• river networks;
  • surface water hydrology;
  • global hydrologic modeling;
  • continental hydrologic modeling;
  • network tracing method

ABSTRACT: The Network Tracing Method (NTM) has been developed to determine gridded coarse river networks for modeling large hydrologic systems. For a coarse resolution grid, the NTM determines the downstream cell of each cell and the distance along the actual meandering flow paths between them. Unlike previously developed methods, the NTM uses fine resolution vector river networks as the source of information of the flow patterns rather than digital elevation models. The main advantage of using vector river networks as input is that they capture the hydrologic terrain features better than topographic data do, particularly in areas of low topographic relief. The NTM was applied to South America with a grid resolution of 1 degree by 1 degree and to the globe with a resolution of 2.815 degrees by 2.8125 degrees. Overall, the method captured the flow patterns well. Generated digital river networks and drainage divides showed minor disagreement with those obtained from existing maps, and most of them were consistent with the resolution of the coarse river network. The majority of estimated basin areas were also close to documented values. River lengths calculated with the NTM, however, were consistently underpredicted.