Generation of triangulated irregular networks based on hydrological similarity

Enrique R. Vivoni, Valeri Y. Ivanov, Rafael L. Bras, Dara Entekhabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Distributed hydrologic models typically incorporate topographic data through the use of raster-based digital elevation models. The resampling of high-resolution grid data required to effectively use distributed models, however, can result in the distortion of terrain and hydrographic properties. In this study, we present a geographic information system approach for deriving multiple resolution meshes that conserve physiographic features while significantly reducing the number of computational nodes in a distributed hydrologic model. We utilize triangulated irregular networks (TINs) which serve to integrate information on the surface topography, hydrographic features and land surface characteristics into an adaptive representation of a basin. We discuss three approaches for constructing TIN models for hydrologic applications: (1) Traditional, (2) hydrographic and (3) hydrological similarity TINs. We focus on the generation of triangulated terrain models using the concept of hydrological similarity provided through a topographic or wetness index. This new method embeds an estimate of the steady-state hydrologic response directly into the basin terrain model. Through a series of case studies, we demonstrate the advantages of the multiple resolution approaches over a range of terrain characteristics, basin scales and elevation data products. Finally, we discuss the implications of TIN terrain representation for watershed simulation with the TIN-based Real-Time Integrated Basin Simulator model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-302
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrologic Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Environmental Science


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