Resample or not?! Effects of resolution of DEMs in watershed modeling.
Resolution of data is a sensitive issue in environmental modeling. Professionals from diverse background use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for environmental modeling. Availability of GIS software and publicly available digital data make modeling more accessible to anyone, but without proper understanding of the resampling and resolution of the digital database, model results are of little practical significance. It is imperative that the government agencies and their contractors responsible for using GIS-based modeling to implement regulatory goals must have strong foundational knowledge of resolution of data and their implications. This study utilizes the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model integrated with ArcView to examine how sensitive the SWAT model was to the resolution of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) while predicting the streamflow. This research uses a case study to demonstrate to the modeling community that resolution of data matters when predicting flow. If there were no effect of resolution on the modeled results then the original 90 m DEM and the original 30 m DEM resampled to 90 m would show similar trends. Initial input layers into SWAT were: DEMs, soils, landuse (LU) and meteorological data. The model-predicted streamflow was validated against USGS (US Geological Survey) stream gauge data. DEMs are available at 30, 90 and 300 m resolution originally; therefore, this study analysed the sensitivity of the predicted streamflow at 30, 90 and 300 m resolution. Results indicated that SWAT is indeed sensitive to the resolution of the DEMs: original 90 and 30 m DEM resampled to 90 m did not show the same trend. Therefore, the effects of resolution cannot be ignored and resampling may not be adequate in modeling stream flows using a distributed watershed model.
Dixon, B. & Earls, J. (2009). Resample or not?! Effects of resolution of DEMs in watershed modeling. Hydrological Processes, 23(12), 1714-1724. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.7306
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