The Problem with 3D GIS

3D GIS is game changing, it can change the way you view your analysis, it can provide insights which you may have overlooked….but there is a little problem which I may had not shared in my deluge of blogs about how great 3D GIS is…..

…Sometimes it can be hard work. What I mean by this, is that it can sometimes need a lot more consideration than standard methods. Let’s look at some of the major culprits when using Esri ArcGIS Pro 1.4 & Desktop 10.5, keeping in mind that there isn’t many (or any) other 3D GIS you can do this kind of work in.

One of the 3D models built of Kendal, UK


Once you have converted or built your 3D model into a multipatch polygon you may find yourself struggling to edit or adjust your model.


Having built entire cities, one issue that I’ve come across a fair bit is removing parts of multipatch polygons. For example, when adding multiple models, you may find that two features might overlap and need to remove part of one. In a 2D, standard GIS, you would simply turn the editing on and split the offending polygon.

This doesn’t work in a 3D GIS…Think about it, how does the GIS know where all the planes you require breaking lie with a 3D plane? 3D GIS can do some pretty clever assumptions but I am yet to find a way to remove part of a complex multipatch polygon.

True, within ArcGIS Pro 1.4 there are some editing tools for 3D multipatch features but it is early days at the moment. For simple cubes it is quite easy to adjust and manipulate the model a little but you don’t stand a chance if you have a curved edge.


Don’t despair, don’t give up on the 3D just yet, as you know, 3D isn’t new and there are many “workarounds”. One of my favourites is using the ArcGIS Pro “Replace Multipatch” tool. If you want to make multiple edits to a model (feature) you can export the multipatch to a collada format or keyhole markup language (kml) format, edit it in Sketchup, Blender, Meshlab or any of your favourite modelling suites and then import it again without affecting the other features in that layer.


If you are extruding simple 2D polygons with the intention of creating 3D mulitpatch polygons, it is a good idea to keep the conversion to multipatch until you explicitly need to. This way, you can edit, split and reshape your 2D polygon within normal ArcGIS Desktop without any issues at all and then draw up and extrude when you are 100% sure it all fits and works okay.


In my experience, pre-planning and clarity of the end goal means that you can be prepared for these slight niggles in advance.

Using 3D multipatches in ArcGIS Desktop

Overlay analysis 

So, I’ve built out an entire city of 3D buildings, it looks amazing, last thing to do is clip them by the city boundary….oh, I forgot, the 2D polygon doesn’t truly intersect the multipatch polygon in 3D space, the “clip” tool doesn’t work, the “intersect tool” nor the “merge” tool…in fact you can ignore using modelbuilder.

Clip features

I learned the hard way that 3D features work best with 3D features. Unless the boundary polygon is a 3D feature, then you won’t be able to use spatial analysis to use any kind of overlay querying.

But, there is always a way to trick the system…

Although the multipatch polygon feature is a 3D object, you can still open it in ArcGIS Desktop, meaning that you can use the good ol’ fashioned “select by location” tool. No, it shouldn’t work but it does, furthermore, you can then export your selected data to a new multipatch feature. It begs the question why you can do this and not the “clip” as, in geoprocessing terms, they are the same thing (the clip tool is just the separate bits combined into a single script).

Let’s not get too hung up on it, as it works,

Volumetric Analysis

If you thought that the  “volume” tool was just put there to look clever, think again. It can be a great tool for easily representing floor space or calculating the tonnage of aggregate that needs extracting from the ground to lay a new pipeline.

There is a slight problem though…it can be a little hit and miss, especially when using sourced models.

Calculating Volume

Try adding a model you built in Sketchup, Blender or Meshlab to ArcGIS Pro and then calculate volume (using the add z information tool), Nothing, right? But why? The reason is that it doesn’t like “open” multipatch 3D features, it isn’t fully enclosed. Even if there is a slither of a gap in the polygon and it isn’t 100% enclosed, the tool cannot calculate the volume.

There are other methods whereby you can use a raster surface, like the “surface volume” tool but this isn’t quite as accurate as using your super detailed vector multipatch.

You could try the “Enclose Multipatch” tool, as this closes the multipatch and then running the volume tool BUT you need to consider that unless the multipatch is cut to the surface, for example, where a building sits on a hill and the base isn’t perfectly flat, the volume will not be ideal. So please consider using the data as a high resolution TIN which is merged with the terrain to provide a more accurate volume result.

Oh, last point on this – make sure you use a projected coordinate system that uses metric for your data, a geographic coordinate system will leave you with your volume in degrees….is that even possible?!

Which brings me nicely to –

Issues occur when you don’t specify the datum

Vertical referencing

I distinctly remember my first adventures into 3D through Google Earth, trying to create some of Romsey, UK as 3D buildings using Sketchup. The first hurdle was always figuring out whether the building was “Absolute height”, “On the Ground” or “Relative to the ground”…I mean, what does that mean anyway? I just drew it to sit on the floor, why does it need to ask me more questions about it?

Correct Height Placement

Right now, if you are a regular reader of xyHt or a 3D Geoninja, you will be calling me a muppet. In reality though, you wouldn’t believe how often I am asked about this, especially now that Digital Surface Models (DSMs), Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), bathymetry and other elevation data are so readily available.

Elevation is never easy, worst still, there are either too many or too few options. With the Esri ArcGIS Pro, I am 100% confident that I know where my data sits within 3D space but it is only because I’ve worked with this day in and day out and understand the limitations and data sources.

