Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
Research article
29 Jan 2014
Research article |  | 29 Jan 2014

Extracting topographic swath profiles across curved geomorphic features

S. Hergarten, J. Robl, and K. Stüwe

Abstract. We present a new method to extend the widely used geomorphic technique of swath profiles towards curved geomorphic structures such as river valleys. In contrast to the established method that hinges on stacking parallel cross sections, our approach does not refer to any individual profile lines, but uses the signed distance from a given baseline (for example, a valley floor) as the profile coordinate. The method can be implemented easily for arbitrary polygonal baselines and for rastered digital elevation models as well as for irregular point clouds such as laser scanner data. Furthermore it does not require any smoothness of the baseline and avoids over- and undersampling due to the curvature of the baseline. The versatility of the new method is illustrated by its application to topographic profiles across valleys, a large subduction zone, and the rim of an impact crater. Similarly to the ordinary swath profile method, the new method is not restricted to analyzing surface elevations themselves, but can aid the quantitative description of topography by analyzing other geomorphic features such as slope or local relief. It is even not constrained to geomorphic data, but can be applied to any two-dimensional data set such as temperature, precipitation or ages of rocks.