An analysis of scaling effects is performed to evaluate whether data aggregation is a useful regionalization tool or whether it leads to an unacceptable loss of information. One issue concerns the appropriate resolution of digital elevation models (DEMs) used to derive geomorphological input parameters for hydrological models. In particular, the scale problem of watershed division by a channel network and smaller sub‐basins is addressed. The investigation involved commercially available data sets with different horizontal and vertical resolutions and systematically aggregated DEMs. A stream network and the contributing subareas were derived from a DEM with a distinct critical support area. By varying this threshold area various watershed configurations were obtained. The sensitivity of surface runoff simulations to all watershed configurations was studied with synthetic storms and by means of an infiltration excess runoff model. The study revealed that elevation data with different resolutions diverge enormously in landscape representation and in the derived parameters such as slopes, flow directions and channel networks. Coarse DEMs show a smoother terrain and shorter flow paths than highly resolved data. The contributing threshold area controls the extent of the watershed configuration and therefore determines the drainage density. These topographic and geomorphological features were used to explain differences in the runoff simulation results. When watershed configurations with a varying extent of the channel network were derived from a distinct DEM and then used to simulate surface runoff, the drainage densities of the configurations correlated with the simulated runoff volume. A distinct drainage density, however, did not necessarily lead to similar simulation results when different DEMs were used. Since the hydrological model permits reinfiltration, the runoff volume depends directly on the lengths of the overland flow. Therefore, the mean length of the overland flow paths might to a certain degree be considered as a scaling factor. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Hydrological Processes – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1999
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