Let’s consider the Esri “scene” – it’s a cool 3D map and as you zoom into that lovely globe you can see lovely mountains and valleys all popping out of the surface, my question to you is, what elevation data is it using? what is the resolution of that data? You see, I love that Esri provide a detailed and complete coverage elevation surface for the entire globe but the flip side of it is that you cannot know the exact limitations of that surface easily (the information is provided by Esri but it is not a simple “point & click” exercise).

My words of advice here are to use your own terrain when placing 3D multipatch features. Therefore you are in control of both the vertical datum and the resolution of the height.

While I’m here, I want to also point out that there isn’t a “snap to ground” feature in the editing tools within ArcGIS Pro either. This becomes an issue when you bring a model in which isn’t vertically reference, has no vertical datum because you then need to sit it on the surface. Even when your model is a captured point cloud and accurate to 0.5cm, you have no way to accurately place it on the ground. You can adjust it up and down and sit it by sight, though you cannot “snap” it.

The big takeaway here is that firstly, you need to ensure you are confident and know your elevation data if you plan to work in the 3D scene views and secondly that you need to set up your x,y & z coordinate systems correctly from the start to ensure that all the work you do is as precise as possible.

…and yes, I now know the difference between “absolute”, “relative to the ground” & “on the ground”….maybe an interesting blog for another day, though feel free to contact me if you need quicker answers!

And everything else

There are still many things I have not had a chance to mention, for example the complexities of cartographic representation using 3D models in a GIS, or ways of minimising the clashing of overlapping data plus other 3D centric issues such as shadow and light. Maybe a blog for another day?….




Mapmaking – "Can I have a map?"

Originally posted on

“Can I have a map?”

How often do you get someone ask “can I have a map”?….I have nothing against making maps, in fact I like it so much that I have made a career out of it. Not just any map either, I’ve made maps for the Nuclear, Environmental, Government, Renewable Energy, Offshore and Survey industries, to name a few, I’ve even made maps for a Prime Minister (You’re welcome Mr Blair).

My issue is the question whereby you are just asked for a map. This is not only time consuming for you, the creator but also for the poor client who you are charging 4 or 5 times over for updates to a map which should have been right the first time. This isn’t the clients’ fault, the client didn’t realise that there are multiple templates for the work or that positioning the label they wanted would take half an hour due to it causing a script in the GIS to crash. No, it is safe to assume that the client doesn’t know anything about GIS otherwise they would be doing it themselves….OR (eeek!) you could have the ultimate in intimidation that is the GIS Manager – someone who used GIS up until 10yrs ago and has forgotten how long things REALLy take *shudder*.

There are 2 was to charge people for making maps, either a fixed rate or the consultants favourite, by the hour. No matter which one you choose, it will be wrong. Charge by the hour and you spend 6hrs on 5 different versions of the map which looked fine the first time, OR you take the hit but as you make all those changes, that time you had earmarked has gone and you have to apologise to other clients who were never part of the issue. Lose, lose….


Manage Expectations

The most difficult time I had with this issue was working for local government here in the UK. One day I would be asked for a “PPL map”, the next I would be asked to map all the doctors surgeries near to elderly communities, then the next I would be asked for a map of otter holts. Every map was diverse and each required a different format, logo, information, size, paper density, north arrow… get the idea, no matter what, each map was unique and with little experience with making public facing maps I was taking my work home with me just to get all the work done near to deadline.

So, I created the “GIS Request Form” and I have used this in many different guises at every workplace I’ve worked and never looked back. Simply put, it is a list of basic requirements for making a map, this has sometimes be a list of 20 items but at present is a list of 7 or 8 which form the creation. If I know that the client is managing onshore assets, it is safe to assume they will require British National Grid, once things go coastal it is a completely different set of goalposts.

The basics I will always ask for are

  • Project Name
  • Time Allocated for the job
  • Presentation Size (is it for a report and to be inset or A3 folded?!)
  • Orientation of the map
  • Allow for ring-binding?
  • Description of the work (useful for context)

Other information which I ask of new clients may be:

  • The project level of accuracy
  • The stated project coordinate system
  • Preferred data provision format
  • Is this based on a previous map? If so, can a sample be porvided?
  • Is the map for internal or external use?

By having all this information at hand, you can manage the expectation a lot better and therefore saving A LOT of time. For one client, I can remember being told to run off about 25 maps for a client and I did it in the company standard A3 landscape, only for the Director to come back and tell me that the client had changed their mind and the figures had to be put into the text of the report……how do you tell a client that you are going to charge them for another 30-40hrs of work?! At least if you have it in print from the start you have a safety net!

Below is an example of the current (quick) request form…..yes, it is in the form of an email. Why? Because I ask my clients to have the message on their desktops, then if they need a map, all they have to do is fill in the details and click “send”.



First Map Perfection

Okay, so I still have to make re-iterations of the map but now I usually only make one…yes ONE. It is a personal goal of mine to ensure that a client only has to have one iteration of the map. In fact, I always tell the client that the first map is a draft and won’t be perfect as no-one has EVER made a perfect map first time (disclaimer: maybe they have, but I doubt it).

I hope this helps to smooth the workflow, feel free to comment and add your stories of client map expectations or when it has got to a crazy number of iterations!!






