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.
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