From csdms



Also known as
Model type Modular
Incorporated models or components:
Spatial dimensions 3D
Spatial extent
Model domain
One-line model description Landscape Evolution Model
Extended model description CHILD computes the time evolution of a topographic surface z(x,y,t) by fluvial and hillslope erosion and sediment transport.

landscape evolution, erosion, sediment transport, soil erosion, landform development, drainage basin,

First name Greg
Last name Tucker
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado
Postal address 1 University of Colorado
Postal address 2 Campus Box 399
Town / City Boulder
Postal code 80309
State Colorado
Country United States
Email address
Phone +1 303 492 6985
Fax +1 303 492 2606

Supported platforms Unix, Linux, Mac OS
Other platform
Programming language C++
Other program language
Code optimized Single Processor
Multiple processors implemented
Nr of distributed processors
Nr of shared processors
Start year development 1997
Does model development still take place? Yes
If above answer is no, provide end year model development
Model availability As code
Source code availability
(Or provide future intension)
Through web repository
Source web address
Source csdms web address
Program license type GPL v2
Program license type other
Memory requirements depends on grid size
Typical run time minutes to days

Describe input parameters Topography z(x,y) or parameters describing a topographic surface; rate coefficients; switches for activating options and choosing between alternative transport/erosion formulas. Uses a formatted text file for input of parameters.
Input format ASCII
Other input format
Describe output parameters Outputs include grids of surface elevation, drainage area, gradient, stratigraphy, drainage direction, Voronoi cell areas, sediment texture; data on mesh configuration; total landscape volume and change in volume at each storm (time step); list of storm durations, timing, and intensities.
Output format ASCII
Other output format
Pre-processing software needed? No
Describe pre-processing software
Post-processing software needed? Yes
Describe post-processing software An extensive library of Matlab scripts provides visualization and post-processing capabilities. A few scripts also exist for IDL, and it is possible to process the output to generate lists of points for input to ArcGIS. In addition, a post-processing program called CHILD2VTK is available to convert output into VTK format for use in visualization programs such as ParaView.
Visualization software needed? Yes
If above answer is yes ESRI, IDL, Matlab
Other visualization software

Describe processes represented by the model Basic processes include runoff generation, water erosion and sediment transport, and gravitational erosion and sediment transport. Depending on the application, the user can apply a vegetation-growth module, various tectonic functions, and other options.
Describe key physical parameters and equations Too many to list here -- see Tucker et al. (2001a), the CHILD Users Guide, and other documents listed in the bibliography.
Describe length scale and resolution constraints In principle, the model can address spatial scales ranging from gullies and small (~1km2) catchments to mountain ranges, as long as setup and parameters are chosen appropriately. Resolutions greater than about 10,000 nodes normally require significant computation time.
Describe time scale and resolution constraints The steady flow assumption used by most (not all) hydrology sub-models restricts time scale to periods significantly longer than a single storm. The model has been mostly used to address time scales relevant to significant topographic evolution, though in the case of rapidly changing landscapes (e.g., gully networks) this can be as short as decades.
Describe any numerical limitations and issues The fluvial sediment transport equations are quasi-diffusive and typically have orders of magnitude spatial variations in rate coefficient (reflecting differences in water discharge), which makes the system of equations stiff. Small time steps are typically required, which can lead to long compute times for large meshes.

Describe available calibration data sets The model has been benchmarked against analytical solutions for simple cases, such as fluvial slope-area scaling and parabolic to parabolic-planar hillslope form under uniform erosion, materials, and climate. Testing and calibration of some of the individual components (e.g., linear and nonlinear soil creep, stream-power fluvial erosion law, etc.) have been reported in the literature (for a review, see Tucker and Hancock, 2010). Testing of the full coupled model using natural experiments (Tucker, 2009) is ongoing.
Upload calibration data sets if available:
Describe available test data sets (pending)
Upload test data sets if available:
Describe ideal data for testing See Tucker (2009)

Do you have current or future plans for collaborating with other researchers? Yes, both.
Is there a manual available? Yes
Upload manual if available: Media:Child users guide.pdf, Media:Exercises from davos.pdf
Model website if any The CSDMS web site (this model section)
Model forum / discussion board

