Decoupling Slope and Aspect Vectors to Generalize Relief Shading

Patrick J. Kennelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Relief shading is designed to vary the brightness of terrain elements on a two-dimensional map to create a three-dimensional effect. One concern is how this layer can be generalized for use in multi-scale mapping. We propose a methodology that calculates relief shading from slope and aspect vectors, as these layers allow map users to recognize characteristics of the terrain and show consistent trends in spatial autocorrelation with generalization. We adjust the orientation of surface vectors with a mean filter to preserve the structural terrain elements while eliminating landforms of finer detail. To demonstrate its use, we show two examples of generalizing detailed relief shading and compare results to relief shading of the next coarser scale of DEM data available. The generalized maps remove or smooth out minor landforms while preserving more prominent landforms and eliminate issues of data gaps or interpolated data in lower resolution datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-149
Number of pages14
JournalCartographic Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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