Deep learning for dune pattern mapping with the AW3D30 global surface model

Sam Shumack*, Paul Hesse, Will Farebrother

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    In this paper we present a deep learning (U‐Net)‐based workflow for classifying linear dune landforms based on the discrete Laplacian convolution of a new global elevation dataset, the AW3D30 digital surface model. Crest vectors were then derived for landscape pattern analysis. The U‐Net crest classification model was trained and evaluated on sample data from dunefields across the Australian continent. The resulting crest vectors and dune defect placement were then evaluated in typical semi‐arid and arid dune landscapes in eastern central Australia where high‐resolution (5 m horizontal) digital elevation models are available (for three out of our four study sites) as a reference dataset. The method was applied to quantify dune pattern metrics for the entire Simpson Desert dunefield, Australia. The U‐Net does a very good job of segmenting dune crests, even where dunes are less clear in the Laplacian map (intersection over union score ≈ 0.68). When crest vectors and dune defects (network nodes) were derived, the defect predictions were typically correct (0.4 to 0.79 correctness) but incomplete (0.02 to 0.64 completeness). Much of the residual error was traced to the resolution of the input data. Through the application to the Simpson Desert, we nevertheless demonstrated that our method can effectively be used for regional‐scale dune pattern analysis. Furthermore, we suggest that the combination of morphological filtering and a convolutional neural network could readily be adapted to target other geomorphic features, such as channel networks or geological lineaments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2417-2431
    Number of pages15
    JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2020


    • linear dunes
    • pattern analysis
    • deep learning
    • U-Net
    • digital surface model


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