Determination of surface flow paths from gridded elevation data

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[1] Surface flow paths are obtained from gridded elevation data by connecting grid cell centers along predetermined flow directions. These flow directions are commonly determined using single and multiple flow direction algorithms. It remains, however, unclear whether multiple flow direction algorithms, which introduce artificial dispersion, can be used to describe surface flow paths and gravity-driven processes across a terrain without causing unrealistic flow dispersion. To explore this issue, a unified algorithm for the determination of flow directions has been developed, and new methods for the validation of the resulting surface flow paths are introduced. The unified algorithm makes it possible, by setting appropriate parameters, to perform local or path-based analyses and to experiment with different combinations of single and multiple flow directions in a morphologically significant manner. The new validation methods use drainage systems delineated from contour elevation data as a reference and take into consideration the overlap between these systems and those obtained from gridded elevation data. The unified algorithm is presented, and the results are evaluated for selected case studies in order to provide guidance on the use of surface flow path algorithms based on gridded elevation data. © 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.






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Orlandini, S, and G Moretti (2009). Determination of surface flow paths from gridded elevation data. Water Resources Research, 45(3). 10.1029/2008WR007099 Retrieved from

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