EGU 2021 Games Day – April 28th

The annual EGU Games Day is nearly upon us, Wednesday the 28th April 2021. As usual, we have our science session, Games for Geoscience, kicking off at 2:15pm CEST. Following this, we have our Geoscience Games Night networking session that will begin in a specially designed GatherTown space at 5.30pm CEST.

During the Geoscience Games Night you can chat to you friends and colleagues and make use of the ample private spaces to play games. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of GatherTown and the license we are unable to provide a game for each space, so please do bring your own if you can.

But we are not totally devoid of games! Earlier this year, we ran two EGU Game Jams, one for print and play games and one for videogames. We’ve put together a webpage on SeriousGeoGames showcasing each of these games – some you can play through the browser, others need a little bit of prep beforehand, so do check these out prior to the Games Night. This web page can be accessed via the arcade space in the Games Room.

There are some geoscience- and game-based videos for you to relax and watch, plenty of free imaginary coffee and wine, we’ll be running a Geoscience Game Quiz, and also announcing the winners of our Game Jams.


Geoscience Game Jams 2021 #vEGU21Games #vEGU21

The abstract deadline for this year’s meeting of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) has passed. The Games for Geoscience crew are all very excited to be hosting our fourth science session at the meeting and we have a great line up of brilliant presentations to be shared. We are also desperately sad we can’t meet face-to-face, stuff said faces with kasekrainer, and wash it down with a glass of Sturm* in beautiful Vienna. Last year’s virtual Geoscience Games Night was a decent ‘sticking plaster’ but with more time to prepare we want to do something far better in 2021.

modern bridge over river in city
Photo by Dimitry Anikin on

The first piece of good news is that there will be an interactive, social Geoscience Games Night. In fact, there will be two in order for people in different timezones to participate. We will have more details on these closer to the meeting.

The second piece of good news is that we will be hosting an EGU Games Jam. In fact, there will be two! Covering analogue (table, card, board games etc) games, we have the EGU Games Jam and for videogame entries, we have the EGU Videogame Jam. Both will be open to submissions at the start of February and will close at the end of March, followed by a period of public voting, with the top entries featured during the main EGU meeting. Winners will be announced during one of the Geoscience Games Nights.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on

Both the Game Jams will be hosted on the itch platform and can be viewed, downloaded, and/or played online via the platform. Each Jam has different rules so please read them carefully – for example, the analogue Game Jam limits you to games that can be printed on just four pieces of A4 paper, with the only additional components being dice and common household items. The Videogame Jam is more open and will also run as a place to showcase existing games**. The prize for both Jams is being able to call your game the EGU Game/Videogame of the Year and maybe a small trophy***.

The EGU Game Jam hosted by the Manchester Game Studies Network

The EGU Videogame Jam hosted by the SeriousGeoGames Lab

person tossing globe
Photo by Valentin Antonucci on

Finally – what do we mean by Geoscience? Well, we’re not going to massively strict on this but we want to see some link. Below is a list of the topic areas covered by EGU –

Atmospheric Sciences; Biogeosciences; Climate: Past, Present, Future; Cryospheric Sciences; Earth Magnetism & Rock Physics; Energy, Resources and the Environment; Earth & Space Science Informatics; Geodesy; Geodynamics; Geoscience Instrumentation & Data; Geomorphology; Geochemistry, Minerology, Petrology & Volcanology; Hydrological Sciences; Natural Hazards; Nonlinear Processes in Geosciences; Ocean Sciences; Planetary & Solar System Sciences; Seismology; Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Palaeontology; Soil System Sciences; Solar-Terrestrial Sciences; Tectonics & Structural Geology.

If that list does not mean much to you, basically a Geoscience game could cover anything from games aimed to teach people about the geological structure of the Earth****, games aimed at helping communities prepare for volcanic eruptions or flooding, to games that aim to persuade people to switch to energy efficient light bulbs to help reduce climate change. It’s a very wide scope and we want to be as inclusive as we can.

There’s nothing left to see but – go create!

Chris (@FloodSkinner)

*I’ve never managed to actually try Sturm yet, EGU is the wrong time of year for it…

**We’re not expecting you to develop a whole new videogame in two months!

***If we can find a budget for this.

****Other planetary bodies are available.

Games 4 Geoscience: Season 4 #Games4Geo #vEGU21

I am very pleased to announce that the Games for Geoscience session has been renewed for its fourth season – so Games 4 Geoscience I guess!

