media release

Environmental future, according to CLIVE

February 07, 2014

Nick Hedley (North Vancouver resident), 778.782.4515,
Alex Chen (Coquitlam resident), 778.834.3200,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


A crystal ball-like new geo-visualization tool, created by researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), will likely stop users dead in their tracks.

Called Coastal Impact Visualization Environment or CLIVE for short, this first-of-its-kind 3D geo-visualization tool runs on a laptop. With the click of a mouse, CLIVE can communicate the future outcomes of global environmental change due to coastal erosion and oceanic thermal expansion, all derived from futuristic projections of climate change.

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.

“The ability to view sea-level-rise futures in B.C., eventally, will help us anticipate changes in a coastline whose morphology is very changeable. 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.

The tool’s co-creators Nick Hedley and Adam Fenech hope the virtual experience will also motivate users to take action. Hedley, a geography associate professor in SFU’s Faculty of Environment directs the university’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 worked closely with UPEI research assistant Andrew Doiron to implement CLIVE at the eastern university.

“CLIVE’s architecture is modular, meaning that localized versions can be built for the rest of Canada’s coastal provinces, allowing visualizations of their future coastal impacts,” says Hedley.

“CLIVE at first looks like some sort of video game that allows you to manipulate and interact with a 3D map of PEI, but it’s not a game,” says Fenech.

“According to CLIVE, PEI lost 20 square kilometres of land to erosion between 1968 and 2010. At the current erosion rate, as many as a thousand homes are vulnerable to erosion during the next 90 years.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m. (Atlantic time), Fenech will demonstrate live how CLIVE works at a UPEI lecture. He’ll discuss how coastal erosion and sea-level rise will affect PEI’s buildings, roads and communities’ bridges in CLIVE’s projected world.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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