Estimating flow distribution over digital elevation models using a form-based algorithm

Petter Pilesjö*, Qiming ZHOU, Lars Harrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses a new approach to estimate flow distribution over a continuous surface. This approach is based on the analysis of topographic form of a surface facet that dictates the flow distribution. In the case of a raster Digital Elevation Model (DEM), the facet consists of a centre cell and its eight neighbouring cells. If the form of the facet is convex, the water flow is divergent; thus the amount of flow is distributed to all cells that have a lower elevation. In the case of a concave or flat surface, the convergent flow is directed to the main drainage direction. Comparison between the results of this algorithm with the traditional ‘eight-move’ algorithm, which is widely used in today's commercial GIS software, indicated that the form-based algorithm yielded a more realistic results in estimating flow accumulation over the land surface, but produced less convincing results in deriving a drainage network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalGeographic Information Sciences
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1998

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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