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Estimating slope from raster data : a test of eight algorithms at different resolutions in flat and steep terrain

Tang, Jing LU ; Pilesjö, Petter LU and Persson, Andreas LU (2013) In Geodesy and Cartography 39(2). p.41-52
Abstract
Different slope algorithms can result in totally different estimates. In the worst case, this may lead to inappropriate and useless modelling estimates. A frequent lack of awareness when choosing algorithms justifies a thorough comparison of their characteristics, making it possible for researchers to select an algorithm which is optimal for their purpose. In this study, eight frequently used slope algorithms applied to Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are compared. The influences of the resolution of the DEM (0.5, 1, 2, and 5 metres), as well as the terrain form (flat and steep terrain), are considered. It should be noted that the focus of the study is not to compare estimates with ‘ground truth’ data, but on the comparisons between the... (More)
Different slope algorithms can result in totally different estimates. In the worst case, this may lead to inappropriate and useless modelling estimates. A frequent lack of awareness when choosing algorithms justifies a thorough comparison of their characteristics, making it possible for researchers to select an algorithm which is optimal for their purpose. In this study, eight frequently used slope algorithms applied to Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are compared. The influences of the resolution of the DEM (0.5, 1, 2, and 5 metres), as well as the terrain form (flat and steep terrain), are considered. It should be noted that the focus of the study is not to compare estimates with ‘ground truth’ data, but on the comparisons between the algorithms, and the ways in which they might differ depending on resolution and terrain. Descriptive statistics are calculated in order to characterize the general characteristics of the eight tested algorithms. Eight combinations of DEM resolution and terrain form are analysed. The results show that the Maximum and Simple Difference algorithms always yield higher mean slope values than the other algorithms, while the Constrained Quadratic Surface algorithm produces the lowest values compared to the others. It is concluded that the estimated slope values are heavily dependent on the number of neighbouring cells included in the estimation. An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) of estimated slope values strongly indicates (at the significance level of 0.01) that the tested algorithms yield statistically different results. The eight algorithms produce different estimates for all tested resolutions and terrain forms but one. The differences are more pronounced in steep terrain and at a higher resolution. More detailed pairwise comparisons between estimated slope values are also carried out. It is concluded that the smoothing effects associated with the Constrained Quadratic Surface algorithm are greater in steeper terrain, showing significantly lower estimates than other algorithms. On the other hand, the Maximum and Simple Difference algorithms show significantly higher estimates in almost all cases, except the combination of steep terrain and low resolution. With an increase in grid cell size, the loss of information contents in DEMs leads to lower estimated slope values as well as smaller relative differences between algorithms. Based on the results of this study it is concluded that the choice of algorithm results in different estimated slope values, and that resolution and terrain influences these differences significantly. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
resolution, terrain, algorithm, slope, DEM
in
Geodesy and Cartography
volume
39
issue
2
pages
41 - 52
publisher
Taylor & Francis
external identifiers
  • scopus:84880066961
ISSN
2029-6991
DOI
10.3846/20296991.2013.806702
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d2202c1e-7af3-4745-852f-515d54a94200 (old id 3918410)
alternative location
http://dx.doi.org/10.3846/20296991.2013.806702
date added to LUP
2013-09-10 12:08:58
date last changed
2019-04-30 02:04:14
@article{d2202c1e-7af3-4745-852f-515d54a94200,
  abstract     = {Different slope algorithms can result in totally different estimates. In the worst case, this may lead to inappropriate and useless modelling estimates. A frequent lack of awareness when choosing algorithms justifies a thorough comparison of their characteristics, making it possible for researchers to select an algorithm which is optimal for their purpose. In this study, eight frequently used slope algorithms applied to Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are compared. The influences of the resolution of the DEM (0.5, 1, 2, and 5 metres), as well as the terrain form (flat and steep terrain), are considered. It should be noted that the focus of the study is not to compare estimates with ‘ground truth’ data, but on the comparisons between the algorithms, and the ways in which they might differ depending on resolution and terrain. Descriptive statistics are calculated in order to characterize the general characteristics of the eight tested algorithms. Eight combinations of DEM resolution and terrain form are analysed. The results show that the Maximum and Simple Difference algorithms always yield higher mean slope values than the other algorithms, while the Constrained Quadratic Surface algorithm produces the lowest values compared to the others. It is concluded that the estimated slope values are heavily dependent on the number of neighbouring cells included in the estimation. An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) of estimated slope values strongly indicates (at the significance level of 0.01) that the tested algorithms yield statistically different results. The eight algorithms produce different estimates for all tested resolutions and terrain forms but one. The differences are more pronounced in steep terrain and at a higher resolution. More detailed pairwise comparisons between estimated slope values are also carried out. It is concluded that the smoothing effects associated with the Constrained Quadratic Surface algorithm are greater in steeper terrain, showing significantly lower estimates than other algorithms. On the other hand, the Maximum and Simple Difference algorithms show significantly higher estimates in almost all cases, except the combination of steep terrain and low resolution. With an increase in grid cell size, the loss of information contents in DEMs leads to lower estimated slope values as well as smaller relative differences between algorithms. Based on the results of this study it is concluded that the choice of algorithm results in different estimated slope values, and that resolution and terrain influences these differences significantly.},
  author       = {Tang, Jing and Pilesjö, Petter and Persson, Andreas},
  issn         = {2029-6991},
  keyword      = {resolution,terrain,algorithm,slope,DEM},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {41--52},
  publisher    = {Taylor & Francis},
  series       = {Geodesy and Cartography},
  title        = {Estimating slope from raster data : a test of eight algorithms at different resolutions in flat and steep terrain},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.3846/20296991.2013.806702},
  volume       = {39},
  year         = {2013},
}