A comparison of geographical information systems–based algorithms for computing the TOPMODEL topographic index



[1] The performance of six geographical information systems (GIS)-based topographic index algorithms is evaluated by computing root-mean-square errors of the computed and the theoretical topographic indices of three idealized hillslopes: planar, convergent, and divergent. In addition to these three idealized cases, two divergent hillslopes with varying slopes, i.e., concave (slopes decrease from top to bottom) and convex (slopes increase from top to bottom) are also tested. The six GIS-based topographic index algorithms are combinations of flow direction and slope algorithms: i.e., single flow direction (SFD), biflow direction (BFD), and multiple flow direction (MFD) plus methods that determine slope values in flat areas, e.g., W-M method [Wolock and McCabe, 1995] and tracking flow direction (TFD) method. Two combinations of horizontal resolution and vertical resolution of the idealized terrain data are used to evaluate those methods. Among those algorithms the MFD algorithm is the most accurate followed by the BFD algorithm and the SFD algorithm. As the vertical resolution increases, the errors in the computed topographic index for all algorithms decrease. We found that the orientation of the contour lines of planar hillslopes significantly influences the SFD's computed topographic index. If the contour lines are not parallel to one of eight possible flow directions, the errors in the SFD's computed topographic index are significant. If mean slope is small, TFD becomes more accurate because slope values in flat areas are better estimated.