Standard Article

15 Digital Elevation Model Analysis and Geographic Information Systems

Part 2. Hydroinformatics

  1. Glenn E Moglen1,
  2. David R Maidment2

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa025

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Moglen, G. E. and Maidment, D. R. 2006. Digital Elevation Model Analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 2:15.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Maryland, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College Park, MD, US

  2. 2

    University of Texas, Department of Civil Engineering, Austin, TX, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


This article presents the technology of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applied to a particular form of representation of topography, the digital elevation model (DEM). It first defines what a DEM is and introduces the basic properties of all DEMs, as well as several common sources of DEM data. Then the basic concepts of GIS technology are presented, defining what a GIS is, what fundamental data types it can store, and what kind of manipulations it can perform. Some of the most common GIS software packages are discussed. The remainder of the article focuses on the use of GIS technology for the interpretation of DEM in a hydrologic context. The principles of flow direction, flow accumulation, watershed delineation, flow lengths, slopes, and travel times as derived from DEM data within a GIS are presented. A brief case study is presented illustrating a number of the concepts presented in this article.


  • channel network;
  • digital elevation model;
  • flow direction;
  • geographic information system;
  • cell;
  • resolution;
  • topography;
  • watershed;
  • unit hydrograph