Characteristic length scale of input data in distributed models: implications for modeling grid size

G. A. Artan
C. M. U. Neale
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University


The appropriate spatial scale for a distributed energy balance model was investigated by: (a) determining the scale of variability associated with the remotely sensed and GIS-generated model input data; and (b) examining the effects of input data spatial aggregation on model response. The semi-variogram and the characteristic length calculated from the spatial autocorrelation were used to determine the scale of variability of the remotely sensed and GIS-generated model input data. The data were collected from two hillsides at Upper Sheep Creek, a sub-basin of the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, in southwest Idaho. The data were analyzed in terms of the semivariance and the integral of the autocorrelation. The minimum characteristic length associated with the variability of the data used in the analysis was 15 m. Simulated and observed radiometric surface temperature fields at different spatial resolutions were compared. The correlation between agreement simulated and observed fields sharply declined after a 10×10 m2 modeling grid size. A modeling grid size of about 10×10 m2 was deemed to be the best compromise to achieve: (a) reduction of computation time and the size of the support data; and (b) a reproduction of the observed radiometric surface temperature.