Fractal Landscape Algorithms for Environmental Simulations

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Henry Mao and Sean Moran, Independent Schools Foundation Academy, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Natural science and geographical research are now able to take advantage of environmental simulations that more accurately test experimental hypotheses, resulting in deeper understanding. Experiments affected by the natural environment can benefit from 3D landscape simulations capable of simulating a variety of terrains and environmental phenomena.

Such simulations can employ random terrain generation algorithms that dynamically simulate environments to test specific models against a variety of factors. Through the use of noise functions such as Perlin noise, Simplex noise, and diamond square algorithms, computers can generate simulations that model a variety of landscapes and ecosystems.

This study shows how these algorithms work together to create realistic landscapes. By seeding values into the diamond square algorithm, one can control the shape of landscape. Perlin noise and Simplex noise are also used to simulate moisture and temperature. The smooth gradient created by coherent noise allows more realistic landscapes to be simulated.

Terrain generation algorithms can be used in environmental studies and physics simulations. Potential studies that would benefit from simulations include the geophysical impact of flash floods or drought on a particular region and regional impacts on low lying area due to global warming and rising sea levels. Furthermore, terrain generation algorithms also serve as aesthetic tools to display landscapes (Google Earth), and simulate planetary landscapes. Hence, it can be used as a tool to assist science education.

Algorithms used to generate these natural phenomena provide scientists a different approach in analyzing our world. The random algorithms used in terrain generation not only contribute to the generating the terrains themselves, but are also capable of simulating weather patterns.