Five-minute, 1/2°, and 1° data sets of continental watersheds and river networks for use in regional and global hydrologic and climate system modeling studies


  • S. T. Graham,

  • J. S. Famiglietti,

  • D. R. Maidment


A major shortcoming of the land surface component in climate models is the absence of a river transport algorithm. This issue becomes particularly important in fully coupled climate system models (CSMs), where river transport is required to close and realistically represent the global water cycle. The development of a river transport algorithm requires knowledge of watersheds and river networks at a scale that is appropriate for use in CSMs. These data must be derived largely from global digital topographic information. The purpose of this paper is to describe a new data set of watersheds and river networks, which is derived primarily from the TerrainBase 5′ Global DTM (digital terrain model) and the CIA World Data Bank II. These data serve as a base map for routing continental runoff to the appropriate coast and therefore into the appropriate ocean or inland sea. Using this data set, the runoff produced in any grid cell, when coupled with a routing algorithm, can easily be transported to the appropriate water body and distributed across that water body as desired. The data set includes watershed and flow direction information, as well as supporting hydrologic data at 5′, 1/2°, and 1° resolutions globally. It will be useful in fully coupled land-ocean-atmosphere models, in terrestrial ecosystem models, or in stand-alone macroscale hydrologic-modeling studies.