This part will be filled out by CSDMS staff

OpenMI compliant No but possible
BMI compliant Yes
WMT component Yes
DOI model 10.1594/IEDA/100102
For model version 2010.07.06
Year version submitted 2010
Link to file
Can be coupled with:
Model info

Citation indices CHILD
Citations: 4171
h-index: 28

Qrcode CHILD.png
Link to this page

Channel-Hillslope Integrated Landscape Development (CHILD) Model

CHILD was originally developed in 1997 by Nicole Gasparini, Stephen Lancaster, and Greg Tucker, in a research group directed by Rafael Bras at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Development and use of CHILD continues, with contributions by (among others) Mikael Attal (Edinburgh), Patrick Bogaart (Wageningen), Quintijn Clevis (Oxford), Daniel Collins (Wisconsin), Arnaud Desitter (Oxford), Homero Flores (MIT), Erkan Istanbulluoglu (Nebraska), Scott Miller (Syracuse), Vanessa Teles (IFP), and the original developers.

Example Simulations

Fault block uplift and subsidence

Simulation of a pair of normal-fault blocks separated by a vertical fault. The lower left edge is fixed through time, and represents a shallow shelf just below sea level. The inner block of the landscape rises at a steady rate, while the outer block subsides. Initially, the relief and erosion rate are small, and the subsiding basin is underfilled. Notice the progradation of a fan-delta complex. As relief and sediment flux increase, the fan deltas reach the shallow shelf and the basin becomes filled (or "over-filled" as they say, meaning that there is more than enough sediment to keep filling the basin as it continues to subside).

Evolution of river valley landscape, stratigraphy, and geoarchaeology

Scenario 1: Steady Aggradation

Scenario 2: Pomme de Terre River incision/aggradation history

Scenario 3: incision/aggradation history based on oxygen isotope curve


Citation indices CHILD
Citations: 4171
h-index: 28

Source code

Suggested way to reference a version of the model source code following data reference guidelines:

Publication(s)Model describedCitations
Tucker, G.E., 2010. CHILD, version 2010.07.06., 10.1594/IEDA/100102
(View/edit entry)

Overview and general

Publication(s)Model describedCitations
Tucker, G.E., Gasparini, N.M, Bras, R.L., and Lancaster, S.L., 1999. A 3D Computer Simulation Model of Drainage Basin and Floodplain Evolution: Theory and Applications, Technical report prepared for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E., Lancaster, S.T., Gasparini, N.M., and Bras, R.L., 2001. The Channel-Hillslope Integrated Landscape Development (CHILD) Model, in Landscape Erosion and Evolution Modeling, edited by R.S. Harmon and W.W. Doe III, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, pp. 349-388.
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E., Lancaster, S.T., Gasparini, N.M., Bras, R.L., and Rybarczyk, S.M., 2001. An Object-Oriented Framework for Hydrologic and Geomorphic Modeling Using Triangulated Irregular Networks, Computers and Geosciences, 27(8), pp. 959-973., 10.1016/S0098-3004(00)00134-5
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E., and Hancock, G.R., 2010. Modelling landscape evolution. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 35, p. 28-50., 10.1002/esp.1952
(View/edit entry)


