Impact of flow routing on catchment area calculations, slope estimates, and numerical simulations of landscape development


Corresponding author: E. Shelef, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305 USA. (


[1] Flow routing across real or modeled topography determines the modeled discharge and wetness index and thus plays a central role in predicting surface lowering rate, runoff generation, likelihood of slope failure, and transition from hillslope to channel forming processes. In this contribution, we compare commonly used flow-routing rules as well as a new routing rule, to commonly used benchmarks. We also compare results for different routing rules using Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM) topography to explore the impact of different flow-routing schemes on inferring the generation of saturation overland flow and the transition between hillslope to channel forming processes, as well as on location of saturation overland flow. Finally, we examined the impact of flow-routing and slope-calculation rules on modeled topography produced by Geomorphic Transport Law (GTL)-based simulations. We found that different rules produce substantive differences in the structure of the modeled topography and flow patterns over ALSM data. Our results highlight the impact of flow-routing and slope-calculation rules on modeled topography, as well as on calculated geomorphic metrics across real landscapes. As such, studies that use a variety of routing rules to analyze and simulate topography are necessary to determine those aspects that most strongly depend on a chosen routing rule.