Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Digital Terrain Model Generalization for Multiscale Use

(*) Corresponding author

Authors' affiliations



Geomatics techniques and applications to process lidar data, large-scale map, stereo-pair airborne photos, and Very High Resolution satellite imagery allow building very detailed Digital Terrain Models. Indeed, in studies characterized by a smaller reference scale, lower resolution models are required to handle a smaller amount of data. Therefore, rather than producing more models with different resolutions, it is preferable to create only one of the multiscale types by using generalization techniques. Different approaches are described in literature in order to achieve this purpose and the results are different in relation to the technique used. This paper aims to compare different algorithms and procedures for Digital Terrain Model generalization. The area selected for this study presents a variegate zone with variable slopes, in order to examine the generalization process in different gradient ranges. Elevation data are extracted from 1:5,000 scale mapping and processed with Geostatistical Analyst to produce Digital Terrain Models with 4 m cell resolution. Five different approaches for generalization are adopted and compared: two based on filtering algorithms (respectively media and median), three on regeneration of Digital Terrain Model interpolating contours or elevation points extracted from the starting model. A new index is provided to evaluate each resulting model also in reference to its capacity to preserve the initial significant values. All the operations are carried out using the Geographic Information System software.
Copyright © 2020 Praise Worthy Prize - All rights reserved.


Digital Terrain Model; Generalization; Multiscale; Interpolation Algorithms; Filters

Full Text:



C. L. Miller, and R. A. Laflamme, The digital terrain model theory and application, Photogrammetric Engineering, Vol. 24(Issue 3):433–442, 1958.

E. Alcaras, C. Parente, A. Vallario, Comparison of different interpolation methods for DEM production, International Journal of Advanced Trends in Computer Science and Engineering. Vol. 6: 1654-1659, 2019.

L. Biagi, S. Caldera, L. Carcano, and M. Negretti ,The open data HELI-DEM DTM for the western alpine area: computation and publication, Applied Geomatics Vol. 8 (Issue 3-4):191-200, 2016.

F. Riguzzi, G. Pietrantonio, V. Baiocchi, and A. Mazzoni, Water level and volume estimations of the Albano and Nemi lakes (central Italy), Annals of Geophysics, Vol. 51(Issue 4):563-573, 2008.

R. Amato, G. Dardanelli, D. Emmolo, V. Franco, M. L. Brutto, P. Midulla, and B. Villa, Digital orthophotos at a scale of 1: 5000 from high resolution satellite images, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing, Vol. 35:593-598, 2004.

O. Belfiore, and C. Parente, Comparison of different algorithms to orthorectify WorldView-2 satellite imagery, Algorithms, Vol. 9(Issue 4):67, 2016.

G. Bitelli, V. A. Girelli, M. A. Tini, and L. Vittuari, Low-height aerial imagery and digital photogrammetrical processing for archaeological mapping, International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Vol. 35(Issue B5):498-503, 2004.

A. Fryskowska, M. Kedzierski, P. Walczykowski, D. Wierzbicki, P. Delis, and A. Lada, Effective detection of sub-surface archeological features from laser scanning point clouds and imagery data. International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing & Spatial Information Sciences, Vol. 42, pp. 245-251, Ottawa, Canada, 28 August–01 September 2017.


P. Maglione, C. Parente, R. Santamaria, and A. Vallario, 3D thematic models of land cover from DTM and high-resolution remote sensing images WorldView-2, Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana, Vol. 30:33-40, 2014.

A. Colgan, and R. Ludwig, Digital terrain model, Regional Assessment of Global Change Impacts, pp. 69-74, Springer, Cham, 2016.

G. Dardanelli, R. Marretta, A. S. Santamaria, A. Streva, M. Lo Brutto, A. Maltese, Analysis of technical criticalities for GIS modelling an Urban noise map, Geographia Technica, Vol. 12 (Issue 2):41-61, 2017.

I. Glekas, K. Vogiatzis, C. Antoniadis, Strategic noise mapping & action plans for the international airports of Larnaca & Pafos in Cyprus, ICSV 2016 - 23rd International Congress on Sound and Vibration: From Ancient to Modern Acoustics, 2016.

K. Vogiatzis, C. Antoniadis, Strategic noise plan of Athens - Introducing a large scale action plan at the historic centre, ICSV 2016-23rd International Congress on Sound and Vibration: From Ancient to Modern Acoustics, 2016.

A. Nemmaoui, F. J. Aguilar, M. A. Aguilar, R. Qin, DSM and DTM generation from VHR satellite stereo imagery over plastic covered greenhouse areas, Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, Vol. 164, 2019.

M. Maleki, J. Amini, C. Notarnicola, Soil roughness retrieval from TerraSar-X data using neural network and fractal method, Advances in Space Research, Vol. 64 (Issue 5):1117-1129, 2019.

A. J. H. Meddens, L. A. Vierling, J. U. H. Eitel, J. S. Jennewein, J. C. White, M. A. Wulder, Developing 5 m resolution canopy height and digital terrain models from WorldView and ArcticDEM data, Remote Sensing of Environment, Vol. 218:174-188, 2018.

