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There are two main groupings of interpolation techniques: deterministic and geostatistical. Deterministic interpolation techniques create surfaces from measured points, based on either the extent of similarity (inverse distance weighted) or the degree of smoothing (radial basis functions). Geostatistical interpolation techniques (kriging) utilize the statistical properties of the measured points. Geostatistical techniques quantify the spatial autocorrelation among measured points and account for the spatial configuration of the sample points around the prediction location.

Deterministic interpolation techniques can be divided into two groups, global and local. Global techniques calculate predictions using the entire dataset. Local techniques calculate predictions from the measured points within neighborhoods, which are smaller spatial areas within the larger study area. Geostatistical Analyst provides global polynomial as a global interpolator and inverse distance weighted, local polynomial, radial basis functions, kernel smoothing, and diffusion kernel as local interpolators.

A deterministic interpolation can either force the resulting surface to pass through the data values or not. An interpolation technique that predicts a value that is identical to the measured value at a sampled location is known as an exact interpolator. An inexact interpolator predicts a value that is different from the measured value. The latter can be used to avoid sharp peaks or troughs in the output surface. Inverse distance weighted and radial basis functions are exact interpolators, while global polynomial, local polynomial, kernel interpolation with barriers, and diffusion interpolation with barriers are inexact.