What Are the Types of Geospatial Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

Geospatial data plays a vital role in various fields such as urban planning, environmental management, and transportation analysis. It provides valuable insights into the spatial relationships between different objects and phenomena on the Earth’s surface. To effectively manage and analyze geospatial data, it is essential to understand the different types of geospatial data structures.

1. Vector Data Structure

Vector data represents geographic features using points, lines, and polygons.

It is composed of vertices connected by straight or curved lines. Vector data structures are widely used for representing discrete objects such as buildings, roads, and boundaries.


Points represent individual locations on the Earth’s surface. They have specific coordinates (latitude and longitude or easting and northing) associated with them. Points can be used to represent features like cities, landmarks, or sampling locations.


Lines, also known as polylines or arcs, represent linear features such as roads, rivers, or railway tracks. They consist of a sequence of vertices connected by line segments.


Polygons are closed shapes that represent areas on the Earth’s surface. They are formed by connecting multiple vertices in a specific order to create boundaries around features like lakes, parks, or administrative regions.

2. Raster Data Structure

Raster data represents geographic features as a grid of cells or pixels.

Each cell contains a value representing a specific attribute associated with that location. Raster data structures are commonly used for continuous phenomena such as elevation models or land cover classification.

Raster Cells

The basic unit of raster data is a raster cell. These cells are arranged in rows and columns to form a grid. Each cell has a value that represents a specific attribute such as temperature, precipitation, or elevation.

Raster Resolution

The raster resolution refers to the size of each cell in the grid. It determines the level of detail that can be represented in the raster data. Higher resolution means smaller cell size and more detailed information.

3. TIN (Triangulated Irregular Network) Data Structure

TIN data structure represents surfaces using a network of triangles. It is widely used for modeling terrain or elevation data.


Triangles are the basic unit of TIN data structure. Each triangle is defined by three vertices and their associated attributes such as elevation or slope.

4. Topological Data Structure

Topological data structures represent spatial relationships between geometric objects. They store information about connectivity, adjacency, and containment relationships between different features.

Dual Graphs

Dual graphs are commonly used in topological data structures. They represent the relationships between different features as nodes and edges in a graph.

  • Nodes: Nodes represent individual geographic features such as points, lines, or polygons.
  • Edges: Edges connect nodes and represent spatial relationships between features, such as adjacency or containment.

In conclusion, understanding geospatial data structures is crucial for effectively managing and analyzing geographic information. Vector data structures like points, lines, and polygons are used for discrete objects, while raster data structures represent continuous phenomena.

TIN data structures are ideal for modeling surfaces, and topological data structures capture spatial relationships between features. By leveraging these different data structures, professionals can gain valuable insights from geospatial data.

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