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Case Study:
3D Modelling and Visualisation of Landslides and Glacial Events

The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) asked GeoSolutions Consulting to conduct GIS computer modelling for the Climate Change and Catastrophic Processes study of Canadian landslides and geological hazards. GIS three dimensional(3D) computer modelling and rendering are powerful tools that can help GSC scientists to better understand the full extent and impact of these massive events.


The overall objectives of this study are to determine what effect climate change has on the frequency of these landslides occurring, to assess the physical impact of a landslide on the local environment, to develop a method for predicting their occurrence, and ultimately, to determine why and how these landslides occur.

Most landslide events are unpredictable, create hazardous terrain, and often occur in remote locations where the weather may limit travel to only a few days per year. In the face of these challenges GSC scientists need tools and methods for studying events remotely. Photographs, visual models of landscape changes, estimates of material movements before and after the event and other information increase understanding of how and why the event occurred. Traditional techniques using Air photos and engineering drawings are great aids in answering these questions, but computer 3D modelling brings the analysis to a new level. GIS is a powerful tool that is well suited to aid GSC scientists in studying these landslides and glacial events.

GIS 3D Computer Modelling can aid GSC scientists by:

  • Generating realistic visualizations of the landslides
  • Calculating material volume and movement estimates
  • "Viewing" landslides on the computer, from any vantage point
  • Presenting technical information in shaded relief maps, change detection maps and topographic profiles
  • Modelling landslide mass and flood dynamics
  • Modelling the extent of the landslide at given time intervals and generating animation of the land slide event.



Download (33153 KB) an .avi animation of the landslide.

Data Used:

  • Digital Ortho-Rectified Air Photos - Sub-metre accuracy Air Photos of landslide areas before and after the events.
  • Engineering Drawings - Digital engineering drawings, before and after the events, detailing the elevation contours, and hydrological, geological and base features of interest.

Work Flow:

  • Assemble all digital and hardcopy source event data
  • Standardize all data representation symbology
  • Normalize, convert and digitize source data as required to integrate in the GIS
  • Build 3D digital elevation models (DEM) of the event site
  • Drape digital data (air photos, cartographic, topographic, thematic, etc.) onto the DEM's
  • Generate 3D colour shading of the models
  • Material volumetric modelling for areas of material loss and gain
  • Event profile generation (prior, post, time series, etc.)
  • Generate cartographic map layouts
  • Generate graphic "snap shot" images and layouts for reports, magazines, internet, etc.
  • Generate 3D computer animations of the landslide event