I read that canyons are the result of long-time erosion from a plateau but is there any simulation I could play with to understand the phenomenon better?

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    $\begingroup$ Get some sand, spread it as a 5 cm thick layer for about a square meter. It doesn't have to be totally flat, but rather even, and there should be a gentle slope. Now get some water and gently pour it on the elevated side of your square. The water will run downhill, and in the process wash away/erode the sand, carving tiny canyons. Tada, your own simulation. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Nov 22, 2021 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


I guess you are talking about subaerial (as opposed to submarine) canyons, and are mostly thinking of numerical (as opposed to physical) models.

I expect there are numerical models suitable for submarine application, but I haven't looked for them. There are physical models of rivers too, but I think they are better suited to modeling 'soft' sedimentary systems like deltas, floodplains, etc.

Here are some examples of numerical models in Python, starting with the research-grade ones (but if it was me I'd probably start with the ones I've thrown at the end):


Sketch of Badlands models

an open-source python-based framework that allows for evaluation of sediment transport, landscape dynamics and sedimentary basins evolution under the influence of climate, sea waves and tectonics

Read the paper. Get the code.


This is a high-level toolkit for building models, but their docs point to all sorts of examples, several of which have to do with landscape evolution. For example, see Terrainbento and SPACE, below.

Check out the website. Read a nice poster.Get the code.


This package builds on Landlab (above) to compare a large number of different Earth surface modelling strategies.

Read the paper. Get the code.


Another package that builds on Landlab, this time to study the simultaneous modeling of alluvial and bedrock erosion and transport.

Read the paper. Get the code.

Some others I've come across:


Not sure about a model you can play with, but there are some very interesting videos of models here:



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