Publication(s)Model describedCitations
Attal, M., Cowie, P.A., Whittaker, A.C., Hobley, D., Tucker, G.E., and Roberts, G.P. (2011) Testing fluvial erosion models using the transient response of bedrock rivers to tectonic forcing in the Apennines, Italy, Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, F02005., 10.1029/2010JF001875
(View/edit entry)
Attal, M., Tucker, G.E., Whittaker, A.C., Cowie, P.A., and Roberts, G.P. (2008) Modeling fluvial incision and transient landscape evolution: Influence of dynamic channel adjustment. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, v. 113, F03013, 10.1029/2007JF000893
(View/edit entry)
Balen, R. van, Busschers, F., and Tucker, G.E. (2010) Modeling the response of the Rhine-Meuse fluvial system to late Pleistocene climate change: Geomorphology, v. 114, no. 3, p. 440-452., 10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.08.007
(View/edit entry)
Bogaart, P.W., Tucker, G.E., and de Vries, J.J. (2003) Channel network morphology and sediment dynamics under alternating periglacial and temperate regimes: A numerical simulation study: Geomorphology, vol. 54, no. 3/4, p. 257-277., 10.1016/S0169-555X(02)00360-4
(View/edit entry)
Bras, R.L., Tucker, G.E., and Teles, V.T. (2003) Six myths about mathematical modeling in geomorphology: in Prediction in Geomorphology, edited by P. Wilcock and R. Iverson, American Geophysical Union, pp. 63-79.
(View/edit entry)
Clevis, Q., Tucker, G.E., Lock, G., Lancaster, S.T., Gasparini, N.M., and Desitter, A. (2006) A simple algorithm for the mapping of TIN data onto a static grid: applied to the stratigraphic simulation of river meander deposits Computers and Geosciences, v. 32, p. 749-766., 10.1016/j.cageo.2005.05.012
(View/edit entry)
Clevis, Q., Tucker, G.E., Lock, G., Lancaster, S.T., Gasparini, N.M., Desitter, A., and Bras, R.L. (2006) Geoarchaeological simulation of meandering river deposits and settlement distributions; a three-dimensional approach. Geoarchaeology, v. 21, no. 8, p. 843-874., 10.1002/gea.20142
(View/edit entry)
Collins, D., Bras, R., and Tucker, G.E. (2004) Modeling the effects of vegetation-erosion coupling on landscape evolution: Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, v. 109, no. F3, F03004., 10.1029/2003JF000028
(View/edit entry)
Crosby, B.T., Whipple, K.X., Gasparini, N.M., and Wobus, C.W. (2007) Formation of Fluvial Hanging Valleys: Theory and Simulation, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112., 10.1029/2006JF000566
(View/edit entry)
Fleurant, C., Tucker, G.E., and Viles, H.A. (2008) Modelling cockpit karst landforms. In: Gallagher, K., Jones, S.J., and Wainwright, J., eds., Landscape Evolution: Denudation, Climate and Tectonics over Different Time and Space Scales. Geological Society of London Special Publication 296.
(View/edit entry)
Flores-Cervantes, J.H., Istanbulluoglu, E., and R.L. Bras (2006) Development of gullies on the landscape: A model of headcut retreat resulting from plunge pool erosion, Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 111, Issue F1., 10.1029/2004JF000226
(View/edit entry)
Gasparini, N. M., K. X. Whipple, and R. L. Bras (2007), Predictions of steady state and transient landscape morphology using sediment-flux-dependent river incision models, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112., 10.1029/2006JF000567
(View/edit entry)
Gasparini, N.M., Bras, R.L., and Tucker, G.E. (2008) Numerical predictions of the sensitivity of grain size and channel slope to an increase in precipitation. In: Rice, S.P., Roy, A.G., and Rhoads, B.L., eds., River Confluences, Tributaries and the Fluvial Network, John Wiley & Sons.
(View/edit entry)
Gasparini, N.M., Bras, R.L., and Whipple, K.X. (2006) Numerical modeling of non-steady-state river profile evolution using a sediment-flux-dependent incision model, in Tectonics, climate and landscape evolution, S. Willett, N. Hovius, M. Brandon & D. Fisher, eds., GSA Special Paper 398, Penrose Conference Series, Geological Society of America, pp 127-141.
(View/edit entry)
Gasparini, N.M., Tucker, G.E., and Bras, R.L. (2004) Network-scale dynamics of grain-size sorting: Implications for downstream fining, stream-profile concavity, and drainage basin morphology: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 29(4), 401-422., 10.1002/esp.1031
(View/edit entry)
Istanbulluoglu, E., Bras, R.L., Flores-Cervantes, H., and Tucker, G.E. (2005) Implications of bank failures and fluvial erosion for gully development: Field observations and modeling. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, v. 110, no. F1, F01014., 10.1029/2004JF000145
(View/edit entry)
Lancaster, S.T., S.K. Hayes, and G.E. Grant, 2003. Effects of wood on debris flow runout in small mountain watersheds, Water Resources Research, 39(6), 1168., 10.1029/2001WR001227
(View/edit entry)
Lancaster, S.T., S.K. Hayes, and G.E. Grant (2001) Modeling sediment and wood storage and dynamics in small mountainous watersheds, in Geomorphic Processes and Riverine Habitat, J.M. Dorava, D.R. Montgomery, B.B. Palcsak, and F.A. Fitzpatrick (eds.), pp. 85-102, American Geophysical Union, Washington. Reprint
(View/edit entry)
Solyom, P., and Tucker, G.E. (2004) The effect of limited storm duration on landscape evolution, drainage basin geometry and hydrograph shapes: Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, v. 109, F03012., 10.1029/2003JF00032
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E. (2004) Drainage basin sensitivity to tectonic and climatic forcing: implications of a stochastic model for the role of entrainment and erosion thresholds. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 29, 185-205., 10.1002/esp.1020
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E., and Bras, R.L. (2000) A Stochastic Approach to Modeling the Role of Rainfall Variability in Drainage Basin Evolution, Water Resources Research, 36(7), pp. 1953-1964., 10.1029/2000WR900065
(View/edit entry)