Y. A. K. Mousa, P. Helmholz, D. Belton, New DTM extraction approach from airborne images derived DSM, International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences - ISPRS Archives, Vol. 42, 2017.

R. M. Bhatawdekar, S. Choudhury, E. T. Modmad, Uav applications on projects monitoring in mining and civil engineering, Journal of Mines, Metals and Fuels, Vol. 66 (Issue 12):867-872, 2018.

M. Milenković, C. Ressl, W. Karel, G. Mandlburger, N. Pfeifer, Roughness spectra derived from multi-scale LIDAR point clouds of a gravel surface: A comparison and sensitivity analysis, ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 2018.

A. Piechota, Airborne laser scanning (LiDAR-ALS) as a source of data for calculations of escarpment stability in wooded and bushy areas, Przeglad Geologiczny, Vol. 65 (Issue 10):811-816, 2017.

T. Ai, and J. Li, A DEM generalization by minor valley branch detection and grid filling. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Vol. 65(Issue 2):198-207, 2010.

R. Olszewski, Utilisation of artificial intelligence methods and neurofuzzy algorithms in the process of digital terrain model generalization, ICA Conference, La Coruna, July 2005.

E. Meynen, Multilingual Dictionary of Technical Terms in Cartography (Stuttgart, International Cartographic Association, 1973).

L. T. Sarjakoski, W. A. Mackaness, A. Ruas, Conceptual models of generalisation and multiple representation in Generalisation of Geographic Information: Cartographic Modelling and Applications (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2007, pp.11-35).

B. P. Buttenfield, and R. B. McMaster, Map Generalization: Making Rules for Knowledge Representation (Longman, Scientific & Technical, New York, 1991).

J. C. Muller, J. P. Lagrange, and R. Weibel, GIS and Generalization: Methodology and Practice (Taylor and Francis, London, 1995).

K. Beard, Generalization operations and supporting structures, Autocarto-Conference, Vol. 6, pp. 29-45, Baltimore, 1991.

J. Ware, and C. Jones, Conflict Reduction in Map Generalization Using Iterative Improvement, GeoInformatica, Vol. 2(Issue4):383-407, 1998.

E. Rusak Mazur, and H. W. Castner, Horton´s ordering scheme and the generalisation of river networks, The Cartographic Journal, Vol. 27(Issue 2):104-112, 1990.

R. C. Thompson, and D. E. Richardson, A graph theory approach to road network generalization. Cartography crossing borders, Proceedings Seventeenth International Cartographic Conference, pp. 1871-1880, Barcelona, Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya, September 1995.

B. Jiang, and C. Claramunt, A Structural Approach to Model generalisation of an Urban Street Network, 5th AGILE Conference on Geographic Information Science, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, April 25 – 27 2002.

D. H. Douglas, and T. K. Peucker, Algorithms for the reduction of the number of points required to represent a digitized line or its caricature, The Canadian Cartographer, Vol. 10(Issue 2):112-22, 1973.

R. B. McMaster, Automated line generalization, Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, Vol. 24(Issue 2):74-111, 1987.

M. de Berg, M. van Kreveld, and S. Schirra, A new approach to subdivision simplification, Proceeding of Auto-Carto, Vol. 12, pp. 79-88, Charlotte NC, USA, February 27-March 2, 1995.

G. Neyer, Line simplication with restricted orientations, In Algorithms and Data Structures, WADS'99, nr 1663 In Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pp. 13-24, Berlin, Springer,1999.

M. Danailova, M. Markov, and G. Gladkov, Spatial information infrastructure-development and results in Bulgaria, 6th international conference on cartography and GIS, 2016.

K. Tóth, and A. Kučas, Spatial information in European agricultural data management. Requirements and interoperability supported by a domain model, Land use policy Vol. 57:64-79, 2016.

M. Balawejder, T. Adamczyk, and M. Cygan, The problem of adjusting polish spatial information resources to the standards of the inspire, GIS Forum, Zagreb, 2016.

U. Falchi, IT tools for the management of multi-representation geographical information, International Journal of Engineering & Technology, Vol. 7(Issue 1), 65-69, 2018.


G. Jordan, Adaptive smoothing of valleys in DEMs using TIN interpolation from ridgeline elevations: An application to morphotectonic aspect analysis, Computers & geosciences, Vol. 33 (Issue 4):573-585, 2007.

E. Guilbert, J. Gaffuri, and B. Jenny, Terrain generalisation, Abstracting Geographic Information in a Data Rich World (Springer, Cham, 2014, pp. 227-258).

W. Błaszczak-Bąk, et al., Reduction of measurement data before Digital Terrain Model generation vs. DTM generalization, Survey Review, Vol. 5 (Issue 368):422-430, 2019.

M. Papadogiorgaki, and P. Partsinevelos, Adaptive DTM generalization methods for tangible GIS applications, Earth Science Informatics, Vol. 10(Issue 4):483-494, 2017.

