GIS has evolved into a full-featured environment for a range of modeling approaches to analyze and predict the behavior of complex, spatially- and temporally-varying systems. Given data and empirical or analytical rules for system behavior, GIS can be used to implement models predicting the evolution or expected state of the system due to the process(es) in operation.
The two-dimensional model pictured here was implemented as a stand-alone, platform- independent application using the C programming language and a graphics modeling package to create a user interface for controlling and viewing animations of various deformation scenarios for a cross-section of the earth's crust under compressive stress. The model uses a finite-element approach to represent the structure and deformation of the crustal plate. This approach can be used equally effecively to model and visualize three-dimensional systems.