Developing a Workflow – or chapters

Most of this is building on a comment by J.W. Bjerk. Now his process for building a planet up to climates went like this,

* Astronomic Stuff
* Basic Coastline
* High and low Pressure
* Prevailing Winds
* Surface Currents
* Preliminary Precipitation (everything excluding elevation)
* Finalized Elevation and Coastline
* Final Precipitation
* … The rest of the Climate

Although this ordering often makes it more difficult to make sense of the arrangement of tectonic plates, I still think its worthwhile to sketch out the plate structure somewhere between the preliminary precipitation stage and finalizing the elevations.

I think after the astronomic stuff(actually about a dozen steps, there) and initially roughing in the coastlines you get into the Great Circle of Iterative Design. Basically, we circle through setting up the pressure, winds, currents, and precipitation followed by tectonic plates and the attendant rough elevations(not a pixel by pixel DEM, but more of a sense of mountains and hills here, lowlands there…) then we look at the resulting climate patterns and go back and make small incremental alterations to the coastline, ocean currents and ultimately rough elevations. Note that you should have a lot of leeway with currents. They are very dependent on details of sea bottom topography in ways that aren’t well understood, currently. Rinse, wash and repeat. If the climates fairly closely approximate your vision for the planet(sometimes this is a more precise thing than others), get to work on the final elevation structure. Since you already know the placement of highlands and low lands, this more detailed elevation model really isn’t going to alter your climates unless you are using a GCM. If you are using a GCM that takes your DEM into account could you hook me up with a copy? Please?!?

That’s a fairly minor change to a generally very good workflow. I’d also change order in a few places. I’d work out ocean currents before pressure and winds. There are a lot of feedback loops between temperature, moisture, pressure and thus winds on those currents, but the currents are dominant. If you want to model climate oscillations like El Niño and the NAO, be my guest, but that’s a whole other article I’ll leave to you.

So my workflow is looking a bit like this at present.

• Astronomic Stuff(This would be broken down into a lot of smaller chapters: stellar parameters, distribution of planetary bodies, orbital parameters and insolation[including distribution of insolation by latitude and time].
Begin iterative design loop here
• Basic Coastline(This is pretty crucial to later elements): Only very minor changes should be allowed at each iteration.
• Surface Currents(As I said earlier, there’s room for jiggering the currents a bit, here): This can vary a lot from one iteration to the next, if needed to adjust climates.
• High and low Pressure(This is figured out at least for all major seasons. Seasons, in this case, includes not only axial declination but eccentricity effects. Refer back to the results for insolation figured out previously): These are mostly resultant to the distribution of land and currents, so there is somewhat limited room for adjustment, here.
• Prevailing Winds(Determined by pressure zones and Coriolis effect. Again, these must clearly be figured out for all seasons): These follow pressure patterns and to a great degree determine along with ocean currents how precipitation will be distributed.
• Preliminary Tectonics and Elevations(You don’t need to know that Mount Pupikaka is 7,826 meters tall, you just need to know major ranges, highlands and lowlands): This is another way to alter precipitation patterns. Precipitation will be greater when winds are blowing uphill and less when winds are blowing downhill.
This is the end of the iterative design loop. Not to say you can’t go all the way back to the start and decide you want an M4 red dwarf star instead of an F2 main-sequence white star, but expect to repeat a whole lot of the process needlessly.
• Finalized Elevation and Coastline(Here is where we go about actually sculpting and modeling the landscape. There’s a lot of different ways to do this and I hope to outline at least a couple of them)
• Final Climate(A little check to see if the more detailed landscaping has made any major alteration to the climate patterns)
• Somewhere in here, we should deal with hydrological features like rivers, lakes and sinkholes. As someone whose major educational focus was fluvial geomorphology and hydrology, I probably shouldn’t skip this stage. Also, down the line, these kinds of features are often very meaningful to the distribution and delineation of cultures and societies.
Another little loop could be set up between detailed landscape building and finalization of climates, but this is typically very complicated work, detailed and time-consuming. In general a little bit should do ya’.
• At this point we go on to determining biomes and habitats, planting and designing cultures, creating languages, naming landscape features(including sapiogenic* features like cities, roads and countries) and all the rest of the non-physical conworlding that I’m not quite up to handling yet.

This workflow will ultimately have a large bearing on the organization of my webbook.

Comments are always very welcome, and, as you can see by my writing, my standards for intelligence aren’t too challenging 🙂 .

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