Natural Hazards

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 309–320 | Cite as

Updating channel morphology in digital elevation models: lahar assessment for Tenenepanco-Huiloac Gorge, Popocatépetl volcano, Mexico

  • Esperanza Muñoz-Salinas
  • C. S. Renschler
  • D. Palacios
  • L. M. Namikawa
Original Paper


In contrast to dramatic flow regime changes by less frequent large-scale volcanic eruptions, those caused by more frequent small-scale processes in volcanic landscapes may also drastically change the direction and dynamics of flow in a drainage system formed solely by fluvial processes. During such periods of channel morphology change, it is necessary to frequently update channel flow parameters to assess preventive measures for civil protection purposes. Often aerial photography is impracticable, since parts of the channels are covered by dense vegetation, while total station and laser topographic surveys are often too slow and costly, particularly during a high frequency of events. This article introduces and validates a new methodology for updating the representation of channel morphology in Digital Elevation Models (DEM) used specifically for assessing the dangers of frequently occurring lahars along gorges in volcanic landscapes during eruptive and non-eruptive periods. The updating of channel cross-sections was achieved by inserting more detailed representative profiles of homogeneous channel sectors in DEMs derived from existing less detailed topographic maps. The channel profiles were surveyed along the thalweg in equidistant points according to Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) (x,y) coordinates and elevation derived from the existing DEM. The proposed technique was applied at Tenenepanco-Huiloac Gorge on Popocatépetl volcano, Mexico, in an area affected by major lahars during the volcano’s most recent eruptive period from 1994 to 2005. The proposed method can reduce the cost and person-hours of a regular channel topographic survey dramatically and the enhanced DEM can determine volume parameters and flood zones associated with the 1 July 1997 and 21 January 2001 lahars, respectively. In addition, the updated DEM with better channel representation allowed a more realistic fluid flow and lahar simulation with the process-based TITAN2D model.


Digital Elevation Model Channel Geomorphology Volcano Lahars 


  1. Ackerman CT, Evans TA, Brunner GW (2000) HEC-GeoRAS: linking GIS to hydraulic analysis using ARC/INFO and HEC-RAS. Dr David Maidment, Dr. Dean Djokic (eds). Hydrologic and hydraulic modeling support with Geographic Information System. ESRI press, Redlands, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  2. Capra L, Poblete MA and Alvarado R (2004) The 1997 and 2001 lahars of Popocatépetl volcano (Central Mexico): textural and sedimentological constraints on their origin and hazards. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 131: 351–369Google Scholar
  3. Chow V (1959) Open-channel hydraulics. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Costa JE (1984) Physical geomorphology of debris flow. In: Costa JE, Fleicher (eds), Development and applications of geomorphology, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 268–317Google Scholar
  5. Fisher RV, Schmincke HV (1984) Pyroclastic rocks. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Hellweger F 2004. AGREE-DEM surface reconditioning system. (12/01/04; Last updated 01/10/97) (
  7. Instituto Nacional de Estadística, 1978. Huejotzingo (E14B42). Topographical Map 1:50,000 scaleGoogle Scholar
  8. Johnson AM (1970) Physical processes in geology. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Long WS (2000) Development of digital terrain representation for use in river modeling. In: Dr David Maidment, Dr. Dean Djokic (eds), Hydrologic and hydraulic modeling support with Geographic Information System. ESRI Press, Redlands, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  10. Palacios D, Zamorano JJ, Parrilla G (1998) Proglacial debris flows in Popocatépetl north face their relation to 1995 eruption. Z Geomorph 42:273–295Google Scholar
  11. Palacios D, Zamorazo JJ, Gomez A (2001) The impact of present lahars on the geomorphologic evolution of proglacial gorges: Popocatépetl, México. Geomorphology 37:15–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pasquaré G, Vezzoli L, Zanchi A (1987) Morphological and structural model of Mexican Volcanic Belt. Geofis Int 26:159–179Google Scholar
  13. Patra AK, Bauer AC, Nichita CC, Pitman EB, Sheridan MF, Bursik M, Renschler CS, Rupp B, Webb A, Stinton A, Namikawa L (2005) Parallel adaptive numerical simulation of dry avalanches over natural terrain. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 139(1–2):1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Renschler CS (2005) Scales and uncertainties in volcano hazard prediction—optimizing the use of GIS and models. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 139(1–2):73–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sheridan MF, Hubbard B, Bursik MI, Abrams M, Siebe C, Macias JL, Delgado H (2001) Gauging short-term volcanic hazards at Popocatépetl. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 82:187–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Smith GA, Fritz WJ (1989) Volcanic influences on terrestrial sedimentation. Geology 17:375–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Thouret JC, Lavigne F (2000) Lahars: occurrence, deposits and behaviour of volcano-hydrologic flows.Volcaniclastic rocks from magmas to sediments. In: Hervé Leyrit, Christian Montenat (eds) Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, pp 151–174Google Scholar
  18. Valdés C, de la Cruz S, Quaas R, Guevara E, Martínez A, Cautelan G (2003) Resumen de la actividad del volcán Popocatépetl, diciembre 1994 a mayo de 2001. CENAPRED,
  19. Van Westen CJ (1997) Modelling erosion from pyroclastic flow deposits on Mount Pinatubo In: ILWIS 2.1 for Windows—the integrated land and water information system: applications guide. International Institute for Aerospace Survey & Earth Sciences, Enschede, The Netherlands, pp 53–72Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esperanza Muñoz-Salinas
    • 1
  • C. S. Renschler
    • 2
  • D. Palacios
    • 1
  • L. M. Namikawa
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physical GeographyComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Geography, National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA)University at BuffaloBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations