Alluvium is a cinematic visualization that simulates the flash floods that occur in Death Valley, USA. Due to the nature of the sediment, it is possible to observe recent geological transformations that would otherwise have taken thousands of years to evolve.


The scenes in Alluvium took their starting point from the research of Dr Noah Snyder and Lisa Kammer’s research paper ‘Dynamic adjustments in channel width in response to a forced diversion: Gower Gulch, Death Valley National Park, California’, published in the February 2008 edition of the journal Geology. Gower Gulch is a 1941 diversion of a desert wash that uncovers an expedited view of geological changes that would otherwise have taken thousands of years to unfold, but have evolved at this site in several decades due to the strength of the flash floods and the conditions of the terrain.

“Our contribution focuses on changes in width in response to a dramatic change in discharge and sediment flux in a desert river, caused by a forced diversion. This anthropogenic alteration provides a rare opportunity to investigate the transient response of a system with known initial conditions, and a large signal due to a two-order- of-magnitude change in drainage area resulting in rapid rates of channel change—a situation analogous to a step-function change in climate.”


Alluvium’s scenes are a hybrid composition of film and digitally produced simulations. Using the technique of camera-matching, the work visualizes the phenomena of water and its geomorphological consequence, beyond human scale perception. The water flow in Gower Gulch can otherwise only be perceived through the evidence of erosion and deposition of sediment. The particle animation was developed using accurate topographic models to simulate the discharge of water over a large period of time. Alluvium compresses this timeframe, providing a sense of a geological scale of time.

Snyder, N.P., and Kammer, L.L.*, “Dynamic adjustments in channel width in response to a forced diversion: Gower Gulch, Death Valley National Park, California”, Geology, 2008, v. 36, p. 187-190


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A film by Isohale