On the effect of digital elevation model accuracy on hydrology and geomorphology

Jeffrey P. Walker, Garry R. Willgoose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

168 Citations (Scopus)


This study compares published cartometric and photogrammetric digital elevation models (DEMs) of various grid spacings with a ground truth data set, obtained by ground survey, and studies the implications of these differences on key hydrologic statistics. Inferred catchment sizes and stream networks from published DEMs were found to be significantly different than those from the ground truth in most instances. Furthermore, the width functions and cumulative area relationships determined from the published DEMs were found to fall consistently outside the 90% confidence limits determined from the ground truth for more than 60% of the relationship, suggesting that these hydrologic properties are poorly estimated from published DEMs. However, the slope-area relationships determined from published DEMs were found to be less sensitive to catchment shape, size, and stream network, with the relationship falling outside the 90% confidence limits for less than 40% of the relationship for all catchments identified from the published DEMs. A published relationship linking the horizontal resolution with the vertical accuracy of the DEM was tested, predicting a horizontal resolution of about 10 m for the published DEMs tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2259-2268
Number of pages10
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes

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