Propagation of vertical and horizontal source data errors into a TIN with linear interpolation

Lei Fan*, Joel Smethurst, Peter Atkinson, William Powrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Digital elevation models (DEMs) have been widely used for a range of applications and form the basis of many GIS-related tasks. An essential aspect of a DEM is its accuracy, which depends on a variety of factors, such as source data quality, interpolation methods, data sampling density and the surface topographical characteristics. In recent years, point measurements acquired directly from land surveying such as differential global positioning system and light detection and ranging have become increasingly popular. These topographical data points can be used as the source data for the creation of DEMs at a local or regional scale. The errors in point measurements can be estimated in some cases. The focus of this article is on how the errors in the source data propagate into DEMs. The interpolation method considered is a triangulated irregular network (TIN) with linear interpolation. Both horizontal and vertical errors in source data points are considered in this study. An analytical method is derived for the error propagation into any particular point of interest within a TIN model. The solution is validated using Monte Carlo simulations and survey data obtained from a terrestrial laser scanner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1378-1400
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • DEM accuracy
  • error propagation
  • spatial interpolation
  • topographical survey
  • triangulated irregular network


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