The suitability of using ASTER GDEM2 for terrain-based extraction of stream channel networks in a lowland Arctic permafrost catchment
Seasonally inundated areas and water-saturated soils are common features of lowland Arctic and sub-Arctic permafrost environments. With the onset of snow melt, and water percolation down through the snowpack, a principal factor controlling stream channel flow, aside from active layer depth, is topography. This paper investigates stream channel networks derived from the advanced spaceborne thermal emission and reflection radiometer (ASTER) global digital elevation model (GDEM) version 2 in a static terrain-based GIS-model. The suitability of using the ASTER GDEM2 for modelling the drainage network over a low-relief terrain is assessed. The aim is to use GDEM2 for the analysis of the stream channel network and to establish the network’s connectivity to previously observed spring flood patterns over the Yamal peninsula. As such, there are two parts to this study: 1) DEM validation and 2) stream channel network analysis. The results of the DEM validation study show that the root mean square error (RMSE) of the GDEM2 and reference data is approx. 10 m when compared to both reference data sets (RMSE = 12.17 m, N = 86 and RMSE = 9.64, N = 506,877), implying that the GDEM2 is sufficiently accurate for terrain-based modelling. The low connectivity between the stream channel network and seasonal inundation suggests that topographic controls play a less important role compared to the possible overbanking of lakes and basin overflow. However, drainage densities for investigated drainage basins were significantly lower than those expected from typical Arctic basins. Both more sophisticated modelling techniques as well as higher spatial resolution DEMs are needed to extract the stream channel network more accurately and hence establish a more comprehensive link between the drainage network and seasonally inundated areas.