Q. Zhou, and Y. Chen, Generalization of DEM for terrain analysis using a compound method, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Vol. 66(Issue 1):38-45, 2011.

L. I. Zhilin, Multi-scale digital terrain modelling and analysis, Advances in digital terrain analysis, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 59-83, 2008.

Y. Chen, J. P. Wilson, Q. Zhu, and Q. Zhou, Comparison of drainage-constrained methods for DEM generalization, Computers & Geosciences, Vol. 48:41-49, 2012.

J. D. Budrevičius, L. Papšienė, G. Beconytė, Automatic generalization of cartographic data for multi-scale maps representations, 10th International Conference on Environmental Engineering, ICEE 2017, 2017.

R. Weibel, Models and experiments for adaptive computer-assisted terrain generalization, Cartography Geogr Inf Syst Vol. 19(Issue 3):133–153, 1992.

I. Florinsky, Digital terrain analysis in soil science and geology (Academic Press, 2016).

A. J. Stauffer, Matching Attribute Resolution to Scale: The Effects of Filtering on DEM Resolution, Geography Graduate Theses & Dissertations, University of Colorado Boulder, 2013.

J. Palomar-Vázquez, and J. Pardo-Pascual, Automated spot heights generalisation in trail maps, International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Vol. 22(Issue 1):91-110, 2008.

A. M. Leonowicz, and B. Jenny, Generalizing digital elevation models for small scale hypsometric tinting, Proceedings of the 25th international cartographic conference ICC, Paris, 2011.

T. Ma, Y. Chen, Y. Hua, Z. Chen, X. Chen, C. Lin, and C. Yang, DEM generalization with profile simplification in four directions, Earth Science Informatics, Vol. 10(Issue 1):29-39, 2017.

Z. T. Chen, and J. A. Guevara, Systematic selection of very important points (VIP) from digital terrain model for constructing triangular irregular networks, Auto-carto Vol. 8:50-56, March 1987.

Y. Xiao, X. Gu, X., S. Yin, J. Shao, Y. Cui, Q. Zhang, & Y. Niu, Y. Geostatistical interpolation model selection based on ArcGIS and spatio-temporal variability analysis of groundwater level in piedmont plains, Northwest China, SpringerPlus, Vol. 5(Issue 1), 425, 2016.

K. Stereńczak, M. Ciesielski, R. Bałazy, T. Zawiła-Niedźwiecki, Comparison of various algorithms for DTM interpolation from LIDAR data in dense mountain forests, European Journal of Remote Sensing, Vol. 49:599-621, 2016.

G. S. Bhunia, P. K. Shit, and R. Maiti, Comparison of GIS-based interpolation methods for spatial distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC), Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences Vol. 17 (Issue 2): 114-126, 2018.

F. Fathian, et al. Temporal trends in precipitation using spatial techniques in GIS over Urmia Lake Basin, Iran, International Journal of Hydrology Science and Technology, Vol. 6:62-81, 2016.

M. H. J. P. Gunarathna, M. K. N. Kumari, and K. G. S. Nirmanee, Evaluation of interpolation methods for mapping pH of groundwater, International journal of latest technology in engineering, management & applied science Vol. 5 (Issue 3):1-5, 2016.

H. S. Njeban, Comparison and Evaluation of GIS-Based Spatial Interpolation Methods for Estimation Groundwater Level in AL-Salman District—Southwest Iraq, Journal of Geographic Information System Vol. 10 (Issue 4):362, 2018.

G. E. Fasshauer, and J. G. Zhang, On choosing “optimal” shape parameters for RBF approximation, Numerical Algorithms, Vol. 45(Issue 1-4):345-368, 2007.

U. Falchi, C. Parente, and G. Prezioso, Global geoid adjustment on local area for GIS applications using GNSS permanent station coordinates, Geodesy and Cartography, Vol. 44(Issue 3):80-88, 2018.

M. Yilmaz, and M. Uysal. Comparing uniform and random data reduction methods for DTM accuracy, International Journal of Engineering and Geosciences, Vol. 2 (Issue 1): 9-16, 2017.

B. Feizizadeh, and T. Blaschke, Assessing uncertainties associated with digital elevation models for object based landslide delination, GEOBIA 2016: Solutions and Synergies, University of Twente Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation (ITC), 14 September 2016 - 16 September, 2016.

A. Šiljeg, et al., The effect of user-defined parameters on DTM accuracy—development of a hybrid model, Applied Geomatics Vol. 11 (Issue 1):81-96, 2019.

Altering the resolution of a raster.

Raster to Point.

How Contouring works.

K. Zakšek, and T. Podobnikar, An effective DEM generalization with basic GIS operations, 8th ICA WORKSHOP on Generalisation and Multiple Representation, Coruńa, Spain, July,2005.

M. Yilmaz, and M. Uysal, Comparison of data reduction algorithms for Lidar derived digital terrain model generalization, Area Vol. 48 (Issue 4):521-532, 2016.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Please send any question about this web site to
Copyright © 2005-2023 Praise Worthy Prize