Terrain Fingerprint References

What is Terrain Fingerprint™?

The Terrain Fingerprint™ database is a suite of statistical parameters calculated from a DEM. The characteristics of an area can be matched a database of over 500,000 cells in the United States to find similar terrain. The database contains 24 variables:
  • 4 moments of the elevation distribution (average, standard deviation, skewness, and curtosis)
  • 4 moments of the slope distribution (average, standard deviation, skewness, and curtosis), computed in degrees
  • 4 moments of the slope distribution (average, standard deviation, skewness, and curtosis), computed in precent (tangent)
  • 2 moments of plan curvature (average, standard deviation)
  • 1 moment of profile curvature (standard deviation)
  • 4 values of the gamma from the variogram (NS, EW, NW-SE, NE-SW)
  • maximum slope
  • ln(s2/s3) from the eigenvector analysis for fabric orientation
  • elevation relief ratio, or coefficient of dissection
  • fabric direction
  • relief

The search for similar terrain can use any combination of these parameters.

Dr. Richard Pike (Mathematical Geology 1988) introduced the concept of a "geometric signature"--a multi-variate description of topography from groupings of .twenty-two attributes. He considered roughness and height the two most important attributes; fifteen different variables contribute to roughness or slope.

We use 35 parameters for the Terrain Fingerprint which can be computed for any region. We have focused on three parameter groupings: average elevation, average slope, and organization strength. These parameters reflect the interaction of climate, lithology, and topography. Average elevation, combined with latitude, represents a primary control on climate for both precipitation and temperature. Slope depicts the ruggedness and dissection of the landscape. Organization, captured by eigenvector analysis, measures the processes responsible for terrain formation; the most highly organized regions are in folded mountain belts or glacial drumlin fields.

Guth, P. L. Quantifying and visualizing Terrain Fabric from Digital Elevation Models: in Diaz, J., Tynes, R., Caldwell, D., and Ehlen, J., eds., Geocomputation 99: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on GeoComputation, Fredericksburg, Virginia, July 25-28, 1999, CD-ROM ISBN 0-9533477-1-0.

Guth, P. L. Contour line "ghosts" in USGS Level 2 DEMs: Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing, Vol, 65, pp. 289-296.

Guth, P. L. Quantifying Terrain Fabric in Digital Elevation Models, in Ehlen, J., and Harmon, R.S., eds., The environmental legacy of military operations, Geological Society of America Reviews in Engineering Geology, Vol, 14, pp. 13-25.

Guth, P. L. Terrain organization calculated from Digital Elevation Models, for book on new concepts and modeling in Geomorphology, ed. Hiroo Ohmori, Terrapub Publishers.

Pike, R. J. The geometric signature: quantifying landslide-terrain types from digital elevation models: Mathematical Geology, Vol. 20, pp. 491-512.

Pike, R. J. Geometric signatures-experimental design, first results: in Ohmori, H., ed., DEMs and geomorphometry, special publications of the Geographic Information Systems Association, proceedings of the symposia on New Concepts and Modeling in Geomorphology and Geomorphometry, DEMs and GIS, held August 24-26, 2001, Tokyo, Fifth International Conference on Geomorphology, Vol. 1, p. 50-51.