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Can Low-Resolution Airborne Laser Scanning Data Be Used to Model Stream Rating Curves?

Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm 10691, Sweden
Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California—Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Institute of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Geological Survey, Denver, CO 80225, USA
Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå 90183, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editor: Jun Xu
Water 2015, 7(4), 1324-1339;
Received: 8 December 2014 / Revised: 25 February 2015 / Accepted: 16 March 2015 / Published: 24 March 2015
PDF [954 KB, uploaded 9 June 2015]


This pilot study explores the potential of using low-resolution (0.2 points/m2) airborne laser scanning (ALS)-derived elevation data to model stream rating curves. Rating curves, which allow the functional translation of stream water depth into discharge, making them integral to water resource monitoring efforts, were modeled using a physics-based approach that captures basic geometric measurements to establish flow resistance due to implicit channel roughness. We tested synthetically thinned high-resolution (more than 2 points/m2) ALS data as a proxy for low-resolution data at a point density equivalent to that obtained within most national-scale ALS strategies. Our results show that the errors incurred due to the effect of low-resolution versus high-resolution ALS data were less than those due to flow measurement and empirical rating curve fitting uncertainties. As such, although there likely are scale and technical limitations to consider, it is theoretically possible to generate rating curves in a river network from ALS data of the resolution anticipated within national-scale ALS schemes (at least for rivers with relatively simple geometries). This is promising, since generating rating curves from ALS scans would greatly enhance our ability to monitor streamflow by simplifying the overall effort required. View Full-Text
Keywords: topographic LiDAR; rating curves; streamflow monitoring; water resources topographic LiDAR; rating curves; streamflow monitoring; water resources

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Lyon, S.W.; Nathanson, M.; Lam, N.; Dahlke, H.E.; Rutzinger, M.; Kean, J.W.; Laudon, H. Can Low-Resolution Airborne Laser Scanning Data Be Used to Model Stream Rating Curves? Water 2015, 7, 1324-1339.

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