Geology, v. 7, p. 11-14.
  • Colman, S. M, 1987, "Limits and constraints of the diffusion equation in modeling geological processes of scarp degradation". In Crone, A.J. and Omdahl, E.M., eds. "Proceedings of conference XXXIX, Directions in Paleoseismology, USGS Open-File Report 87-673, p. 311-6.