How to Grayscale ArcGIS Pro Vector Symbology

Most of the time, ESRI software is great, it does [mostly] what you ask it and as long as you aren’t doing anything too crazy it behaves. We all know that it has it’s ‘unique-ness’ about it, after using it for a few years you start to ask “why don’t they do this….” or “How comes I can’t do that…..”. Well, a lot of this is being addressed in ArcGIS Pro, already it has answered the question as to why we needed 3 different GIS software (ArcGIS Desktop, ArcScene & ArcGlobe) by bundling it all up into one package. Now (with 1.3) we are starting to see other features which we always wanted in ArcGIS Desktop coming into ArcGIS Pro, case in point, converting symbology to grayscale.

Today, I discovered while creating a basemap, that ESRI have implemented a couple of neat little touches, firstly RGB VALUES ON HOVER.

Hovering the mouse provides RGB values
Hovering the mouse provides RGB values

Although this isn’t ground breaking, it is a nice little touch which, for us cartophiles and OCD cartographers, provides a quick and easy bit of feedback.

The other discovery was having the option to grayscale the symbology. The new ArcGIS Pro can be a little tricky to get your head around, so it is understandibly not obvious but I went to change the RGB values on a piece of road and found another option: GRAYSCALE

Grayscale dropdown
Grayscale dropdown

Selecting “Grayscale” takes you to this menu:

Grayscale removes colour while retaining it's presence.
Grayscale removes colour while retaining it’s presence.


Okay, so this isn’t groundbreaking BUT having played with photoshop a little, I’ve found that the RGB value which is automatically given is almost a perfect match for what you get if you desaturate the colour.

What does all this mean? It means that you can easily and confidently convert your vector symbology to grayscale without guesswork! Creating alternative grayscale maps should now be a lot easier! Now, the question is, will this ever make it to ArcGIS Desktop?!


Lacking geoinspiration? Might be worth looking here….

Every now and then we all lack a little inspiration, whether it is a new client looking for that special something or a personal goal to get your work noticed, inspiration seems to fly out of the door as soon as you get to thinking.

Every now and then we all lack a little inspiration, whether it is a new client looking for that special something or a personal goal to get your work noticed, inspiration seems to fly out of the door as soon as you get to thinking.

Help is at hand, believe it or not, the main GIS software providers now host themselves “showcase” sites where you can see what can be done with the software. Don’t be afraid to contact the creators too, if there is a specific technique or an effect which has been used, contact the creator! In my experience, they are usually more than happy to help [to a limit] because the great thing about cartography and creation is that someone else WILL create something better, this new technique will provide a better way of doing what you did before and then you can create something even more amazing….and so on.

Below are my current favourite sources of inspiration, though I have to admit that I also have a style….yes a little predantic but it is a way of identifying my work, so although I might gain a little inspiration from the below galleries, but my work is always in my own style. Also, look carefully, you might see a few of my maps littered amongst the galleries.

Inspirational places for the map maker

British Cartographic Society:

International Cartographic Association:





Have fun!

Nick D

Terminology used in the GIS Industry


Definitions Provided By: Maps for America – Third Edition – Text obtained from World Atlas

