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Terrain Analysis Using Digital Elevation Models (TauDEM)

TauDEM (Terrain Analysis Using Digital Elevation Models) is a suite of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) tools for the extraction and analysis of hydrologic information from topography as represented by a DEM. TauDEM provides the following capability:

  • Development of hydrologically conditioned (pit removed) DEMs using the flooding approach
  • Calculates flow paths (directions) and slopes
  • Calculates contributing area using single and multiple flow direction methods
  • Multiple methods for the delineation of stream networks including topographic form-based methods sensitive to spatially variable drainage density
  • Objective methods for determination of the channel network delineation threshold based on stream drops
  • Delineation of watersheds and subwatersheds draining to each stream segment and association between watershed and segment attributes for setting up hydrologic models
  • Specialized functions for terrain analysis, including:
    • Calculates the slope/area ratio that is the basis for the topographic wetness index
    • Calculates both the distance up to ridges and down to streams in horizontal, vertical, along slope and direct variants
    • Maps locations upslope where activities have an effect on a downslope location
    • Evaluates upslope contribution subject to decay or attenuation
    • Calculates accumulation where the uptake is subject to concentration limitations
    • Calculates accumulation where the uptake is subject to transport limitations
    • Evaluates reverse accumulation
    • Evaluates potential avalanche runout areas


  • Uses the GDAL library for Input/Output to accommodate a broad class of raster files.
  • Performs computations in geographic (latitude and longitude) as well as projected (planar) coordinates.
  • Partitions domain into stripes to take advantage of parallel processing using message passing interface (MPI).
  • Works on Windows PCs, laptops and UNIX clusters.
  • Includes a set of standalone command line executable programs and an ArcGIS toolbox Graphical User Interface (GUI).
  • Command line executables are based on single set of source code for the command line execuables that is platform independent and can be compiled for both Window's PC's and UNIX clusters and does not require ArcGIS to run.
  • The ArcGIS toolbox GUI makes system calls to the command line executables to allow users to access the tools as standard ArcGIS toolbox tools.
  • Pre-compiled versions of TauDEM are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
  • UNIX makefiles are included in the source code for Unix users to compile the execuables for their systems.