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Discrete versus Continuous Phenomena

Geographic phenomena can be roughly divided into two realms: discrete or continuous. While phenomena, features, and entities can have distinct definitions in geographic information science, for the purpose of the discussion here, the three terms are used interchangeably. In a nutshell, discrete geographic phenomena have spatial bounds. Locations may be within or outside a discrete geographic feature, even though boundaries of the feature may be inexact or undetermined. Such an inclusive/exclusive nature allows discrete geographic phenomena to be distinguished from each other and assigned unique identifiers for distinction. Once distinguished, each discrete feature is characterized by its attribute sets and can be treated as an individual in analysis and modeling. Examples of discrete geographic phenomena include lakes, cities, and storms.

On the other hand, continuous geographic ...

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