Examining Topographic Models in the Digital World

Digital Elevation Models (DEM), National Elevation Datasets (NED), and Elevation Contour Lines – all virtual products enabling researchers with the ability to study and visualize the Earth’s terrain. In this week’s Map of the Week, we explore how virtual elevation products are beneficial to researchers working in the digital world. #MapMonday

Examining Topographic Models in the Digital World

As computers have significantly expanded the map-making process, so too has its ability to display and visualize virtual models of the Earth’s topography. With the incorporation of GIS technology, those visualizations expand even further through the incorporation of 3-dimensional modeling and analysis, enabling researchers with a method for studying details in the world around us within a digital environment. Such analysis includes (but is not limited to):

  • the study of geomorphology and the movement of land and water
  • the creation of relief maps
  • the development of 3-dimensional models (both digital and physical), as well as
  • a variety of surface analysis functions generated for specified locations

Examples of how digital elevation products are used for the purpose of surface analysis are depicted in this week’s Map of the Week. Focusing on our study area of Salt Lake County (a significant location for studying elevation along the Wasatch Front), the elevation models are utilized to analyze:

  • Elevation Profiles – (analyzing high and low elevations throughout the county)
  • Slope Degrees Percentages – (analyzing flat and steep areas of inclination), and
  • Hillshade Exposure – (analyzing the exposure of areas to sunlight at a pre-defined angle)

Of course, these are only a few examples of the types of surface analysis available through digital elevation models. In an upcoming Map of the Week, you’ll learn how the Marriott Library is utilizing digital elevation models to generate and print physical topographic models for hands-on examination.

About Map of the Weeks from GIS Services:

Throughout the semester, GIS Services will continue releasing bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics for the purpose of demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into research and projects you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects or to learn about the geospatial services offered through the Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @ www.lib.utah.edu/services/geospatial

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services
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