For many scientists working with digital topographic data, extracting lineaments or linear features is an important step in structuring and analyzing raw data. A ridge axis, which represents the top a mountain ridge, is one of the most important topographic features used in a wide variety of applications. Algorithms and software for automating the extraction of ridges or ridge axes from DEMs are, however, still not easily available or not widely acceptable. In this paper, we present a user-friendly Visual Basic program that automates the extraction of the ridge axis system from DEM data, based on the profile-recognition and polygon-breaking algorithm (PPA). An important feature of PPA is that it takes a global approach, as opposed to the local neighborhood operators used in many other algorithms. Each segment detected by PPA considers not only relations with contiguous neighboring grid points, but also strives to preserve the continuity of the global trend. This is an attempt to simulate human operators, who always factor in the overall trend of the lineament before delineating its local parts. PPA starts by connecting all points in a neighborhood that can possibly lie on the ridge axis, thus forming a belt of polygons in the first step. Next, a polygon breaking process eliminates unwanted segments according to the assumption that a ridge segment cannot be the side of any closed polygon, and that the result should be a purely dendritic line pattern. Finally, a branch-reduction process is executed to eliminate all parallel false ridges that remained due to the conservative approach taken in the first step. Results indicate that PPA is reasonably successful in picking out ridges that would have been identified manually by experts. In addition to providing a detailed user interface for executing PPA, several modifications were made to significantly improve the computational efficiency of PPA, as compared to the original version published in 1998. The source codes are provided for free download on the website listed above. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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