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Self Organizing Map: Application in Morphometric Feature Identification in Humid and Hyper Arid Environments
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Civil and Architectural Engineering, Environmental and Natural Resources Information System.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Civil and Architectural Engineering, Environmental and Natural Resources Information System.
2008 (English)In: IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS)”, 6-11 July 2008, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A, 2008Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents a robust new approach using artificial neural networks in the form of a Self Organizing Map (SOM) as a semi-automatic method for analysis and identification of morphometric features in two completely different environments, the Man and Biosphere Reserve “Eastern Carpathians” (Central Europe) in a complex mountainous humid area and Yardangs in Lut Desert, Iran, a hyper arid region characterized by homogeneous repetition of wind-eroded landforms.


The NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) has provided Digital Elevation Models (DEM) for over 80% of the land surface. Version 3.0 SRTM data provided by the CGIAR-CSI GeoPortal are the result of substantial editing effort on the SRTM DEM produced by NASA. Easy availability of SRTM 3 arc second data promoted great advances in morphometric studies and numerical description of terrain surface features as shown by many literature references. The goal of this study was to develop a new semi-automatic DEM-based method for geomorphometric feature recognition and to explore the potential and limitation of SRTM 90 meter data in such studies.


The 3 arc seconds data were re-projected to a 90 m UTM grid. Bivariate quadratic surfaces with moving window size of 5×5 were fitted to this DEM. The first derivative, slope steepness and the second derivatives minimum curvature, maximum curvature and cross-sectional curvature were calculated as geomorphometric parameters and were used as input to the SOMs. Different learning parameter setting, e.g. initial radius, final radius, number of iterations, and the effect of the random initial weights on average quantization error were investigated. A SOM with a low average quantization error was used for further analysis. Feature space analysis, morphometric signatures, three-dimensional inspection and auxiliary data facilitated the assignment of semantic meaning to the output classes in terms of geomorphometric features. Results are provided in a geographic information system as thematic maps of landform entities based on form and slope.


Geomorphometric features are scale-dependent and the resolution of the DEM limits the information, which can be derived. Mega-Yardangs, an aeolian landform due to intensive wind erosion, cover a large area in the hyper-arid Lut desert. They form elongated depressions and ridges with a width ranging from a few meters to hundreds of meters. These features can clearly be recognized and classified when their width is significantly larger than the DEM resolution but become unrecognizable if their width is less than the grid resolution.


Eastern Carpathians are characterized by elongated ridges and valleys. These ridges are dissected resulting in small patches of landforms like ridge with very steep slope, channels with moderate slopes and plains with gentle slope. These local landform patches are large enough to be recognized in morphometric parameters calculated with a 5×5 window, corresponding to 450 m on the ground. With much larger window sizes, these local features disappear and replaced by features describing regional

patterns and ridges. Therefore, size, shape and pattern of identified geomorphometric objects depend on the underlying DEM resolution and the selected window size.


The results demonstrate that a SOM is an efficient scalable tool for analyzing geo-morphometric features as meaningful landforms under diverse environmental conditions. This method provides additional information for geomorphologic and landscape analysis even in inaccessible regions and uses the full potential of morphometric characteristics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Self Organizing Map; Morphometric feature; Neural Network; Yardang; Desert
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-8597OAI: diva2:13962
QC 20100728Available from: 2008-06-02 Created: 2008-06-02 Last updated: 2010-07-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Morphometric and Landscape Feature Analysis with Artificial Neural Networks and SRTM data: Applications in Humid and Arid Environments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Morphometric and Landscape Feature Analysis with Artificial Neural Networks and SRTM data: Applications in Humid and Arid Environments
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This thesis presents a semi-automatic method to analyze morphometric features and landscape elements based on Self Organizing Map (SOM) as an unsupervised Artificial Neural Network algorithm in two completely different environments: 1) the Man and Biosphere Reserve “Eastern Carpathians” (Central Europe) as a complex mountainous humid area and 2) Lut Desert, Iran, a hyper arid region characterized by repetition of wind-eroded features.

In 2003, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released the SRTM/ SIR-C band data with 3 arc seconds (approx. 90 m resolution) grid for approximately 80 % of Earth’s land surface. The X-band SRTM data were processed with a 1 arc second (approx. 30 m resolution) grid by the German space agency, DLR and the Italian space agency ASI, but due to the smaller X-SAR ground swath, large areas are not covered. The latest version 3.0 SRTM/C DEM and SRTM/X band DEM were re-projected to 90 and 30 m UTM grid and used to generate morphometric parameters of first order (slope) and second order (cross-sectional curvature, maximum curvatures and minimum curvature) by using a bivariate quadratic surface. The morphometric parameters are then used in a SOM to identify morphometric features (or landform elements) e.g. planar, channel, ridge in mountainous areas or yardangs (ridge) and corridors (valley) in hyper-arid areas.

