Earthcasting: Geomorphic Forecasts for Society
Over the last several decades, the study of Earth surface processes has progressed from a descriptive science to an increasingly quantitative one due to advances in theoretical, experimental, and computational geosciences. The importance of geomorphic forecasts has never been greater, as technological development and global climate change threaten to reshape the landscapes that support human societies and natural ecosystems. Here we explore best practices for developing socially relevant forecasts of Earth surface change, a goal we are calling “earthcasting”. We suggest that earthcasts have the following features: they focus on temporal (1–100years) and spatial (1m–10km) scales relevant to planning; they are designed with direct involvement of stakeholders and public beneficiaries through the evaluation of the socioeconomic impacts of geomorphic processes; and they generate forecasts that are clearly stated, testable, and include quantitative uncertainties. Earthcasts bridge the gap between Earth surface researchers and decision-makers, stakeholders, researchers from other disciplines, and the general public. We investigate the defining features of earthcasts and evaluate some specific examples. This paper builds on previous studies of prediction in geomorphology by recommending a roadmap for (a) generating earthcasts, especially those based on modeling; (b) transforming a subset of geomorphic research into earthcasts; and (c) communicating earthcasts beyond the geomorphology research community. Earthcasting exemplifies the social benefit of geomorphology research, and it calls for renewed research efforts toward further understanding the limits of predictability of Earth surface systems and processes, and the uncertainties associated with modeling geomorphic processes and their impacts.