Dam failures occur worldwide and can be economically and ecologically devastating. Communicating the scale of these risks to the general public and decision-makers is imperative. Two-dimensional (2D) dam failure hydraulic models inform owners and floodplain managers of flood regimes but have limitations when shared with non-specialists. This study addresses these limitations by constructing a 3D Virtual Reality (VR) environment to display the 1976 Teton Dam disaster case study using a pipeline composed of (1) 2D hydraulic model data (extrapolated into 3D), (2) a 3D reconstructed dam, and (3) a terrain model processed from UAS (Uncrewed Airborne System) imagery using Structure from Motion photogrammetry. This study validates the VR environment pipeline on the Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset with the criteria: immersion fidelity, movement, immersive soundscape, and agreement with historical observations and terrain. Through this VR environment, we develop an effective method to share historical events and, with future work, improve hazard awareness; applications of this method could improve citizen engagement with Early Warning Systems. This paper establishes a pipeline to produce a visualization tool for merging UAS imagery, Virtual Reality, digital scene creation, and sophisticated 2D hydraulic models to communicate catastrophic flooding events from natural or human-made levees or dams.
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Spero, H. R.; Vazquez-Lopez, I.; Miller, K.; Joshaghani, R.; Cutchin, S.; and Enterkine, J.. (2022). "Drones, Virtual Reality, and Modeling: Communicating Catastrophic Dam Failure". International Journal of Digital Earth, 15(1), 585-605. https://doi.org/10.1080/17538947.2022.2041116