A view of Lennox Island, PEI captured live in CLIVE with +2m sea-level rise. The coloured outlines represent coastlines from 1968 (red) to 2010 (yellow) and to 2100 (dark blue).

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Our environmental future, according to CLIVE

February 18, 2014
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At current erosion rates, as many as 1,000 homes on Prince Edward Island are vulnerable to erosion during the next 90 years.

That’s according to CLIVE, a new geo-visualization tool that gives scientists a window into the future.

Created by researchers at SFU and the University of Prince Edward Island, the Coastal Impact Visualization Environment program, or CLIVE, is the first of its kind. 

With the click of a mouse on a laptop, CLIVE can project and communicate the future outcomes of global environmental change related to coastal erosion and oceanic thermal expansion.

The tool can display historical coastal data back to 1968 and future sea-level rise projections to 2100, anywhere along PEI’s coastline. It will evaluate past, current and future strategies for dealing with changes such as the construction of setbacks, armouring and other mitigating approaches.

CLIVE has already figured out that PEI lost 20 square kilometers of coastline to erosion between 1968 and 2010.

Nick Hedley

“The ability to view sea-level-rise futures in B.C., eventually, will help us anticipate changes in a coastline whose morphology is very changeable,” says CLIVE’s co-creator Nick Hedley, SFU professor of geography. “This in turn will help us make better choices in long-term coastal urban planning, coastal navigation, port construction and vulnerability assessment.”

CLIVE can be scaled and adapted for use on mobile devices such as smart phones.

Seeing the world according to CLIVE ultimately allows citizens to visualize past, present and future coastline scenarios from anywhere in their real world. They will be able to select, toggle on/off, view and compare various scenarios using digital data such as high-resolution elevation images and climate models.

Hedley and co-creator Adam Fenech hope the virtual experience will motivate users to take action. Hedley directs SFU’s Spatial Interface Research Lab. Fenech is a professor, climate change expert and director of UPEI’s Climate Research Lab.

The two labs came to collaborate on CLIVE’s creation as a result of an SFU undergrad’s work in two of Hedley’s geography courses. Alex Chen, an Environmental Science student, had combined spatial analysis with 3D game engines to produce geographic visualization that he then applied to PEI’s erosion and coastal sea-level-rise challenges.

Chen eventually trained UPEI student Andrew Doiron on CLIVE’s operation, rounding out the SFU/UPEI collaboration on the tool’s application in PEI.

Hedley says CLIVE’s modular architecture means that localized versions can be built so that the rest of Canada’s coastal provinces can visualize future environmental impacts on their coastlines.

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