Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Emmanuel Gabet


relief, topography

Subject Areas

Geomorphology; Geology; Geographic Information Science and Geodesy


Geomorphologists commonly use the term "relief" to define the difference in elevation of a landscape over a fixed horizontal distance or window size. Relief is typically measured using a fixed-size sliding window analysis where the window size is arbitrarily chosen. This method, however, does not provide insight on how relief changes with or depends on scale.

A multi-scale analysis of digital elevation data (DEDs) was undertaken in this study. A sliding window analysis was employed, but the size of the window was varied from small to large for each landscape. A relief curve was generated and fitted to a saturating exponential function for each landscape based on the maximum relief measured at each window size. The resultant curves showed that most landscapes scale in the vertical dimension over a fixed horizontal distance. While relief is highly scale-dependent, the relief at each window size is generally proportional to the overall relief of the landscape.