Metrics of scale in remote sensing and GIS

Michael F. Goodchild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The term scale has many meanings, some of which survive the transition from analog to digital representations of information better than others. Specifically, the primary metric of scale in traditional cartography, the representative fraction, has no well-defined meaning for digital data. Spatial extent and spatial resolution are both meaningful for digital data, and their ratio, symbolized as L/S, is dimensionless. L/S appears confined in practice to a narrow range. The implications of this observation are explored in the context of Digital Earth, a vision for an integrated geographic information system. It is shown that despite the very large data volumes potentially involved, Digital Earth is nevertheless technically feasible with today's technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
JournalITC Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Geographic Information System
  • Remote Sensing
  • Scale
  • Spatial Resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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