Generalization of DEM for terrain analysis using a compound method

Qiming ZHOU*, Yumin Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports an investigation into the generalization of a grid-based digital elevation model (DEM) for the purpose of terrain analysis. The focus is on the method of restructuring the grid-based surface elevation data to form a triangulated irregular network (TIN) that is optimized to keep the important terrain features and slope morphology with the minimum number of sample points. The critical points of the terrain surface are extracted from the DEM based on their significance, measured not only by their local relief, but also by their importance in identifying inherent geomorphological and drainage features in the DEM. A compound method is proposed by integrating the traditional point-additive and feature-point methods to construct a drainage-constrained TIN. The outcome is then compared with those derived from other selected methods including filtering, point-additive or feature-point algorithms. The results show that the compound approach is capable of taking advantage of both point-additive and feature-point algorithms to maximally keep the terrain features and to maintain RMSE at an acceptable level, while reducing the elevation data points by over 99%. The analytical result also shows that the proposed method outperforms the compared methods with better control in retaining drainage features at the same level of RMSE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences

User-Defined Keywords

  • Generalization
  • Geomorphology
  • Surface
  • Triangulation


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