This year we know well in advance that the European Geoscience Union meeting will be virtual in 2021. Even though that means we have to make do with our own rubbish homemade schnitzel, it means we can make plans to make sure Games 4 Geoscience and the Geoscience Games Night are the best they can be in the virtual world.

We have slightly changed the description of the session for vEGU21 and we will be welcoming abstracts regarding any form of gaming, game-based approach, or use of gaming technology, at any stage of research, in education, or for engaging the public with research and/or geosciences. There’s no excuse – get those abstracts submitted!

You can find more details of the session here.

As Games 4 Geoscience is Education and Outreach Section (EOS) led, a submission to the session does not prohibit you from submitted a second abstract to the regular sections under EGU’s one abstract rule. More research, more presentations, more exposure!

We can also tell you that we will be planning a Games Jam to support the Games Night. This is your opportunity to create your own analogue or digital games and share them with the world. EGU will also be providing us some small prizes for the best games. It’s time to get creative, we’ll release more details early next year. We are so excited about this!

Myself (Chris), Jaz, Liz, Sam, and Rolf are really looking forward to seeing you all in Cyber-Vienna next year. In the meantime you can relive last year’s virtual Geoscience Games Night in the video below.

Earth Arcade @ Waterline

The heroes of 2020, Jedward*, once famously said that we are “close to the Waterline”. They were not wrong, as the Humber’s Waterline Summit kicks off next week, commencing 19th October 2020. The Summit highlights the region’s ambitions and plans to not only become carbon net-zero but also to become the world-leader in environmental transformation. This year’s theme is “Countdown to COP26″**.

The Earth Arcade is returning to Waterline for 2020, only this time virtually. Last year we hosted the Environment Agency’s Humber 2100+ team and #theHullWeWant project, showcased our Rising Tide powerpoint game, and shared Inundation Street for the first time – little did we know that a year later nearly 1.2 million people would have viewed it on YouTube!

With a virtual exhibit we can share lots of our activities and also some activities from our friends. You can try our popular 360 videos, Flash Flood! and Inundation Street, and be amongst the first to try new ones, By the Rising Tide of Humber and Help Callum. If you want to play games, then you can see how long you can survive in Crabby’s Reef, experience the ups and downs of flood recovery with Flood Snakes and Ladders and Get Floods Ready, or build a new green society in the Bioeconomy Game. You can also explore the Environment Agency’s Humber 2100+ interactive storymap, and learn how you can get involved as a playtester/citizen scientist with Kelly Stanford’s Resilience card game (before its official launch!).

On Monday 19th October 13:00-14:00 do not miss the “The Culture of Climate Change Debate” featuring EEI researchers Briony McDonagh (By Rising Tide of Humber), Christina Roggatz (Crabby’s Reef), and Kelly Stanford (Resilience). More EEI researchers will be speaking throughout the week also!

The virtual Earth Arcade exhibit at Waterline 2020

During Waterline there will be opportunity for attendees to visit the exhibit, try the activities, and also chat to people behind them. You can try any of the activities and games at any point in the week but we have themed some of our sessions, so if there’s something specific you want to know you can make sure to find the right person.

Monday 19th October 11:00-12:30 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner – Learn more about the mission and work of the project and chat about any of the games.

Monday 19th October 14:00-15:00 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner.

Tuesday 20th October 11:00-12:30 – Crabby’s Reef with Christina Roggatz – Learn more about the science behind the game.

Tuesday 20th October 14:00-15:00 – By Rising Tide of Humber with Stewart Mottram – Learn more about how poet Andrew Marvell’s Hull was brought to life.

Wednesday 21st October 11:00-12:30 – Betajester – Learn more about their game development work and their work on Flash Flood!, Inundation Street, By Rising Tide of Humber, and Crabby’s Reef.

Wednesday 21st October 14:00-15:00 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner.

Thursday 22nd October 14:00-15:00 – Help Callum with Alison Lloyd-Williams and Chris Skinner – Learn more our new 360 experience, Help Callum, and also about Lancaster University’s Flood Snakes and Ladders and Get Floods Ready.

If you’d like to attend the Waterline Summit, registration is still open and is FREE. Just head over to the website. For now, it’s only right we give Jedward the last word.

