Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Filtering spatial error from DEMs: Implications for morphological change estimation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andy Large


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Scour and fill estimation from digital elevation model (DEM) subtraction or differencing is an increasingly common technique in morphological and sediment transport investigations. The technique is commonly used to estimate scour and fill volumes and to produce scour and fill maps that provide process-based information to geomorphologists. Accounting for sources of uncertainty within the DEM is of critical importance. DEM error is spatially variable and has a tendency to be greater at breaks of slope such as bar and bank edges. In the past however, this has been achieved using a uniform error metric across the DEM, resulting in over-conservative estimates of error. In turn this has led to over-conservative scour and fill volumes, and incorrect process interpretation. This paper applies a new approach that permits assessment of spatially distributed error across a DEM. The method is tested on a sequence of field surveys of the gravel-bed River Nent, Cumbria, UK. The results demonstrate some dramatic differences: application of conventional techniques that account for mean error across a DEM led to a 15 and 31% underestimation in scour and fill volumes, respectively, between July and October 1998, whilst for the October 1998-June 1999 subtraction 31 and 13% of scour and fill were underestimated respectively. Use of a uniform error across a surface captures less change in comparison to a spatially distributed approach. Furthermore, the changes captured using a uniform error are biased toward areas of the channel that have more local topographic variability such as bar and bank edges. In contrast the use of a spatially distributed approach provides information on change from flatter surfaces such as bar tops that would otherwise be missed. This study also demonstrates that estimates of morphological change can be misleading in the absence of an error filter. Where the raw survey data is available, it is recommended that sediment budgeting studies take account of the spatial variability of error in each DEM involved in the subtraction. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Milan DJ, Heritage GL, Large ARG, Fuller IC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geomorphology

Year: 2011

Volume: 125

Issue: 1

Pages: 160-171

Print publication date: 19/09/2010

ISSN (print): 0169-555X

ISSN (electronic): 1872-695X

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.09.012


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric