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Stripping Australia to the Bare Heightmap

Landscape maps of large stretches of Earth - or any other planet - that can be used by world builders to create terrain for their worlds can never be too plentiful. Well, oft-times they are not plentiful at all, due to the difficulty of acquiring heightmaps, at least on Earth. Things such as buildings and plant life just get in the way.

The image here on the left, was produced from a satellite scan. On the right, the image has been stripped of all vegetation, via CSIRO's process.

Scientists from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation, or CSIRO as it is more often known, have simplified the matter greatly, in a late 2009 study. Researchers from CSIRO's Water for a Healthy Country Flagship have removed approximately 90 per cent of the continent's vegetation from satellite images to produce the most detailed available Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of its topography.

This elevation map is detailed down to one point every 30 metres. Not very detailed at all, if you were looking to replicate landscape features, but more than adequate for rendering a world. This is good as the 30 metre DEM ius not being released to the public. Instead a downsized version, with one height point every 90 metres is being made available. Not enough to replicate terrain accurately, this resolution is still enough to create microcosm versions of many of the natural features.

The 30 metre DEM will provide a body of information related to water resources and is a key activity within the water information research and development alliance between the Flagship and the Bureau of Meteorology's 'Improving Water Information Program'.

This dataset is licensed and managed by project collaborator, Geoscience Australia, and will be available from mid-November to all tiers of Australian government. There are no plans to make it available to the public, or private companies.


The naked truth about our landscape


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