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Roanoke River - 'Flood of Mud' Video / Animation Series

The Penn State Cooperative Extension, Geospatial Technology Program (Penn State GTP) worked with the Appalachian Laboratory Environmental Science Education (ALESE) at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to develop a series of short animations that explore both the context and the impacts of sedimentation over time on the lower Roanoke river in North Carolina.

These animations will be incorporated into a longer, 17-minute video that will be displayed publicly at the North Carolina Aquarium.

Disturbed Roanoke 2

This project is based upon the work of Phil Townsend at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Townsend has created DEMs of the Roanoke River floodplain that reveal change in topography and water level, as the "slug" of post-colonial upland sediment has worked its way downstream over time. Sedimentation impacts include enlarged levees, filling-in of backswamps located behind the natural levees, and reduction of plant and topographic diversity.

Upper Roanoke

The components to this project included:

  • A 14 second “fly by” illustrating the geographic context of the Roanoke River Watershed.
  • a 34 second site-based animation that demonstrates physical and ecological impacts of sedimentation over time
  • If time and funding allows when the above 2 items are complete a non-spatial based animation that demonstrates the sedimentation process.

Technology

This project utilized a combination of 3d Nature's Visual Nature Studio 2.0, ArcGIS 8, and 3d Studio Max to create photo realistic animations the showed impacts of sedimentation over time. A soil core was also created.

Flooding in the "Undisturbed" Landscape 300 Years Ago

Lidar data compiled by Phil Townsend at the University of Wisconsin was resampled and used to simulate flooding of the river as it would have been in its natural state 300 years ago. 300 years ago the floodplain would have flooded almost completely. Shallow levees would allow water to freely flow through and drain in the backswamps.

Accurate flood simulation is not a built in part of VNS. In order to make the water flow appear to be "natural", a series of black and white graphics based upon the terrain data were created.

The images below are screen shots from quick time animations.

Undisturbed Roanoke

Undisturbed Roanoke 2

Undisturbed Roanoke 3

Flooding in the "Disturbed" Landscape Today

The same Lidar data was used to create an current day animation sequence illustrating extreme elevated levees and water becoming trapped in the backswamps.

Disturbed Roanoke

Disturbed Roanoke 2

Disturbed Roanoke 3

Disturbed Roanoke 4

Sediment Accumulation Over Time

Lidar data compiled by Phil Townsend at the University of Wisconsin was resampled and used to simulate flooding of the river as it would have been in its natural state 300 years ago. 300 years ago the floodplain would have flooded almost completely. Shallow levees would allow water to freely flow through and drain in the backswamps. The images below are screen shots from quick time animations - click on an image for a larger view.

Changing Terrain

Changing Terrain 2

Changing Terrain 3

Fly Overs illustrating the varying geographic terrain through which the Roanoke River Runs

One part of this project entailed illustrating the diverse terrain through which the Roanoke River travels starting at the mountainous headwaters near Roanoke, Virginia and flowing down through Smith Lake, over the divide and into the Albermarle Sound in North Carolina. The challenge in creating these animations was finding and compiling contiguous, seamless datasets. Color ortho photography was color-corrected, adjusted and mosaiced. Terrain data was resampled to simplify rendering.

Upper Roanoke

Upper Roanoke 2

Upper Roanoke River near Roanoke, VA

Middle Roanoke

Middle Roanoke 2

Middle Roanoke 3

Mid Roanoke River following Smith Lake through the divide and into North Carolina.

Lower Roanoke

Lower Roanoke flowing into the Albermarle Sound and then the ocean.

Soil Core Animation

A soil core illustrating a typical floodplain soil profile was created and animated using 3d Studio Max. The core was rendered on a "green screen" background to allow for background video effects in final production.

Soil Core 2

Soil Core 3