Visualization of uncertainty in spatial decision support systems

J.C.J.H. Aerts, L.A. Clarke, A.D. Keuper

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many land allocation issues, such as land-use planning, require input from extensive spatial databases and involve complex decision-making. Spatial decision support systems (SDSS) are designed to make these issues more transparent and to support the design and evaluation of land allocation alternatives. In this paper we analyze techniques for visualizing uncertainty of an urban growth model called SLEUTH, which is designed to aid decision-makers in the field of urban planning and fits into the computational framework of an SDSS. Two simple visualization techniques for portraying uncertainty-static comparison and toggling-are applied to SLEUTH results and rendered with different background information and color schemes. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the two visualization techniques, a web-based survey was developed showing the visualizations along with questions about the usefulness of the two techniques. The web survey proved to be quickly accessible and easy to understand by the participants. Participants in the survey were mainly recruited among planners and decision-makers. They acknowledged the usefulness of portraying uncertainty for decision-making purposes. They slightly favored the static comparison technique over toggling. Both visualization techniques were applied to an urban growth case study for the greater Santa Barbara area in California, USA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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