Degree of conformity with a standard. Accuracy relates to the quality of a result and is distinguished from precision which relates to the quality of the operation by which the result is obtained.
Process designed to remove inconsistencies in measured or computed quantities by applying derived corrections to compensate for random or accidental errors.
adjustment, land- line
Positioning land lines on a map to indicate their true, theoretical, or approximate location relative to the adjacent terrain and culture, by reconciling the information shown on Bureau of Land Management plats and field records with the ground evidence of the location of the lines.
adjustment, standard accuracy
Adjustment of a survey resulting in values for positions and (or) elevations that comply with the National Map Accuracy Standards.
The process of developing a network of horizontal and or vertical positions from a group of known positions using direct or indirect measurements from aerial photographs and mathematical computations.
Instrument, or part of an instrument , for determining direction , either horizontal or vertical . In its simplest form, a peepsight or telescope mounted on a straightedge and used for plotting directions graphically. In such instruments as transits and theodolites, the alidade is the part containing the telescope and its attachments.
Instrument for measuring altitudes or elevations with respect to a reference level, usually mean sea level. The most common type is an aneroid barometer. A radar altimeter determines the height of an aircraft above the terrain by measuring the time required for an electromagnetic pulse to travel from aircraft to the ground and back.
Horizontal direction reckoned clockwise from the meridian plane.
Part of a beach that is usually dry and is reached only by the highest tides; by extension, a narrow strip of relatively flat coast bordering the sea.
base map
See: map, base.
bathymetric map
See: map, bathymetric
Science of measuring water depths (usually in the ocean) to determine bottom topography.
beach (seabeach)
Zone of unconsolidated material that extends landward from the low water line to the place where there is marked change in material or physiographic form, or to the line of permanent vegetation (usually the effective lint of storm waves).
bench mark
Relatively permanent material object, natural or artificial, bearing a marked point whose elevation above or below an adopted datum is known.
boundary monument
Material object placed on or near a boundary line to preserve and identify the location of the boundary line on the ground
boundary survey
Survey made to establish or to reestablish a boundary line on the ground, or to obtain data for constructing a map or plat showing a boundary line.
cadastral map
See: map, cadastral.
cadastral survey
Survey relating to land boundaries, made to create units suitable for title transfer or to define the limitations of title. Derived from “cadastre” meaning a register of land quantities, values, and ownership used levying taxes, the term may properly be applied to surveys of a similar nature outside the public lands, such surveys are more commonly called “land surveys” or “property surveys.”
Science and art of making maps and charts. The term may be taken broadly as comprising all the steps needed to produce a map: planning, aerial photography, field surveys, photogrammetry, editing, color separation, and multicolor printing. Mapmakers, however, tend to limit use of the term to the map-finishing operations, in which the master manuscript is edited and color separation plates are prepared for lithographic printing.
Unit of length equal to 66 feet, used especially in the U.S. public land surveys. The original measuring instrument (Gunter’s chain) was literally a chain consisting of 100 iron links, each 7.92 inches long. Steel-ribbon tapes began to supersede chains around 1900, but surveying tapes are often still called “chains” and measuring with a tape is often called “chaining.” The chain is a convenient unit in cadastral surveys because 10 square chains equal 1 acre.
Special-purpose map designed for navigation or to present specific data or information. The term “chart” is applied chiefly to maps made primarily for nautical and aeronautical navigation, and to maps of the heavens, although the term is sometimes used to describe other special-purpose maps.
chart, aeronautical
Charts designed to meet requirements of aerial navigating, produced in several series, each on a specified map projection and differing in scale, format, and content, for use as dictated by type of aircraft and whether flight is to be conducted under visual or instrument flight rules.
chart, bathymetric
See: map, bathymetric
chart, nautical
Representation of a portion of the navigable waters of the Earth and adjacent coastal areas on a specified map projection and designed specifically to meet requirements for marine navigation. Included on most nautical charts are depths of water, characteristics of the bottom, elevations of selected topographic features, general configurations and characteristics of the coast, the shoreline (usually the mean high water line), dangers, obstructions and aids to navigation limited tidal data, and information about magnetic variation in the charted area.
choropleth map
See: map, choropleth
clinometric map:
See: map, slope
color separation
Process of preparing a separate drawing, engraving, or negative for each color required in the printing production of a map or chart.
Preparation of a new or revised map or chart, or portion thereof, from existing maps, aerial photographs, field surveys, and other sources.
continuous tone
Image not broken into dots by photographic screen; contains unbroken gradient tones from black to white, and may be either in negative or positive form. Aerial photographs are examples of continuous-tone prints. Contrasted with halftone (screened) and line copy.
Imaginary line on ground, all points of which are at the same elevation above or below a specific datum.
contour interval
Difference in elevation between two adjacent contours.
control mapping
Points of established position or elevation, or both, which are used to fix references in positioning and correlating map features. Fundamental control is provided by stations in the national networks of triangulation and traverse (horizontal control) and leveling (vertical control). Usually it is necessary to extend geodetic surveys, based on fundamental stations, over the area to be mapped, to provide a suitable density and distribution of control points. Supplemental control points are those needed to relate the aerial photographs used for mapping with the system of ground control. These points must be positively photoidentified; that is, the points must be positively correlated with their images on the photographs.
control station
Point on the ground whose position (horizontal or vertical) is known and can be used as a base for additional survey work.
Linear and (or) angular quantities that designate the position of a point in relation to a given reference frame.
coordinates, origin of
Points in a system of coordinates which serves as a zero point in computing th
e system’s elements or in prescribing its use.
Features constructed by man that are under, on, or above the ground which are delineated on a map. These include roads, trails, buildings, canals, sewer systems, and boundary lines. In a broad sense, the term also applies to all names, other identification, and legends on a map.
datum (pl. datums)
In surveying, a reference system for computing or correlating the results of surveys. There are tow principal types of datums: vertical and horizontal. A vertical datum is a level surface to which heights are referred. In the United States, the generally adopted vertical datum for leveling operations is the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929. The horizontal datum is used as a reference for position. The North American Datum of 1927 is defined by the latitude and longitude of an initial point (Meade’s Ranch in Kansas), the direction of a line between this point and a specified second point, and two dimensions that define the spheroid. The new North American Datum of 1983 is based on a newly defined spheroid (GRS80); it is an Earth-centered datum having no initial point or initial direction.
datum, national geodetic vertical See: national geodetic vertical datum of 1929
In astronomy, the angular distance of a celestial body above (north, plus) or below (south, minus) the celestial Equator. Magnetic declination is the angular difference between magnetic north and true (geographic) north at the point of observation; it is not constant but varies with time because of the “wandering” of the magnetic north pole.
depth curve
Line on a map or chart connecting points of equal depth below the datum.
diazo process