*Jedward are in no way affiliated with us or the Waterline Summit and the Waterline in their song is a metaphorical one reflecting them being ‘out of their depth’ and does not refer to the Summit.

**COP26 is the United Nation’s 26th Climate Change Conference, due to be held in Glasgow, November 2021. Find out more here.

Help Callum 360 Premiere – September 30th 2pm BST

Over the summer we have been working hard with our friends from Lancaster University and the Environment Agency on our latest 360 experience, Help Callum. We are very pleased to announce that it is ready for us to share it with the world but you will have to wait a little longer –

Help Callum will premiere on the SeriousGeoGames Lab’s YouTube channel on September 30th 2020 at 14:00 BST. To make sure you’re amongst the first to try it, head over to the channel now and set a reminder.

Watch Help Callum from 14:00 BST on September 30th.

Help Callum puts you in the shoes of a child navigating their way through flood recovery. It isn’t easy for Callum after his family’s flat was flooded and they had to leave in a hurry. Living away from home, his school, and his friends, he was scared and lonely. Even after he could move back home, he still struggled to overcome these fears.

However, despite all of this, Callum became an agent for change. Helped by the team at Lancaster University, Callum was able to tell his story and campaign for things to be different, for children to be better supported when they are affected by flooding.

A child stands alone in the rain.
“Callum could see that things were not right in his street. How would you help him?”

Our new experience tells this story using his words and through his eyes. We hope the experience will make you more aware of the issues families might face during times of crisis. Most of all, we hope it reminds you of the awesome resilience and capabilities young people have to make the world a better place.

As with all our 360 experiences, they are best viewed on a mobile device via the YouTube App. Help Callum is compatible with Google Cardboard and similar headsets for a more immersive experience.

Freedom Festival 2020 – By Tide of Humber

This weekend is Freedom Festival. Last year we were having an amazing time running the largest ever Earth Arcade in a big tent in the centre of Hull, talking to hundreds, if not thousands, of people about the environment and the research of the Energy and Environment Institute. It seems such a long time ago now and it seems even longer before we’ll be able to run our Earth Arcade again.

Part of our Earth Arcade at Freedom Festival 2020

We love Freedom Festival and have run our virtual reality activities during the Festival in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Honestly, it doesn’t feel right when we don’t get to play. This year’s Freedom Festival is fully online and even though we don’t have an Earth Arcade or are able to place headsets on people, we still have been involved in some of the activities for the Festival.

On Saturday 9th September, watch out for a cameo by Chris Skinner as a “real scientist”, as part of The Reset Lab’s Crazy Ideas programme, 3-5pm BST.

However, our main involvement has been behind the scenes of By Rising Tide of Humber. This brand new 360 video experience has been created by the University of Hull (led by Stewart Mottram) and BetaJester Ltd, funded by XR Stories. In the experience you meet poet Andrew Marvell in streets of 17th Century Hull, witnessing the flooding that he described within his works. The video can be viewed below and you can read more about the project here.

The view of 17th Century Hull, created by BetaJester using our computer model.

Unusually for us, we were not involved in the creation of the 360 experience itself, instead we used our expertise in using computer models to simulate flooding to recreate the descriptions within Andrew Marvell’s poetry. The flooding you see in the experience has been created using the outputs of our model.

To be able to do this, we needed to recreate 17th Century Hull to use in our model. The most difficult part was actually creating the land the city sits on, with our data coming from the present day and many changes having occurred in nearly 400 years, including building forward into the Estuary. Another issue was that although the data we used had been processed to show land surfaces only, the footprints of buildings and roads were still present and we needed to filter these out. Using this data along with historic maps of the city, we created contour lines for the 17th Century and produced our land surface from this.

The surface data for modern Hull. You can clearly still see the footprints of buildings and roads but we needed a smooth surface. The blue lines show the position of the waterfront during the 17th Century, further inland than the present day waterfront. The red lines show the 17th Century fortifications, an imprint still seen in the modern city, around the docks and Old Town.

The next step was to create the city itself. We added building, walls, roads, drains, and moats using a historical map that had been ‘georeferenced’ by research assistant, Helen Manning. She used identifiable features, such as road junctions and buildings that still exist, to stretch the image over a modern map. Working with Briony McDonagh, we used the map and historical records to add the heights and depths of these features to the land surface we had created.

