From Raster to Vector Data in Global Mapper
A picture is worth a thousand words; a mantra that can be applied in many situations, including the field of GIS. Raster data, most often used as a base map or reference layer, holds a lot of visual information that forms the basis for numerous geospatial analysis procedures. Tools in Global Mapper Pro include options for editing, converting, and analyzing raster data, keeping it in its native pixel-based format, or transitioning the data to vector features.
Looking at a wide view of a coastal area, lower resolution satellite imagery can be used to extract land or water areas to vector polygons. Displayed as multiple layers in Global Mapper, bands of satellite data show how different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation interact with different surfaces and land covers. Principles of remote sensing include the knowledge of how these different wavelengths of energy interact with surfaces allowing the use of multiband satellite data for enhanced visualization of an area. For more information on loading and visualizing multiband satellite data in Global Mapper, refer to this previous blog post.
A specialized option in Global Mapper’s Digitizer toolset can then be used to generate polygons representing land. After creating a larger bounding box polygon for the study area, the vector editing option to Cut Selected Area(s) from Another Area(s) can be used to cut the water areas from the bounding box, leaving only polygons bounding the land.
The United States’ National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) is a palette raster image in which each pixel value corresponds to a different land cover type. This data, updated every few years, shows basic land cover and land use. In the example below covering the area surrounding the city of Austin, Texas, the red pixels indicate developed, or more urban areas.
Using Global Mapper’s Raster Reclassify tool, the developed areas are isolated and retain their original pixel values and color. Repeating this reclassification for the 2019 and 2016 NLCD data creates new layers displaying only developed areas, and can be used in a visual analysis to detect urban area change.
Converting these detected change areas to vector format is simple in Global Mapper. The Create Area Features from Equal Values tool vectorizes any raster data based on matching pixel values. Now, instead of showing change with a shaded raster layer, each area of change is represented by a polygon.
The analysis and manipulation of raster data provide valuable insight into an area of interest. Taking that analysis a step further with the vectorization of pixel-based data and some simple vector editing and attribute creation, Global Mapper contains numerous opportunities for continued data analysis. If you would like to explore satellite data and other tools in Global Mapper, download a 14-day free trial today! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.