Rapid method for copying documents in which the image is developed by exposure to ammonia.
Bank of earth or stone used to form a barrier, frequently and confusingly interchanged with levee. A dike restrains water within an area that normally is flooded. See levee.
electronic distance measuring (EDM) device:
Instruments that measure the phase difference between transmitted and reflected or retransmitted electromagnetic waves of known frequency, or that measure the round-trip transit time of a pulsed signal, from which distance is computed.
Vertical distance of a point above or below a reference surface or datum.
See: spheroid
engineering map
See: map, engineering
ER-55 plotter
Double-projection plotting instrument utilizing ellipsoidal reflectors for light projection.
Group of natural processes including weathering, dissolution, abrasion, corrosion, and transportation that remove material from any part of the Earth’s surface.
That portion of a stream influenced by the tide of the body of water into which it flows; an arm of the sea at a river mouth.
feature separation
Process of preparing a separate drawing, engraving, or negative for selected types of data in the preparation of a map or chart.
flood control map
See: map, flood control
flood plain
Belt of low flat ground bordering a stream channel that is flooded when runoff exceeds the capacity of the stream channel.
forestry map
See: map, forestry
Lines, resembling contour lines, drawn to present a conception of the shape of the terrain without regard to a true datum or regular spacing
Science concerned with the measurement and mathematical description of the size and shape of the earth and its gravitational fields. Geodesy also includes the large-scale, extended surveys for determining positions and elevations of points, in which the size and shape of the earth must be taken into account.
Figure of the Earth visualized as a mean sea level surface extended continuously through the continents. It is a theoretically continuous surface that is perpendicular at every point to the direction of gravity (the plumbline).
geologic map
See: map, geologic
Network of parallels and meridians on a map or chart.
graticule, geographic
System of coordinates of latitude and longitude used to define the position of a point on the surface of the Earth with respect to the reference spheroid.
Network of uniformly spaced parallel lines intersecting at right angles. When superimposed on a map, it usually carries the name of the projection used for the map- that is, Lambert grid, transverse Mercator grid, universal transverse Mercator grid.
Any series of lines used on a map to indicate the general direction and steepness of slopes. The lines are short, heavy, and close together for steep slopes; longer, lighter, and more widely spaced for gentle slopes.
A picture in which the gradations of light are obtained by the relative darkness and density of tiny dots produced by photographing the subject through a fine screen.
high water
Maximum height reached by a rising tide. The height may be due solely to the periodic tidal forces or it may have superimposed upon it the effects of prevailing meteorological conditions. Use of the “high tide” is discouraged.
high water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at an elevation of high water.
high water mark
Line or mark left upon tidal flats, beach, or along shore objects indicating the elevation or the intrusion of high water.
hydrographic survey
Survey of water area, with particular reference to submarine relief, and any adjacent land. See: oceanographic survey
Science that deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and their adjoining coastal areas, with particular reference to their use for navigation.
Scientific study of the waters of the Earth, especially with relation to the effects of precipitation and evaporation upon the occurrence and character of ground water.
hypsographic map
See: map, hypsographic
Topography referred to the national geodetic vertical datum of 1929. The science or art of describing heights of land surfaces with reference to this datum.
hypsometric map
See: map, hypsometric
Science or art of determining terrain relief, by any method.
Visible representation of objects and (or) phenomena as sensed or detected by cameras, infrared and multispectral scanners, radar, and photometers. Recording may be on photographic emulsion (directly as in a camera or indirectly after being first recorded on magnetic tape as an electrical signal) or on magnetic tape for subsequent conversion and display on a cathode ray tube.
infrared scanner (thermal mapper)
Instrument that detects infrared radiation and converts the detected energy to an electrical signal for recording on photographic film or magnetic tape.
isogonic chart
Chart showing isogonic lines properly labeled with their magnetic declination.
isogonic line
Line joining points on the Earth’s surface having equal magnetic declination as of a given date.
isopleth map
See: map, isopleth
Kelsh plotter
Double-projection plotting instrument utilizing swinging lamps to transmit light through contact- size diapositives (positive transparencies).
land use classification system
Coding system of categories and subcategories designed for use
on a map to designate land or water use.
land use map
See: map, land use
Monument of material mark or fixed object used to designate a land boundary on the ground: any prominent object on land that may be used to determine a location or a direction in navigation or surveying.
Angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds of a point north or south of the Equator.
lead line
Line weighted with lead for making depth soundings in water.
Artificial bank confining a stream channel or limiting adjacent areas subject to flooding; an embankment bordering a submarine canyon or channel, usually occurring along the outer edge of a curve.
level surface
Surface which at every point is perpendicular to the plumbline or the direction in which gravity acts.
Surveying operation in which heights of objects and points are determined relative to a specified datum.
line copy (line drawing) Map copy suitable for reproduction without the use of a screen; a drawing composed of lines as distinguished from continuous- tone copy.
line map
See: map, line
Angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds, of a point east or west of the Greenwich meridian.
low water:
Minimum height reached by a falling tide. The height may be due solely to the periodic tidal forces or it may have superimposed upon it the effects of meteorological conditions.
low water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at an elevation of low water. Not to be confused with mean low water line.
magnetic declination
See: declination
Graphic representation of the physical features (natural, artificial, or both) of a part or the whole of the Earth’s surface, by means of signs and symbols or photographic imagery, at an established scale, on a specified projection, and with the means of orientation indicated.
map, base
Map on which information may be placed for purposes of comparison or geographical correlation. The term “base map” was at one time applied to a class of maps now known as outline maps. It may be applied to topographic maps, also termed “mother maps” that are used in the construction of other types of maps by the addition of particular data.
map, bathymetric
Maps delineating the form of the bottom of a body of water, or a portion thereof, by the use of depth contours (isobaths).
map, cadastral
Map showing the boundaries of subdivisions of land, often with the bearings and lengths thereof and the areas of individual tracts, for purposes of describing and recording ownership. It may also show culture, drainage, and other features relating to land use and value. See:plat
map, choropleth
Thematic map in which areas are colored, shaded, dotted, or hatched to create darker or lighter areas in proportion to the density of distribution of the theme subject.
map digitization
Conversion of map data from graphic to digital form.
map, engineering
Map showing information that is essential for planning an engineering project or development and for estimating its cost. It usually is a large-scale map of a small area or of a route. It may be entirely the product of an engineering survey, or reliable information may be collected from various sources for the purpose, and assembled on a base map.
map, flood control
Map designed for studying and planning control projects in areas subject to flooding.
map, forestry
Map prepared principally to show the size, density, kind, and value of trees in a designated area.
map, geologic
Map showing the structure and composition of geologic features.
map hypsographic
Map showing relief with elevations referred to the national geodetic vertical datum of 1929.
map, hypsometric
Map showing relief by any convention, such as contours, hachures, shading, or tinting.
map, isopleth
Map consisting of lines connecting places of equal value of distribution for a given theme such as rainfall or temperature.
map, land use
Map showing by means of a coding system the various purposes for which parcels of land are being used by man.
map, line
Map composed of lines as distinguished from photographic imagery.
map, orthophotographic
See: orthophotographic map
map, photographic
See: photomap
map, planimetric
Map that presents only the horizontal positions for features represented. distinguished from a topographic map by the omission of relief in measurable form. The features usually shown on a planimetric map include rivers, lakes, and seas; mountains, valleys, and plains; forests, and prairies; cities, farms transportation routes, and public utility facilities; and political and private boundary lines. A planimetric map intended for special use may present only those features essential to the purpose to be served.
map projection
Orderly system of lines on a plane representing a corresponding system of imaginary lines on an adopted terrestrial or celestial datum surface. Also, the mathematical concept for such a system. For maps of the Earth, a projection consists of 1) a graticule of lines representing parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude or 2) a grid.
map series
Family of maps conforming generally to the same specifications and designed to cover an area or a country in systematic pattern.
map, slope (clinometric map)
Map showing the degree of steepness of the Earth’s surface by the use of various colors or shading for critical ranges of slope.
map, soil
Map that shows the constitution, structure, and texture of the soil and identifies ongoing erosion.
map, storm evacuation
Map designed to identify coastal areas subject to flooding, to indicate recommended areas of refuge, and to emphasize available evacuation routes.
map, thematic
Map designed to provide information on a single topic, such as geology, rainfall, population.
map, topographic
Map that present the horizontal and vertical positions of the features represented; distinguished from a planimetric map by the addition of relief in measurable form.
marsh, coastal
Area of salt-tolerant vegetation in brackish and (or) saline-water habitants subject to tidal inundation.
marsh, freshwater
Tract of low wet ground, usually miry and covered with rank vegetation.
mean high water
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the high water heights observed over a specific 19-year Metonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). For stations with shorter series, simultaneous observations are made with a primary control tide station to derive the equivalent of a 19-year value. Use of “mean high tide” is discouraged.
mean high water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at the elevation of high water. See: shoreline
mean low water
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the low water heights observed over a specific 19-year Metonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). For stations with shorter series, simultaneous observations are made with a primary control tide sta
tion to derive the equivalent of a 19-year value. Use of “mean low tide” is discouraged.
mean low water line
Intersection of the land with the water surface at the elevation of low water.
mean sea level
Tidal datum that is the arithmetic mean of the hourly water elevations observed over a specific 19-yearMetonic cycle (National Tidal Datum Epoch). Shorter series are specified in the name; that is, monthly mean sea level and yearly mean sea level. See: datum
meander line
Metes-and-bounds traverse approximately along the mean high water line of a permanent body of water. By following the sinuosities of the bank or shoreline, the meander line provides data for computing the area of land remaining after the water area has been segregated. A meander line differs from other metes and bounds surveys in that it does not ordinarily determine or fix boundaries.
Capable of being depicted by reference to a meander line.
Great circle on the surface of the Earth passing through the geographical poles and any given point on the Earth’s surface. All points on a given meridian have the same longitude.
metes and bounds
Method of describing land by measure of length (metes) of the boundary lines (bounds).
Metonic cycle
Period of 235 lunations or about 19 years. devised by Meton, an Athenian astronomer (5th century B.C.) for the purpose of obtaining a period at the end of which the phases of the moon recur in the same order and on the same days as in the preceding cycle.
metric system
Decimal system of weights and measures based on the meter as a unit length and the kilogram as a unit mass.
Pertaining to the observation of a single photograph or other view.
monument (surveying)
Permanent physical structure marking the location of a survey point. Common types of monuments are inscribed metal tablets set in concrete posts; and metal rods driven in the ground.
mosaic, aerial
Assembly of aerial photographs whose edges usually have been torn or cut selectively and matched to the imagery on adjoining photographs to form a continuous representation of a portion of the Earth’s surface.
Stereoplotter of the double-projection type characterized by its use of reduced- scale diapositives and stationary lamphouses with condensing lenses.
multispectral scanner (MSS)
Device for sensing radian energy in several channels of the electromagnetic spectrum.
national geodetic vertical datum of 1929
Reference surface established by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1929 as the datum to which relief features and elevation data are referenced in the conterminous United States; formerly called “mean sea level 1929.”
National Map Accuracy Standards
Specifications promulgated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to govern accuracy of topographic and other maps produced by Federal Agencies.
navigable waters
Water usable, with or without improvements, as routes for commerce in the customary means of travel on water.
Line separating the body of a map from the map margin. On a standard quadrangle map, the neatlines are the meridians and parallels delimiting the quadrangle.
oceanic survey
Survey or examination of condition in the ocean or any part of it, with reference to animal or plant life, chemical elements present, temperature gradients, etc. See: hydrographic survey
Comparatively flat zone of variable width that extends from the outer margin of the rather steeply sloping shoreface to the edge of the continental shelf.
Establishing correct relationship in direction with reference to points of the compass; the state of being in correct relationship in direction with reference to the points of the compass.
origin of coordinates
Point in a system of coordinates that serves as a zero point in computing the system’s elements or in prescribing its use.
Photograph having the properties of an orthographic projection. It is derived from a conventional perspective photograph by simple or differential rectification so that image displacements caused by camera tilt and terrain relief are removed.
orthophotographic map
Map produced by assembling orthophotographs at a specified uniform scale in a map format.
Orthophotographic map with contours and cartographic treatment, presented in a standard format, and related to standard reference systems.
Monocolor orthophotgraphic map presented in a standard quadrangle format and related to standard reference systems. It has no contours and little or cartographic treatment.
Photomechanical device used in conjunction with a double-projection stereoplotter for producing orthophotograph.
Any portion of a map lying outside the nominal map border (neatline).
Printing or drawing on a transparent or translucent medium intended to be placed in register on a map or other graphic and which shows details not appearing or requiring special emphasis on the base material.
New material printed on a map or chart to show data of importance or special use, in addition to those data originally printed.
parallel of latitude
A circle, or approximation of a circle, on the surface of the Earth, parallel tot he Equator, and connecting points of equal latitude; a circle of the celestial sphere parallel to the ecliptic, and connecting points of equal celestial latitude.
Science or art of obtaining reliable measurements or information from photographs or other sensing systems.
photomap (photographic map)
Map made by adding marginal information, descriptive data, and a reference system to a photograph or assembly of photographs.
Region of uniform general slope, comparatively level, of considerable extent, and not broken by marked elevations and depressions (it may be an extensive valley floor or a plateau summit); an extent of level or nearly level land; a flat, gently sloping, or nearly level region of the sea floor.
Instrument consisting essentially of a drawing board on a tripod and some type of sighting device (alidade) with attached straightedge, used for plotting the lines of survey directly from observation in the field.
planimetric map
See: map, planimetric
Plan details of a map – those having no indication of relief or contour.
Diagram drawn to scale showing all essential data pertaining to the boundaries and subdivisions of a tract of land, as determined by survey or protraction. As used by the Bureau of Land Management, the drawing which represents the particular area included in a survey, such as township, private land claim, or mineral claim, and the lines surveyed, established, or retraced, showing the direction and length of each such line; The relation to the adjoining official surveys; the boundaries, descriptions, and area of each parcel of land subdivided; and, as nearly as may be practicable, a representation of the relief and improvements within the limits of the survey.
prime meridian
Meridian of longitude 0 degrees, used as the origin for measurements of longitude. The meridian of Greenwich, England, is the internationally accepted prime meridian on most charts. However, local or nation
al prime meridians are occasionally used.
projection, map
See: map, projection
public land system
Public lands are subdivided by a rectangular system of surveys established and regulated by the Bureau of Land Management. The standard format for subdivision is by townshipsmeasuring 6 miles (480 chains) on a side. Townships are further subdivided into 36 numbered sections of 1 square mile (640 acres) each.
quad-centered photograph
Middle exposure of a phototriplet (three consecutive aerial photographs) take so that the middle photograph is exposed directly above the center of the quadrangle and the preceding and following photographs are exposed directly above the boundaries of the quadrangle. The flying height is set such that the quad-centered photograph covers the entire quadrangle.
Four-sided area, bounded by parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude used as an area unit in mapping (dimensions are not necessarily the same in both directions). Also, a geometric figure of significance in geodetic surveying.
radial-line plotting
Determination of the location of points by the successive intersection and resection of direction lines radiating from the radial centers of overlapping aerial photographs.
rectification, differential
The process of scanning and reprojecting a photograph onto a horizontal plane in differential elements to remove displacements caused by tilt and relief. The process may be accomplished by any one of a number of instruments developed specifically for the purpose.
rectification, simple
Projection of an aerial photograph (mathematically, graphically, or photographically) from its plane onto a horizontal plane by translation, rotation, and (or) scale change to remove displacement due to tilt of the camera.
Elevations and depressions of the land or sea bottom.
relief shading
Technique for making hypsography on a map appear three dimensional by the use of graded shadow effects. Generally, the features are shaded as though illuminated from the northwest.
remote sensing
Process of detecting and (or) monitoring chemical or physical properties of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation.
representational fraction
Scale of a map or chart expressed as a fraction or ratio that relates unit distance on the map to distance measured in the same unit on the ground.
Summation of all processes involved in printing copies from an original drawing. A printed copy of an original drawing made by the processes of reproduction
Relationship existing between a distance on a map, chart, or photograph and the corresponding distance on the Earth.
sea level (water level)
Height of the surface of the sea at any given time.
Unit of subdivision of a township; normally a quadrangle 1 mile square with boundaries conforming tomeridians and parallels within established limits, and containing 640 acres as nearly as practicable.
Technical means, usually electronic, to extend man’s natural senses by detecting emitted or reflected energy. The energy may be nuclear, electromagnetic (including the visible and invisible portions of the spectrum), chemical, biological, thermal, or mechanical
Intersection of the land with the water surface.
slope map
See: map, slope
soil map
See: map, soil
Mathematical figure closely approaching the geoid in form and size and used as a surface of reference for geodetic surveys. A reference spheroid or ellipsoid is a spheroid determined by revolving an ellipse about its shorter (polar) axis and used as a base for geodetic surveys of a large section of the Earth (such as the Clarke spheroid of 1866 which is used for geodetic surveys in the United States).
spot elevation
Point on a map or chart whose height above a specified datum is noted, usually by a dot or a small sawbuck and elevation value. Elevations are shown, on a selective basis, for road forks and intersections, grade crossings summit of hills, mountain
Technique of distance measurement wherein the observer reads the intercept subtended on a graduated rod between two marks on the reticle of the telescope.
standard-accuracy adjustment
See: adjustment, standard-accuracy
state plane coordinate system
Coordinate systems established by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now the National Ocean Survey), usually one for each state, for use in defining positions of points in terms of plane rectangular (x,y) coordinates.
Production of a map or chart manuscript from aerial photographs and geodetic control data by means of photogrammetric instruments.
Instrument for plotting a map by observation of stereomodels formed by pairs of photographs.
Pertaining to the use of binocular vision for observation of a pair of overlapping photographs or other perspective views, giving impression of depth.
storm evacuation map
See: map, storm evacuation
Decrease in the elevation of land surface due to tectonic, seismic, or artificial forces, without removal of surface material.
Orderly process of determining data relating to any physical or chemical characteristics of the Earth. The associated data obtained in a survey. An organization engaged in making a survey.
tacheometer (tachymeter)
Surveying instrument designed for use in the rapid determination of distance, direction, and difference of elevation from a single observation, using a short base which may be an intergraph part of the instrument.
thematic map
See: map, thematic
Precision surveying instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.
Periodic rise and fall of the water resulting from gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The vertical component of the particulate motion of a tidal wave. Although the accompanying horizontal movement of the water is part of the same phenomenon, it is preferable to designate this motion as tidal current.
topographic map
See: map, topographic
Configuration (relief) of the land surface; the graphic delineation or portrayal of that configuration in map form, as by contour lines; in oceanography the term is applied to a surface such as the sea bottom or surface of given characteristics within the water mass.
Unit of survey of the public lands of the United States, normally a quadrangle approximately 6 miles on a side with boundaries conforming to meridians and parallels within established limits, containing 36 sections. Also, in minor governmental subdivision.
Precision surveying instrument; a theodolite in which the telescope can be reversed in direction by rotation about its horizontal axis.
Sequence of lengths and directions of lines connecting a series of stations, obtained from field measurements, and used in determining positions of the stations.
Method of extending horizontal position on the surface of the Earth by measuring the angles of triangles and the included sides of selected triangles.
Method of surveying wherein the lengths of the triangle sides are measured, usually by electronic methods, and the angles are computed from the measured lengths. Compare with triangulation.
Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid
Military grid system based on the transverse Mercator projection, applied to maps of the Earth’s surface extending from the Equator to 84 Degrees north and 80 degrees south latitudes
Highland; ground elevation above the lowlands along rivers or between hills.
zenith telescope
Instrument for observing starts near the zenith (a point on the celestial sphere directly above the observer’s position). ground below the water table where all the pores in rock, sediment, and soil are filled with water