Geomorphic phenomena and features are scale-dependent and the characteristics of features vary when measured over different spatial extents or different spatial resolution. Morphometric parameters were derived for nine window sizes of the 90 m DEM ranging from 5 × 5 to 55 ×55. Analysis of the SOM output represents landform entities with ground areas from 450 m to 4950 m that is local to regional scale features. Effect of two SRTM resolutions, C and X bands is studied on morphometric feature identification. The difference change analysis revealed the quantity of resolution dependency of morphometric features. Increasing the DEM spatial resolution from 90 to 30 m (corresponding to X band) by interpolation resulted in a significant improvement of terrain derivatives and morphometric feature identification.

Integration of morphometric parameters with climate data (e.g. Sum of active temperature above 10 ° C) in SOM resulted in delineation of morphologically homogenous discrete geo-ecological units. These units were reclassified to produce a Potential Natural Vegetation map. Finally, we combined morphometric parameters and remotely sensed spectral data from Landsat ETM+ to identify and characterize landscape elements. The single integrated data set of geo-ecosystems shows the spatial distribution of geomorphic, climatic and biotic/cultural properties in the Eastern Carpathians.

The results demonstrate that a SOM is a very efficient tool to analyze geo-morphometric features under diverse environmental conditions and at different scales and resolution. Finer resolution and decreasing window size reveals information that is more detailed while increasing window size and coarser resolution emphasizes more regional patterns. It was also successfully applied to integrate climatic, morphometric parameters and Landsat ETM+ data for landscape analysis. Despite the stochastic nature of SOM, the results are not sensitive to randomization of initial weight vectors if many iterations are used. This procedure is reproducible with consistent results.

Abstract [sv]

Avhandlingen presenterar en halvautomatisk metod för att analysera morfometriska kännetecken och landskapselement som bygger på Self Organizing Map (SOM), en oövervakad Artificiell Neural Nätverk algoritm, i två helt skilda miljöer: 1) Man and Biosphere Reserve "Eastern Carpathians" (Centraleuropa) som är ett komplext, bergigt och humid område och 2) Lut öken, Iran, en extrem torr region som kännetecknas av återkommande vinderoderade objekt.

Basen för undersökningen är det C-band SRTM digital höjd modell (DEM) med 3 bågsekunder rutnät som National Aeronautics and Space Administration släppte 2003 för ungefär 80 % av jordens yta. Dessutom används i ett mindre område X-band SRTM DEM med 1 bågsekund rutnät av den tyska rymdagenturen DLR. DEM transformerades till 90 och 30 m UTM nätet och därav genererades morfometriska parametrar av första (lutning) och andra ordning (tvärsnittböjning, största och minsta böjning). De morfometriska parametrar används sedan i en SOM för att identifiera morfometriska objekt (eller landform element) t.ex. plan yta, kanal, kam i bergsområden eller yardangs (kam) och korridorer (dalgångar) i extrem torra områden.

Geomorfiska fenomen och objekt är skalberoende och kännetecken varierar med geografiska områden och upplösning. Morfometriska parametrar har härletts från 90 m DEM för nio fönsterstorlekar från 5 × 5 till 55 × 55. Resultaten representerar landform enheter för områden från 450 m till 4950 m på marken dvs. lokal till regional skala. Inflytande av två SRTM upplösningar i C och X-banden har studerats för identifikation av morfometriska objekt. Förändringsanalys visade storleken av upplösningsberoende av morfometriska objekt. Ökning av DEM upplösningen från 90 till 30 m (motsvarande X-bandet) genom interpolation resulterade i en betydande förbättring av terräng parametrar och identifiering av morfometriska objekt.

Integration av morfometriska parametrar med klimatdata (t.ex. summan av aktiv temperatur över 10° C) i SOM resulterade i avgränsningen av homogena geoekologiska enheter. Dessa enheter ha används för att producera en karta av potentiell naturlig vegetation. Slutligen har vi kombinerat morfometriska parametrar och multispektrala fjärranalysdata från Landsat ETM för att identifiera och karaktärisera landskapselement. Dessa integrerade ekosystem data visar den geografiska fördelningen av morfometriska, klimatologiska och biotiska/kulturella egenskaper i östra Karpaterna.

Resultaten visar att SOM är ett mycket effektivt verktyg för att analysera geomorfometriska egenskaper under skilda miljöförhållanden, i olika skalor och upplösningar. Finare upplösning och minskad fönsterstorlek visar information som är mer detaljerad. Ökad fönsterstorlek och grövre upplösning betonar mer regionala mönster. Det var också mycket framgångsrikt att integrera klimatiska och morfometriska parametrar med Landsat ETM data för landskapsanalys. Trots den stokastiska natur av SOM, är resultaten inte känsliga för slumpvisa värden i de ursprungliga viktvektorerna när många iterationer används. Detta förfarande är reproducerbart med bestående resultat.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2008. viii, 71 p.
Self Organizing Map, Neural Network, Morphometric Feature, Landscape, Yardang, Lut Desert, Potential natural vegetation, geoecosystem, Landform, Landsat ETM+, Morphometric Parameters, SRTM, Resolution, Curvatures, DEM.
National Category
Engineering and Technology
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4789 (URN)978-91-7415-010-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-06-11, F3, Lindstedsvägen 26, 13:15
QC 20100924Available from: 2008-06-02 Created: 2008-06-02 Last updated: 2011-09-01Bibliographically approved

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