On the extraction of channel networks from digital elevation data

Authors

  • David G. Tarboton,

    1. Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University
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  • Rafael L. Bras,

    1. Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.
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  • Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

    Corresponding author
    1. Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.
    • Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, University of Iowa
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Abstract

Channel networks with artibtrary drainage density or resolution can be extracted from digital elevation data. However, for digital elevation data derived networks to be useful they have to be extracted at the correct length scale or drainage density. Here we suggest a criterion for determining the appropriate drainage density at which to extract networks from digital elevation data. The criterion is basically to extract the highest resolution (highest drainage density) network that satisfies scaling laws that have traditionally been found to hold for channel networks. Procedures that use this criterion are presented and tested on 21 digital elevation data sets well distributed throughout the U.S.

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