Sensitivity of a floodplain hydrodynamic model to satellite-based DEM scale and accuracy: Case study-the Atchafalaya Basin

Hahn Chul Jung, Michael F. Jasinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hydrodynamics of low-lying riverine floodplains and wetlands play a critical role in hydrology and ecosystem processes. Because small topographic features affect floodplain storage and flow velocity, a hydrodynamic model setup of these regions imposes more stringent requirements on the input Digital Elevation Model (DEM) compared to upland regions with comparatively high slopes. This current study provides a systematic approach to evaluate the required relative vertical accuracy and spatial resolution of current and future satellite-based altimeters within the context of DEM requirements for 2-D floodplain hydrodynamic models. A case study is presented for the Atchafalaya Basin with a model domain of 1190 km2. The approach analyzes the sensitivity of modeled floodplain water elevation and velocity to typical satellite-based DEM grid-box scale and vertical error, using a previously calibrated version of the physically-based flood inundation model (LISFLOOD-ACC). Results indicate a trade-off relationship between DEM relative vertical error and grid-box size. Higher resolution models are the most sensitive to vertical accuracy, but the impact diminishes at coarser resolutions because of spatial averaging. The results provide guidance to engineers and scientists when defining the observation scales of future altimetry missions such as the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission from the perspective of numerical modeling requirements for large floodplains of O[103] km2 and greater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7938-7958
Number of pages21
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the authors.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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