grdgradient(cmd0::String="", arg1=nothing; kwargs...)

keywords: GMT, Julia, grid gradients, derivatives

Compute directional derivative or gradient from a grid


Computes the directional derivative in a given direction (azim), or to find the direction (slopegrid) [and the magnitude (find_dir)] of the vector gradient of the data.

Estimated values in the first/last row/column of output depend on boundary conditions (see interp).

Required Arguments

The 2-D gridded data set to be contoured.

Optional Arguments

  • A or azim or azimuth : – azim=azim | azim=(azim1, azim2)
    Azimuthal direction for a directional derivative; azim is the angle in the x,y plane measured in degrees positive clockwise from north (the +y direction) toward east (the +x direction). The negative of the directional derivative, -[dz/dx sin(azim) + dz/dy cos(azim)], is found; negation yields positive values when the slope of z(x,y) is downhill in the azim direction, the correct sense for shading the illumination of an image (see grdimage and grdview) by a light source above the x,y plane shining from the azim direction. Optionally, supply two azimuths, azim=(azim1, azim2), in which case the gradients in each of these directions are calculated and the one larger in magnitude is retained; this is useful for illuminating data with two directions of lineated structures, e.g., azim=(0,270) illuminates from the north (top) and west (left). Finally, if azim is a file it must be a grid of the same domain, spacing and registration as in_grdfile and we will update the azimuth at each output node when computing the directional derivatives.

  • G or save or outgrid or outfile : – save=file_name.grd
    Write one or more fields directly to grids on disk or return them to the Julia REPL as grid objects. If more than one field is specified via fields then file_name must contain the format flag %s so that we can embed the field code in the file names.

  • D or find_dir : – find_dir=true | find_dir=:a | find_dir=:c | find_dir=:o | find_dir=:n | find_dir=acon
    Find the direction of the positive (up-slope) gradient of the data. To instead find the aspect (the down-slope direction), use find_dir=:a. By default, directions are measured clockwise from north, as azim in azim above. Use find_dir=:c to use conventional Cartesian angles measured counterclockwise from the positive x (east) direction. Use find_dir=:o to report orientations (0-180) rather than directions (0-360). Use find_dir=:n to add 90 degrees to all angles (e.g., to give local strikes of the surface). Note, you can combine two or more options by cating the single flgas in a word, (e.g. find_dir=:on)

  • E or lambert : – lambert=([simple=true, peucker=true, manip=true,] view=(azim,elev) [,ambient=val, difuse=val, specular=val, shine=val])
    Compute Lambertian radiance appropriate to use with grdimage and grdview. The Lambertian Reflection assumes an ideal surface that reflects all the light that strikes it and the surface appears equally bright from all viewing directions. Here, azim and elev are the azimuth and elevation of the light vector. Optionally, supply ambient [0.55], diffuse [0.6], specular [0.4], or shine [10], which are parameters that control the reflectance properties of the surface. Default values are given in the brackets. Use lambert=(simple=true, view=(azim,elev)) for a simpler Lambertian algorithm. Note that with this form you only have to provide azimuth and elevation. Alternatively, use lambert=(peucker=true,) for the Peucker piecewise linear approximation (simpler but faster algorithm; in this case the azim and elev are hardwired to 315 and 45 degrees. This means that even if you provide other values they will be ignored. The lambert=(manip=true,) uses another algorithm that gives results close to ESRI's hillshade but faster. In this case the azimuth and elevation are hardwired to 315 and 45 degrees.

  • N or norm or normalize : – norm=([laplace=true, cauchy=true,] [amp=val,] [sigma=val, offset=val])
    Normalization. [Default is no normalization.] The actual gradients g are offset and scaled to produce normalized gradients gn with a maximum output magnitude of amp. If amp is not given, default amp = 1. If offset is not given, it is set to the average of g. norm=true yields gn = amp ] (g - offset)/max(abs(g - offset)). norm=(laplace=true,) normalizes using a cumulative Laplace distribution yielding *gn = amp * (1.0 - exp(sqrt(2) * (g - offset)/ sigma)), where sigma is estimated using the L1 norm of (g - offset) if it is not given. norm=(cauchy=true,) normalizes using a cumulative Cauchy distribution yielding gn = (2 *amp / PI) * atan( (g - offset)/ sigma) where sigma is estimated using the L2 norm of (g - offset) if it is not given. To use offset and/or sigma from a previous calculation, leave out the argument to the modifier(s) (e.g. set them to "") and see save_stats for usage.

