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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Synthetic drumlins for investigating landform mapping accuracy

Executive Summary
ResearchersDr Mike Smith
Dr John Hillier (University of Loughborough)
Funding Body/SourceEuropean Geophysical Union
AbstractThis project has synthetic landforms (drumlins) within a real landscape so that we know a priori those that are present. This is used as the basis for testing the accuracy of manual and automated techniques for landform mapping with a view to developing methods of best practise


With the dramatic rise in geomorphological maps and mapping over the last decade there has been a natural progression towards finding more objective, and sometimes automated, techniques and procedures for mapping. Yet manual, interpretive, techniques remain effective and commonly used. It is therefore important that criteria for interpretive mapping are developed, and agreed, in order to facilitate comparability and compatibility of mapped outputs.

The approach to testing the efficacy of manual mapping is to have a priori knowledge of landforms in the landscape. Given that many landforms are indeterminate there is circularity in any approach that attempts such a measure. This project developed a novel approach to generate synthetic drumlins in a real landscape - this allows prior knowledge of the exact landform parameters and a method by which we can test manual or automated techniques for landform mapping.

An EGU sponsored workshop was completed in 2013 to present and discuss results from glacial gemorphological mapping by different interpreters the synthetic drumlins. This will be used to inform both the differences/similarities in mapping and quantify the impacts upon the calculation of derived metrics. The key outcomes of this workshop will be the initial development of a set of objective criteria for geomorphological mapping. This work will subsequently be extended to automated mapping methods.

Fig 1: Example of LiDAR DEM imagery (2m spatial resolutions) interpretation of the glacial geomorphology.

Selected publication(s)

Hillier, J., Smith, M.J. (in press) Testing techniques to quantify drumlin height and volume; synthetic DEMs as a diagnostic tool, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

Hillier, J., Smith, M.J. 2012 Testing 3D landform quantification methods with synthetic drumlins in a real DEM, Geomorphology, 153-154: 61-73. DOI:

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