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A Geographic Information System procedure to quantify drainage-basin characteristics

May 1, 1993

The Basin Characteristics System (BCS) has been developed to quantify characteristics of a drainage basin. The first of four main BCS processing steps creates four geographic information system (GIS) digital maps representing the drainage divide, the drainage network, elevation contours, and the basin length. The drainage divide and basin length are manually digitized from 1:250,000-scale topographic maps. The drainage network is extracted using GIS software from 1:100,000-scale digital line graph data. The elevation contours are generated using GIS software from 1:250,000-scale digital elevation model data. The second and third steps use software developed to assign attributes to specific features in three of the four digital maps and analyze the four maps to quantify 24 morphometric basin characteristics. The fourth step quantifies two climatic characteristics from digitized State maps of precipitation data.

Compared to manual methods of measurement, the BCS provides a reduction in the time required to quantify the 26 basin characteristics. Comparison tests indicate the BCS measurements are not significantly different from manual topographic-map measurements for 11 of 12 primary drainage-basin characteristics. Tests indicate the BCS significantly underestimates basin slope. Comparison-measurement differences for basin slope, main channel slope, and basin relief appear to be due to limitations in the digital elevation model data.

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