Predicting, explaining and exploring with computer simulations in fluvial geomorphology

Eric Desjardins, Marco Van De Wiel, Yannick Rousseau

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    125 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper brings a philosophical perspective on computer simulations in the field of geomorphology. The first part of our analysis presents a general framework within which to interpret and evaluate the adequacy of simulations models pursuing three broad epistemic goals (modes): prediction, explanation, and exploration. It also explains the diverse relationships existing between the phenomenon of equifinality and each one of these modes. The second part of the paper applies this framework to a case in fluvial geomorphology. This application enables further specification of the three modelling modes and shows how they can work together in the inquiry of natural phenomena. Finally, our analysis looks briefly at the path-dependent nature of model building, which highlights the importance of historical contingencies in model development and further support the pragmatic stance endorsed in the framework.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102654
    JournalEarth-Science Reviews
    Early online date27 Jun 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Bibliographical note

    NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Earth-Science Reviews. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Earth-Science Reviews, IN PRESS
    DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2018.06.015

    © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


    • simulation modeling
    • adequacy
    • evaluation
    • prediction
    • explanation
    • exploration
    • fluvial geomorphology
    • Telemac
    • path dependence
    • Evaluation
    • Explanation
    • Prediction
    • Exploration
    • Adequacy
    • Simulation modelling
    • Fluvial geomorphology
    • Path dependence

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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