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Fact Sheet 2012–3112

Slope-Area Computation Program Graphical User Interface 1.0—A Preprocessing and Postprocessing Tool for Estimating Peak Flood Discharge Using the Slope-Area Method

By D. Nathan Bradley

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.41 MB)Introduction

The slope-area method is a technique for estimating the peak discharge of a flood after the water has receded (Dalrymple and Benson, 1967). This type of discharge estimate is called an “indirect measurement” because it relies on evidence left behind by the flood, such as high-water marks (HWMs) on trees or buildings. These indicators of flood stage are combined with measurements of the cross-sectional geometry of the stream, estimates of channel roughness, and a mathematical model that balances the total energy of the flow between cross sections. This is in contrast to a “direct” measurement of discharge during the flood where cross-sectional area is measured and a current meter or acoustic equipment is used to measure the water velocity. When a direct discharge measurement cannot be made at a gage during high flows because of logistics or safety reasons, an indirect measurement of a peak discharge is useful for defining the high-flow section of the stage-discharge relation (rating curve) at the stream gage, resulting in more accurate computation of high flows.

The Slope-Area Computation program (SAC; Fulford, 1994) is an implementation of the slope-area method that computes a peak-discharge estimate from inputs of water-surface slope (from surveyed HWMs), channel geometry, and estimated channel roughness. SAC is a command line program written in Fortran that reads input data from a formatted text file and prints results to another formatted text file. Preparing the input file can be time-consuming and prone to errors. This document describes the SAC graphical user interface (GUI), a crossplatform “wrapper” application that prepares the SAC input file, executes the program, and helps the user interpret the output. The SAC GUI is an update and enhancement of the slope-area method (SAM; Hortness, 2004; Berenbrock, 1996), an earlier spreadsheet tool used to aid field personnel in the completion of a slope-area measurement. The SAC GUI reads survey data, develops a plan-view plot, water-surface profile, cross-section plots, and develops the SAC input file. The SAC GUI also develops HEC-2 files that can be imported into HEC–RAS.

First posted November 27, 2012

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Suggested citation:

Bradley, D.N., 2012, Slope-Area Computation Program Graphical User Interface 1.0—A Preprocessing and Postprocessing Tool for Estimating Peak Flood Discharge Using the Slope-Area Method: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012–3112, 4 p., available only at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2012/3112.



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