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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-50
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-50
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Short communication 27 Jun 2018

Short communication | 27 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Short communication: Rivers as lines within the landscape

John J. Armitage John J. Armitage
  • Dynamique des Fluides Géologiques, Institute de Physique du Globe de Paris, Paris, France

Abstract. Landscape evolution models (LEMs) aim to capture an aggregation of the processes of erosion and deposition within the Earth's surface and predict the evolving topography. A key aspect of any LEM is the algorithm chosen to route water down the surface. In nature precipitation makes its way to rivers as a surface flow and as groundwater. Furthermore, at the scale of a mountain range, country, or even continent, the width of any given river is so small relative to the scale of the landscape that it is essentially a line. Taking this abstraction as a starting point, I explore the consequences of assuming that water flows over the surface of a LEM along lines rather than over the surface area. By making this assumption and distributing the flow along the edges of the mesh cells, node-to-node, I find that the resolution dependence of the evolution of LEM is significantly reduced. Furthermore, the flow paths of water predicted by this node-to-node distributed routing algorithm is significantly closer to that observed in nature. Therefore I suggest that rivers are lines within the landscape, and we must treat them as such within LEMs that operate on a scale larger than a reach.

John J. Armitage
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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
John J. Armitage
John J. Armitage
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Short summary
Landscape evolution models (LEMs) aim to capture an aggregation of the processes of erosion and deposition, and predict evolving topography. A key aspect of any LEM is how water is chosen to be routed down the surface, which can impact the model results and importantly the numerical accuracy. I find that by treating rivers as lines within the model domain, and by distributing water down all slopes, the results are independent of resolution, pointing to a new method to model landscape evolution.
Landscape evolution models (LEMs) aim to capture an aggregation of the processes of erosion and...
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