Articles | Volume 9, issue 12
Development and technical paper
15 Dec 2016
Development and technical paper |  | 15 Dec 2016

A computationally efficient depression-filling algorithm for digital elevation models, applied to proglacial lake drainage

Constantijn J. Berends and Roderik S. W. van de Wal

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Cited articles

Amante, C. and Eakins, B. W.: ETOPO1 Arc-Minute Global Relief Model: Procedures, Data Sources and Analysis, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Technical Memorandum NESDIS NGDC-24,, 2009.
Arnold, N.: A new approach for dealing with depressions in digital elevation models when calculating flow accumulation values, Prog. Phys. Geog., 34, 781–809,, 2010.
Barber, D. C., Dyke, A., Hillaire-Marcel, C., Jennings, A. E., Andrews, J. T., Kerwin, M. W., Bilodeau, G., McNeely, R., Southon, J., Morehead, M. D., and Gagnon, J.-M.: Forcing of the cold event of 8,200 years ago by catastrophic drainage of Laurentide lakes, Nature, 34, 781–809,, 1999.
Broecker, W. S., Kenett, J. P., Flower, B. P., Teller, J., Trumbore, S., Bonani, G., and Wolfli, W.: Routing of meltwater from the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the Younger Dryas cold episode, Nature, 341, 318–321,, 1989.
Clark, P. U., Marshall, S. J., Clarke, G., Hostetler, S. W., Licciardi, J. M., and Teller, J.: Freshwater Forcing of Abrupt Climate Change During the Last Glaciation, Science, 293, 283–287,, 2001.
Short summary
This paper describes several improvements to the so-called "flood-fill algorithm" – a computer program widely known for its use in the "paint bucket" tool in several drawing programs such as MS Paint. However, it can also be used to determine the extent and depth of lakes in a topography map, which is useful in hydrology and climatology. In such cases, the default algorithm can be too slow to be of much use. Our improvements can make it up to 100 times faster, making it much more feasible.