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Using entropy to assess the efficiency of terrain representation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Fairbairn


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There are a number of methods for representing terrain on a standard topographic map, which can be used singularly or in combination. The project described in this paper addresses whether it is possible to identify the most efficient method of portraying such terrain data. The aim is to determine how much information is communicated from the map to the user through the symbolisation and design of graphical elements which represent the topographic surface. The symbols which are used reflect locational characteristics, arrangements, structures, patterns and topologies of an area, and associated meaning and attributes of the terrain data. The primary characteristics of terrain – elevation, slope, aspect and surface appearance – are denoted by such cartographic symbolisation, either directly, by implication, or as a result of interpretation or calculation based on the representation. Thus a map comprising spot heights alone directly communicates position and elevation of identifiable singular points. However, knowledge of the slope at a singular point relies on an informed analysis of the array of spot heights around it. Creating a TIN from the random array of spot heights adds graphical constructs which can help in the derivation of slope values over the surface. The data portrayed is identical, however. Which displays the more information?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fairbairn D

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 25th International Cartographic Conference

Year of Conference: 2011

Pages: 11 pp.