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Lidar-Derived Aerial Maps Reveal the Dramatic Meandering Changes in River Banks Over Millennia
October 5, 2023
Dan Coe (previously) takes us back in time with his impressive collection of river images derived from lidar data. An acronym for “light detection and ranging,” lidar is often employed to make three-dimensional elevation maps. When used aerially, the technology is able to peer through trees and other vegetation to document topographic changes, structures from ancient civilizations, and other remnants of eras past currently disguised by growth.
For his part, Coe translates this collected data into vivid maps that unveil how river and delta patterns shift over hundreds of thousands of years within a single image. In one work, fractal-like tributaries extend in muted tones from the Alabama River, whose current-day shape is rendered in a bright, electrifying shade of blue. Many of the maps take similar forms as they show changes to the mainstems’ lengths and widths, along with losses and expansions in their offshoots.
Coe is currently the graphics editor at Washington Geological Survey, and some of his lidar work focuses on the ancient, ice age-era rivers embedded in the state’s landscape. You can explore a broader selection of his topographic time-travels on his site and Flickr.
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