Error assessment of grid-based flow routing algorithms used in hydrological models

Qiming ZHOU*, Xuejun Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports an investigation on the accuracy of grid-based routing algorithms used in hydrological models. A quantitative methodology has been developed for objective and data-independent assessment of errors generated from the algorithms that extract hydrological parameters from gridded DEM. The generic approach is to use artificial surfaces that can be described by a mathematical model, thus the 'true' output value can be pre-determined to avoid uncertainty caused by uncontrollable data errors. Four mathematical surfaces based on an ellipsoid (representing convex slopes), an inverse ellipsoid (representing concave slopes), saddle and plane were generated and the theoretical 'true' value of the Specific Catchment Area (SCA) at any given point on the surfaces could be computed using mathematical inference. Based on these models, tests were made on a number of algorithms for SCA computation. The actual output values from these algorithms on the convex, concave, saddle and plane surfaces were compared with the theoretical 'true' values, and the errors were then analysed statistically. The strengths and weaknesses of the selected algorithms are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-842
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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