The scaling properties of synthetic topographic surfaces and digital elevation models (DEMs) of topography are examined by analyzing their 'structure functions,' i.e., the qth order powers of the absolute elevation differences: delta h(sub q) (l) = E((absolute value of h(x + l) - h(x))(exp q)). We find that the relation delta h(sub 1 l) approximately equal cl(exp H) describes well the scaling behavior of natural topographic surfaces, as represented by DEMs gridded at 3 arc sec. Average values of the scaling exponent H between approximately 0.5 and 0.7 characterize DEMs from Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia over 3 orders of magnitude range in length scale l (approximately 0.1-150 km). Differences in appparent topographic roughness among the three areas most likely reflect differences in the amplitude factor c. Separate determination of scaling properties in the x and y coordinate directions allows us to assess whether scaling exponents are azimuthally dependent (anisotropic) or whether they are isotropic while the surface itself is anisotropic over a restricted range of length scale. We explore ways to determine whether topographic surfaces are characterized by simple or multiscaling properties.
Journal of Geophysical Research (ISSN 0148-0227); 99; B7; p. 13,997-14,012