, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 253–268 | Cite as

Digital Terrain Model Computation from Contour Lines: How to Derive Quality Information from Artifact Analysis

  • Olivier Bonin
  • Frederic Rousseaux
Original Paper


Digital Terrain Models constructed from contour lines often contain artifacts originating from their construction from irregularly spaced height measurements. We evaluate and illustrate these artifacts and their impact on terrain parameters. We provide algorithms to correct them as much as possible, and propose a methodology to predict areas where uncertainty still remains because of these artifacts. The analysis of these artifacts enables us to derive qualitative parameters such as “likely over-estimated”, “likely underestimated”, and “with no significant bias” on the DTM. Our method provides a qualitative description of local uncertainty, which is often more relevant for geographical applications than global quality parameters.


digital terrain model qualitative assestment errors artifacts 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    R. Carla, A. Carrara and G. Bitelli. “Comparison of techniques for generating digital terrain models from contour lines,” International Journal of Geographic Information Science, Vol. 11(5):451–473, 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    P. Burrough. Principles of Geographical Information Systems for Land Resources Assestment. Clarendon Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    J.R. Carter. “The effect of data precision on the calculation of slope and aspect using gridded dems,” Cartographica, Vol. 29(1):22–34, 1992.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    L. Eklundh and U. Martensson. “Rapid generation of digital elevation models from topographic maps,” International Journal of Geographic Information Science, Vol. 9:329–340, 1995.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    I. Florinsky. “Accuracy of local topographic variables derived from digital elevation models,” International Journal of Geographic Information Science, Vol. 12:47–61, 1998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
    M.F. Hutchinson and J.C. Gallant. “Geographical information systems (second edition), Volume 1, Chapter 9: Representation of terrain,” in Longley, Goodchild, Maguire and Rhind (Eds.), Wiley, 1999.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    O. Jaakkola and J. Oksanen. “Creating dems from contour lines: Interpolation techniques which save terrain morphology,” GIM International, Vol. 14(9):46–49, 2000.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    A. Koch and C. Heipke. “Quality assestment of digital surface models derived from the shuttle radar topography mission (srtm),” in Proceedings of IGARSS, Sydney, 2001.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    H. Mitasova and L. Mitas. “Interpolation by regularized spline with tension: I. theory and implementation,” Mathematical Geology, Vol. 25:641–655, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    F. Rousseaux. “Etude de l’impact de la représentation du relief sur les applications,” Revue Internationale de Géomatique, Vol. 13:4, 2003.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    F. Rousseaux and O. Bonin. “Towards a coherent integration of 2d vector linear data into a dtm,” in Proceedings of the 2lst ICC, 2003.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    S. Wechsler. Effect of DE.M uncertainty on topographic parameters, DEM scale and terrain evaluation. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 2000.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    R. Weibel and M. Heller. “Geographical information systems, Volume 1, Chapter 19: Digital terrain modeling,” in Maguire, Goodchild and Rhind (Eds.), Longman, 1991.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    S.M. Wise. “The effect of GIS interpolation errors on the use of digital elevation models in geomorphology, in Landform monitoring, modelling and analysis,” in Lane, Richards, and Chandler (Eds.), Wiley, 1998.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    J. Wood, The geomorphological characterisation of digital elevation models. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Leicester, U.K., 1996.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut Geographique NationalCOGIT LaboratorySaint-Mande CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations