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Wavelet-Compressed Representation of Landscapes for Hydrologic and Geomorphologic Applications


The availability of high-resolution digital elevation data (submeter resolution) from LiDAR has increased dramatically over the past few years. As a result, the efficient storage and transmission of those large data sets and their use for geomorphic feature extraction and hydrologic/environmental modeling are becoming a scientific challenge. This letter explores the use of multiresolution wavelet analysis for compression of LiDAR digital elevation data sets. The compression takes advantage of the fact that, in most landscapes, neighboring pixels are correlated and thus contain some redundant information. The space-frequency localization of the wavelet filters allows one to preserve detailed high-resolution features where needed while representing the rest of the landscape at lower resolution. We explore a lossy compression methodology based on biorthogonal wavelets and demonstrate that, by keeping only approximately 10% of the original information (data compression ratio ∼94%), the reconstructed landscapes retain most of the information of relevance to geomorphologic applications, such as the ability to accurately extract channel networks for environmental flux routing, as well as to identify geomorphic process transition from the curvature-slope and slope-distance relationships.

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