Finally, we needed a flood. For this we used data for the 2013 storm surge taken from our Humber model. As sea levels were a little lower in the 17th Century we adjusted the water levels down slightly to account for this. We combined all the data together to produce the model in the video below. We then passed all this on to Betajester Ltd and they did their usual VR magic!

Our Research in Focus 1 – Hydrological modelling in data-sparse areas

Hydrological modelling using ensemble satellite rainfall estimates in a sparsely gauged river basin: The need for whole-ensemble calibration

Chris Skinner, Tim Bellerby, Helen Greatrex, and David Grimes.

Published in Journal of Hydrology, Volume 522, March 2015, 110-122

Read here (paywall) or free, non-formatted version here


This research highlighted some of the issues with using information from satellites to estimate how much rain has fallen over an area. Many satellite rainfall estimation methods cannot directly observe the rainfall itself, instead inferring the amount from other information, in this case the temperature of clouds – clouds cool whilst raining so if they are below a certain temperature it is likely they are raining. This method was pioneered by University of Reading’s TAMSAT team.

A map showing satellite derived rainfall estimates for Africa
Example of rainfall estimates derived from satellite information using the TAMSAT cold cloud duration method. Image from the TAMSAT website.

The relationship between cloud temperature and rainfall is not perfect and changes with distance and time, causing the rainfall estimates to be wrong in places. As we increase the detail we want to use the chances of it being wrong increase so to overcome this we can use lots and lots of repeat estimates – each using different relationships between cloud temperature and rain in different places and at different times – to create a set of results, each unique but with an equal likelihood of being correct.

Map of Senegal Basin area from the paper. Black dots show the location of the sparse network of rain gauges available for the research.

This set of estimates can be used to run different types of models – for example, to run crop yield models to help us predict how well crops will have grown. For this research they were used to run a hydrological model to predict how much water will have flowed through a river basin. These models rely on us tuning values in them so that the outputs closely match observed values, a process called calibration, but when you have a set of different rainfall estimates for the same period which do you use to perform the calibration? The method that produced the best results was to use all of them together.

Why does it matter?

In the UK, our rainfall is monitored by a long-established and well-funded network of rain gauges and rain radar, providing us with a high detailed view of rainfall across the whole country in near real-time. This wealth of data helps us operate detailed forecasting systems to predict rainfall in the future and inform warning systems for drought and flooding. However, in many parts of the globe these networks to observe rainfall do not exist.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, including in the Senegal River Basin that provided the case study for this work, the lack of ground instrumentation is particularly acute. To fill the gaps in the data satellite information is used to estimate rainfall but this is not as accurate or as detailed as networks of ground instruments. These estimates are used to determine drought and flood warnings and by insurance companies that pay out to farmers who have lost crops, and consequently income, due to a lack of rain. It is important we understand fully what satellite estimates are telling us so we can make the correct decisions.

Why should you read it?

If you are interested in learning more about rainfall estimation is data-sparse regions and/or hydrological modelling using uncertain probabilistic input data.

Who is going to help Callum?

We have some exciting news! We have teamed up with the Environment Agency and sociologists at Lancaster University to create a brand new 360 experience. The new video will tell the story of Callum, a young boy whose house was flooded, using his own words, and seeing through his eyes.

Often the story of flood recovery is an untold one. Houses and streets underwater make good headlines but once the water has drained away, who is left to tell the story of those left behind to try and rebuild their lives? A recent survey of those impacted by flooding in Hull in 2007, conducted by the Energy and Environment Institute and commissioned by the Living with Water Partnership, highlighted the issues of flood recovery, finding that 90% of those affected suffered additional health and wellbeing impacts. A crucial way of improving this is to tell the stories of flood survivors.

Children and young people can be severely affected by flooding. They are seldom given the tools to know what to do in a flood or how to cope with being uprooted from their homes, schools, and friends for a long time. Researchers at Lancaster University developed creative workshops with flood-affected children to help them tell their stories.

In workshops run by sociologists at Lancaster University children created models showing the hard work of flood recovery.

One of those stories, Callum’s, is the basis of the new video. Working with developers Lampada Digital Solutions we will put you into Callum’s situation as he and his parents have to deal with flooding in their home. It will help you see the world through the eyes of a young person, helping you understand the unique difficulties children have to deal with, and help you sense the fears and loneliness they feel. Throughout the video we offer pauses for reflection and ask what would you do to help Callum in this situation.

