Spherical Topological Relations

Published: Jan 1, 2005



Analysis of global geographic phenomena requires non-planar models. In the past, models for topological relations have focused either on a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional space. When applied to the surface of a sphere, however, neither of the two models suffices. For the two-dimensional planar case, the eight binary topological relations between spatial regions are well known from the 9-intersection model. This paper systematically develops the binary topological relations that can be realized on the surface of a sphere. Between two regions on the sphere there are three binary relations that cannot be realized in the plane. These relations complete the conceptual neighborhood graph of the eight planar topological relations in a regular fashion, providing evidence for a regularity of the underlying mathematical model. The analysis of the algebraic compositions of spherical topological relations indicates that spherical topological reasoning often provides fewer ambiguities than planar topological reasoning. Finally, a comparison with the relations that can be realized for one-dimensional, ordered cycles draws parallels to the spherical topological relations.


M. Egenhofer, Spherical Topological Relations, Journal on Data Semantics III: 25-49, 2005.