Related theory and data

Publication(s)Model describedCitations
Baldwin, J.A., Whipple, K.X., and Tucker, G.E. (2003) Implications of the shear-stress river incision model for the timescale of post-orogenic decay of topography: Journal of Geophysical Research. Vol. 108, No. B3., 10.1029/2001JB000550
(View/edit entry)
Gasparini, N.M., Tucker, G.E., and Bras, R.L. (1999) Downstream Fining through Selective Particle Sorting in an Equilibrium Drainage Network: Geology, vol. 27, p. 1079-1082., 10.1130/0091-7613(1999)027<1079:DFTSPS>2.3.CO;2
(View/edit entry)
Lancaster, S.T., and Bras, R.L., (2002) A simple model of river meandering and its comparison to natural channels, Hydrological Processes, 16, 1-26., 10.1002/hyp.273
(View/edit entry)
Snyder, N.P., Whipple, K.X., Tucker, G.E., and Merritts, D.J. (2003) The importance of a stochastic distribution of floods and erosion thresholds in the bedrock river incision problem: Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 108, no. B2., 10.1029/2001JB001655
(View/edit entry)
Tucker, G.E., and Whipple, K.X. (2002) Topographic outcomes predicted by stream erosion models: Sensitivity analysis and intermodel comparison, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 107, no. B9, 2179., 10.1029/2001JB000162
(View/edit entry)
Whipple, K.X., and Tucker, G.E. (1999) Dynamics of the Stream Power River Incision Model: Implications for Height Limits of Mountain Ranges, Landscape Response Timescales and Research Needs: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 104, p. 17,661-17,674., 10.1029/1999JB900120
(View/edit entry)
Whipple, K.X., and Tucker, G.E. (2002) Implications of sediment-flux dependent river incision models for landscape evolution: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 107, no. B2., 10.1029/2000JB000044
(View/edit entry)

Issues and Announcements

July 6, 2010

Version R10.7 has been released! Included with this version is a set of hands-on, tutorial-style exercises that were "beta tested" at the "Summer School and Workshop on Modelling Surface Processes on Geological Timescales" in Davos, Switzerland, in June 2010. Space-time varying uplift fields can now be specified -- see the Users Guide for details.

January 29, 2009

Philippe Steer reports:

I am Philippe Steer, PhD student at Geosciences Montpellier in France.

I have encountered an error when trying to compile child:

 "INT_MAX" was not declared in this scope /Code/tMesh/tMesh.cpp

Solution to this problem:

 add "#include <limits.h>" at the begining of tMesh.cpp


 OS: linux- Opensuse11
 Computer: Dell Precision T 7400, Intel Xeon, 64 bits
 compiling with gcc 4.3

I hope it will help other newbies (as I am!) in C,



A new manual is now available.

Child User Guide

Child Code Structure

Input Files

Output Files

A small utility to convert CHILD outputs to VTK format: File:Child2vtk.tar (Vincent Godard, CEREGE, Aix-Marseille University). VTK files can be visualized with softwares such as [Paraview].