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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5051

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation

Evaluation of LiDAR-Acquired Bathymetric and Topographic Data Accuracy in Various Hydrogeomorphic Settings in the Deadwood and South Fork Boise Rivers, West-Central Idaho, 2007

By Kenneth D. Skinner

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.75 MB)Abstract

High-quality elevation data in riverine environments are important for fisheries management applications and the accuracy of such data needs to be determined for its proper application. The Experimental Advanced Airborne Research LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)—or EAARL—system was used to obtain topographic and bathymetric data along the Deadwood and South Fork Boise Rivers in west-central Idaho. The EAARL data were post-processed into bare earth and bathymetric raster and point datasets.

Concurrently with the EAARL surveys, real-time kinematic global positioning system surveys were made in three areas along each of the rivers to assess the accuracy of the EAARL elevation data in different hydrogeomorphic settings. The accuracies of the EAARL-derived raster elevation values, determined in open, flat terrain, to provide an optimal vertical comparison surface, had root mean square errors ranging from 0.134 to 0.347 m. Accuracies in the elevation values for the stream hydrogeomorphic settings had root mean square errors ranging from 0.251 to 0.782 m. The greater root mean square errors for the latter data are the result of complex hydrogeomorphic environments within the streams, such as submerged aquatic macrophytes and air bubble entrainment; and those along the banks, such as boulders, woody debris, and steep slopes. These complex environments reduce the accuracy of EAARL bathymetric and topographic measurements. Steep banks emphasize the horizontal location discrepancies between the EAARL and ground-survey data and may not be good representations of vertical accuracy.

The EAARL point to ground-survey comparisons produced results with slightly higher but similar root mean square errors than those for the EAARL raster to ground-survey comparisons, emphasizing the minimized horizontal offset by using interpolated values from the raster dataset at the exact location of the ground-survey point as opposed to an actual EAARL point within a 1-meter distance. The average error for the wetted stream channel surface areas was -0.5 percent, while the average error for the wetted stream channel volume was -8.3 percent. The volume of the wetted river channel was underestimated by an average of 31 percent in half of the survey areas, and overestimated by an average of 14 percent in the remainder of the survey areas.

The EAARL system is an efficient way to obtain topographic and bathymetric data in large areas of remote terrain. The elevation accuracy of the EAARL system varies throughout the area depending upon the hydrogeomorphic setting, preventing the use of a single accuracy value to describe the EAARL system. The elevation accuracy variations should be kept in mind when using the data, such as for hydraulic modeling or aquatic habitat assessments.

First posted April 8, 2011

For additional information contact:
Director, Idaho Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
230 Collins Road
Boise, Idaho 83702

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Suggested citation:

Skinner, K.D., 2011, Evaluation of LiDAR-acquired bathymetric and topographic data accuracy in various hydrogeomorphic settings in the Deadwood and South Fork Boise Rivers, West-Central Idaho, 2007: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5051, 30 p.




Data Collection Methods

Evaluation of Eaarl Data Accuracy

Comparison of Datasets


References Cited

Appendix A. Ground Photography

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