Please offer your own as well!! Contact me below


Nick D

Maptime Southampton

I’m not afraid to admit that I am a #Maptime n00b. After 15 years in the GIS business I thought I’d seen and done it all (except code, not too keen on code). Today I broke my Mapbox cherry.

This is what makes #Maptime such a great experience, not only do you learn something new but you also have some experienced people around you to help answer those really simple questions which many of us trip up on and give up. Mapbox was one of those things for me, a rather strange interface and not much space to do the world bending GIS I am used to……Well, I have to say mixing between CARTOCSS in Mapbox studio and adding features in Mapbox I came up with this:

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Yes, a slippy map with interactive points….for free. My first impressions are that I would need to invest a little money to really make this work for me but if I needed to post up a quick web map (like above) this is a great little tool. The big promo has to go to @MaptimeSOTON though, having the knowledgeable help on hand to get everything working and understand the purpose is what really made this map.

Oh…..and slippy maps in WordPress……that’s another story….

Nick D

Cartography – Make it beautiful and get noticed

It is easy to make a map, you can fire up ArcGIS Online and pretty much print out a half decent map within minutes or you could download the Ordnance Survey free vectormap data & styles then draw it up in QGIS. You get the idea, anyone can do it, but I often wonder SHOULD anyone be able to do it when you see examples like this:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C

If you are sat there saying to yourself “What is wrong with those?” then I have some news for you……

There is a raft of great free resources out there to help you become a super cartographer! The more esthetique you make your map, the more likely people will not only be able to use it but also WANT to use it.

The British map gurus, Ordnance Survey, have been releasing a series of blogs on cartographic design, aimed at users on all levels. Read it here: Ordnance Survey Cartographic Design Series

Of course some of use like to haev something physical to hold and read through. If so, you could do no better than reading Gretchen Petersons’ Guide to Effective Cartography

Maybe you just want to have a little look at what Gretchen does, well she also has a website where she discusses cartographic issues and the evils of halos (and sometimes cats, but never cats with halos…well not usually). Gretchen Petersons Blog

If you search, you might even be able to find a few of the cartographic masters on Twitter…..

Anyhow, there is now no excuse to make an eyesore of a map. Keep is simple stupid (KISS) & follow the 10 basic design principles.