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

Research article 10 Dec 2018

Research article | 10 Dec 2018

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

A Versatile, Linear Complexity Algorithm for Flow Routing in Topographies with Depressions

Guillaume Cordonnier1,2, Benoît Bovy3, and Jean Braun3 Guillaume Cordonnier et al.
  • 1Univ. Grenoble Alpes, 1251 Avenue Centrale Domaine Universitaire, 38400 Saint-Martin-d'Hères, France
  • 2Inria Grenoble Rhône-Alpes, 655 Avenue de l'Europe, 38330 Montbonnot-Saint-Martin, France
  • 3GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg 14473, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. We present a new algorithm for solving the common problem of flow trapped in closed depressions within digital elevation models, as encountered in many applications relying on flow routing. Unlike other approaches (e.g., the so-called Priority-Flood depression filling algorithm), this solution is based on the explicit computation of the flow paths both within and across the depressions through the construction of a graph connecting together all adjacent drainage basins. Although this represents many operations, a linear time-complexity can be reached for the whole computation, making it very efficient. Compared to the most optimized solutions proposed so far, we show that this algorithm of flow path enforcement yields the best performance when used in landscape evolution models. Besides its efficiency, our proposed method has also the advantage of letting the user choose among different strategies of flow path enforcement within the depressions (i.e., filling vs. carving). Furthermore, the computed graph of basins is a generic structure that has the potential to be reused for solving other problems as well. This sequential algorithm may be helpful for those who need to, e.g., process digital elevation models of moderate size on single computers or run batches of simulations as part of an inference study.

Guillaume Cordonnier et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Guillaume Cordonnier et al.
Guillaume Cordonnier et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We propose a new algorithm to solve the problem of flow routing across local depressions in the topography, one of the main computational bottlenecks in landscape evolution models. Our solution is more efficient than the state-of-the-art, with an optimal linear asymptotic complexity. The algorithm has been designed specifically to be used within landscape evolution models, and also suits more generally the efficient treatment of large digital elevation models.
We propose a new algorithm to solve the problem of flow routing across local depressions in the...