A general model for creating robust choropleth maps

Wangshu Mu, Daoqin Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Choropleth maps visualize areal geographical data by grouping data into a few map classes and assigning different colors, shades, or patterns. Recent studies show that data uncertainty, commonly observed in real-life applications, should also be accounted for when determining the best classification scheme. Due to data uncertainty, a few studies note that map units might be placed in a wrong class, and the concept of map robustness has been introduced to minimize such misplacement. Recently, an algorithm has been developed to integrate robustness into the design of the optimal map classification scheme. However, the existing algorithm has two limitations: first, it is only suitable for certain robustness metrics. Second, when identifying the optimal class breaks, the existing algorithm requires predefined candidate class break values, which might lead to sub-optimal solutions. This paper resolves these issues by proposing a new model, namely, the Continuous Robust Map Classification Problem (CRMCP), and the associated solution approach. The CRMCP allows mapmakers to customize robustness metrics according to their data and applications. In addition, a particle swarm optimization algorithm is developed to solve the CRMCP. The model and algorithm are tested using American Community Survey data. Test results suggest that the new approach can find better solutions than the existing algorithm. The study improves the usability of choropleth maps when uncertain geographical attributes are involved and allows spatial analysts and decision-makers to incorporate robustness into the mapmaking process more flexibly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101850
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Choropleth mapping
  • Particle swarm optimization
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Urban Studies


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