The ability of 360 video to immerse you into a scene combined with a powerful true narrative we hope will spread Callum’s story far and wide – for example, our Inundation Street video has been viewed over 800,000 times in little over six months. We will also be using innovative technology to produce an interactive version to use with our Earth Arcade VR headsets.

Development of the Help Callum experience has started and is due to be completed in early September 2020. Keep an eye of the SeriousGeoGames and Lancaster Twitter accounts to keep up to date with the latest news.

New @EEIatHull Research – The impact of different rainfall products on landscape modelling simulations

Research led by Energy and Environment Institute Research Fellow, Chris Skinner, has recently been published in the journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. The research, featuring an international team from Hull, Bristol, and Zurich, showed how different methods of measuring rainfall can lead to different predictions of landscape change in computer models.

Rainfall is a slippery thing. For those of us in the UK, we are very much aware that it can be raining one minute and then sunny the next, or it can be raining over your house but not over your friend’s house just a few streets away. This makes it a difficult thing to measure accurately and consequently meteorologists use several methods to try and do so.

The simplest way is to use a rain gauge. There are many different designs but, essentially, they are mostly all glorified buckets that fill with water as it rains, although some do take different approaches. They generally give us a good idea of how much rain has fallen at that spot between the times readings are taken. By automating the readings we can get a good idea of how the rainfall rate has changed over time.

Rain gauges cannot tell us how much rain has fallen outside the bucket. This is generally ok if you are still close to the bucket but the further away you get, the more of a problem this becomes. By using lots of rain gauges we can get a better idea of how the rainfall is varying across an area and we can use geostatistics to try and fill the gaps. However, the results will be different depending on the geostatistical method you decide to use.

Weather radar on the other hand is able to tell us the relative intensity of rainfall over an area. The radar sends out signals that are bounced back to it by rain and depending on the timing and strength of that signal we can tell where it is raining, and the areas it is heaviest. It does not directly measure the rain though and it needs calibrating against a reference point. This calibration may be less accurate as you move away from the reference point or if conditions change over time.

The consequence of this is the availability of different methods to measure rainfall, the results of which we call products. Each product will be different in its estimation of where, when, and how much rain has fallen and with many computer models of rivers relying on a measurement of rainfall as an input, the choice of product can have a big influence on the results from the model.

Landscape evolution models (LEMs) are designed to model changes to the Earth’s surface, usually over large areas and long time periods (at least one hundred years). Some of these models have become sophisticated and fast enough they can be used to explore more local and shorter-term changes. They need to use a rainfall product to run yet only rarely does a product exist that has a record long enough to cover the time scales simulated. Instead, we can use weather generators that take the characteristics of rain as recorded by a product to create long records of rainfall that are possible and likely based on the data.

Graphical abstract from Skinner et al (2020). The chart shows the changing pattern of erosion and deposition from the channel head to the catchment outlet after 1500 years of computer model simulation. The different colours represent the results using the different rainfall products. The records that produced the most change were based on longer records that contain heavier rainfall events.

In newly published led by EEI Research Fellow, Chris Skinner, a weather generator was used to produce long rainfall records based on different rainfall products, as well as a combination of information taken from each product. These synthetic records of rainfall were used to run a landscape evolution model for periods of 50 and 1500 years, finding that the patterns of erosion and deposition varied along a river depending on which product was initially used.

Due to the relationship between river flows and the movement of sediment in rivers, something known as the geomorphic multiplier, a small increase in river flow can result in a large increase in the amount of material eroded and transported by the river. This makes models of erosion and deposition extremely sensitive to changes in rainfall and consequently, the initial choice of rainfall product used can have a big influence on the model results.

As these modelling approaches are increasingly used to help understand the impacts of climate change or to help predict flood risk, understanding how the choice of rainfall product can impact results is crucial and needs to be properly managed by modellers.

You can read the full article here.

Playing Crabby’s Reef using bananas!

Last week we launched our new game, Crabby’s Reef, in time for World Ocean’s Day. Since then it has been played hundreds of times through our website, yet still no one has managed to beat my top score!

For an extra fun way to play the game, you can actually use bananas instead of your keyboard buttons. Yes, you read that right, you can play using bananas!

It is quite appropriate, as everyone knows Bananaman is the greatest superhero.

All you need is a Makey-Makey and some bananas* – hook everything up making sure you remember which banana controls what, and off you go.

Show us your attempts on Twitter and let us know if you get on the Leader’s Board!