Clubb et al. - 2014 - Objective extraction of channel heads from high-resolution topographic data.pdf (7.87 MB)
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Objective extraction of channel heads from high-resolution topographic data

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journal contribution
posted on 03.02.2017, 09:03 by Fiona J. Clubb, Simon M. Mudd, David T. Milodowski, Martin D. Hurst, Louise Slater
Fluvial landscapes are dissected by channels, and at their upstream termini are channel heads. Accurate reconstruction of the fluvial domain is fundamental to understanding runoff generation, storm hydrology, sediment transport, biogeochemical cycling, and landscape evolution. Many methods have been proposed for predicting channel head locations using topographic data, yet none have been tested against a robust field data set of mapped channel heads across multiple landscapes. In this study, four methods of channel head prediction were tested against field data from four sites with high-resolution DEMs: slope area scaling relationships; two techniques based on landscape tangential curvature; and a new method presented here, which identifies the change from channel to hill slope topography along a profile using a transformed longitudinal coordinate system. Our method requires only two user-defined parameters, determined via independent statistical analysis. Slope-area plots are traditionally used to identify the fluvial hillslope transition, but we observe no clear relationship between this transition and field-mapped channel heads. Of the four methods assessed, one of the tangential curvature methods and our new method most accurately reproduce the measured channel heads in all four field sites (Feather River CA, Mid Bailey Run OH, Indian Creek OH, Piedmont VA), with mean errors of 211, 27, 5, and 224 m and 34, 3, 12, and 258 m, respectively. Negative values indicate channel heads located up slope of those mapped in the field. Importantly, these two independent methods produce mutually consistent estimates, providing two tests of channel head locations based on independent topographic signatures.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment

Published in

Water Resources Research






4283 - 4304


CLUBB, F.J. al., 2014. Objective extraction of channel heads from high-resolution topographic data. Water Resources Research, 50(5), pp. 4283-4304.


© American Geophysical Union


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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Water Resources Research and the definitive published version is available at





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