Colormaps for Terrain Data

Colors and colorscales (ordered progressions of colors) are invaluable for representing geographic variables on maps, particularly when you create terrain and thematic maps. The following section provides an example for applying colormaps and colorbars to maps.

In previous examples, the function demcmap was used to color several digital elevation model (DEM) topographic displays. This function creates colormaps appropriate to rendering DEMs, although it is certainly not limited to DEMs.

These colormaps, by default, have atlas-like colors varying with elevation or depth that properly preserve the land-sea interface. In cartography, such color schemes are called hypsometric tints.

Explore Colormaps for Terrain Data

Load elevation data and a geographic cells reference object for the Korean peninsula. Create a world map with appropriate latitude and longitude limits. Then, display the elevation data as a surface. The surface is unrecognizable because the elevation display uses the default colormap.

load korea5c

Apply a colormap appropriate for elevation data using demcmap.


Alter the colormap to use the same color for values within a range by specifying the first argument as 'inc' and the third argument as the range. The result is a quasi-contour map.