Surface analysis sample applications

Available with Spatial Analyst license.

Available with 3D Analyst license.

The following are a selection of the many applications for surface analysis tools.

Type of analysisSurface tool(s)Application

Characteristics of surfaces

Surface Parameters

Compute multiple analytic descriptors of a surface, typically elevation data. Use this tool to identify areas too steep for development or prone to landslide. Create inputs for plant growth models and phenomena that are effected by their aspect relative to the sun. Classify landforms and inform understanding of geomorphologic processes.


You might want to know the variations in the slope of the landscape because you want to find the areas most at risk of landslide based on the angle of steepness in an area (steeper slopes being those most at risk).


You might be a farmer who is interested in locating a field in an area with a southerly aspect.


Determine the acceleration and convergence of flow in a drainage basin to better understand erosion.

Creating contours


Contour List

Contour with Barriers

Contours can be useful for finding areas of the same value. You could be interested in obtaining elevation values for specific locations and examining the overall gradation of the land.

Terrain relief and visualization


You can create hillshade for both graphic and analytic purposes. Graphically, a hillshade can provide an attractive and realistic backdrop, showing how other layers are distributed in relation to the terrain relief. From an analytic point of view, you can analyze how the landscape is illuminated at various times of the day by lowering and raising the sun angle.

Volumetric analysis

Cut Fill

You may be leveling a site for building construction and want to determine the volume of material that needs to be excavated and dumped. Another use is to identify areas of sediment erosion and deposition in a river valley.

Surface analysis sample applications

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