  • Q or save_stats : – save_stats=:save | save_stats=:read | save_stats=:Read
    Controls how normalization via norm is carried out. When multiple grids should be normalized the same way (i.e., with the same offset and/or sigma), we must pass these values via norm. However, this is inconvenient if we compute these values from a grid. Use save_stats=:save to save the results of offset and sigma to a statistics file; if grid output is not needed for this run then specify outgrid=:none. For subsequent runs, just use save_stats=:read to read these values. Using save_stats=:Read will read then delete the statistics file. See TILES for more information. (Warning: this option is available on GMT6 only)

  • R or region or limits : – limits=(xmin, xmax, ymin, ymax) | limits=(BB=(xmin, xmax, ymin, ymax),) | limits=(LLUR=(xmin, xmax, ymin, ymax),units="unit") | ...more
    Specify the region of interest. More at limits. For perspective view view, optionally add zmin,zmax. This option may be used to indicate the range used for the 3-D axes. You may ask for a larger w/e/s/n region to have more room between the image and the axes.

  • S or slopegrid :
    Name of output grid file with scalar magnitudes of gradient vectors. Requires find_dir but makes outgrid optional.

  • V or verbose : – verbose=true | verbose=level
    Select verbosity level. More at verbose

Grid Distance Units

If the grid does not have meter as the horizontal unit, append +u\unit to the input file name to convert from the specified unit to meter. If your grid is geographic, convert distances to meters by supplying colinfo=:g instead.


If you don't know what norm options to use to make an intensity file for grdimage and grdview, a good first try is norm=e0.6.

Usually 255 shades are more than enough for visualization purposes. You can save 75% disk space by appending =nb/a to the output filename outgrid.

If you want to make several illuminated maps of subregions of a large data set, and you need the illumination effects to be consistent across all the maps, use the norm option and supply the same value of sigma and offset to grdgradient for each map. A good guess is offset = 0 and sigma found by grdinfo-L2 or -L1 applied to an unnormalized gradient grd.

If you simply need the x- or y-derivatives of the grid, use grdmath.


For very large datasets (or very large plots) you may need to break the job into multiple tiles. It is then important that the normalization of the intensities are handled the same way for each tile. By default, offset and sigma are recalculated for each tile. Hence, different tiles of the same large grid will compute different offset and sigma values. Thus, the intensity for the same directional slope will be different across the final map. This inconsistency can lead to visible changes in image appearance across tile seams. The way to ensure compatible results is to specify the same offset and sigma via the modifiers to norm. However, if these need to be estimated from the large grid then the save_stats option can help: Run grdgradient on the full grid (or as large portion of the grid that your computer can handle) and specify save_stats=:save to create a statistics file with the resulting offset and sigma. Then, for each of your grid tile calculations, give norm=(offset="",) and/or norm=(sigma="",) without arguments to norm and specify save_stats=:read. This option will read the values from the hidden statistics file and use them in the normalization. If you use save_stats=:Read for the final tile then the statistics file is removed after use.


To make a file for illuminating the data in using exp- normalized gradients in the range [-0.6,0.6] imitating light sources in the north and west directions:

G = grdgradient("", azim=(0,270), norm=(laplace=true, amp=0.6), Verbose=true)

To find the azimuth orientations of seafloor fabric in the file

G = grdgradient("", find_dir=:no);

To determine the offset and sigma suitable for normalizing the intensities from, do

grdgradient("", azim=30, norm=:t0.6, save_stats=:save);

To use the previously determined offset and sigma to normalize the intensities in, do

Gtile_3_int = grdgradient("", azim=30, norm=(cauchy=true,offset="",sigma=""),save_stats=:read)


Horn, B.K.P., Hill-Shading and the Reflectance Map, Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 69, No. 1, January 1981, pp. 14-47. (