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Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN) Data Model

  • By: Thomas K. Poiker
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN) is a data model that describes surfaces, especially terrain. It has been developed as an alternative to the two other data models for surfaces, the Regular (Rectangular) Grid and the Contour Model. The summary term is digital terrain model (DTM).

The philosophy that underlies TIN is that triangles are a good approximation of terrain that is less than smooth (i.e., has breaks such as ridges). TIN needs a fraction of the units of regular grids and is computationally faster than contour modeling.

A triangle has three components: (1) one area, (2) three edges, and (3) three vertices. It shares each edge with one other triangle and each vertex (node) with an average of five other triangles. This sharing allows the linkage of ...

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