I have used the Tabulate Area zonal spatial analyst tool in ArcGIS many times, and am encountering a problem for the first time. I am using a polygon grid (fishnet) as my zone dataset, and tabulating areas of different raster values that fall within the polygon cells, for four different raster datasets (and ultimately comparing the areas of raster values among these different datasets).

For three of my raster datasets, the pixel resolution is finer than the size of the polygon grid cells. The tool works perfectly on these datasets. However, when I run it on the fourth dataset -- for which pixel resolution is equal to that of the polygon cells and the pixels are perfectly aligned with the polygon cells -- the results are completely wrong. The tool should return a table indicating a single raster value associated with each polygon cell. Instead, many cells have multiple values and for these, the sum of areas for each cell are greater than they should be -- 9000 square meters rather than 900 square meters. Yet, when I calculate geometry for the polygon, it returns a value of 900sqm for each cell. I also tried using the zonal statistics tool, and have the same problem.

I have a work-around -- converting the raster to points, then using a spatial join to associate the raster values with the grid cells -- but it is a much more time-intensive process, and I am very curious as to why the Tabulate Area tool will not work in this instance.

Can anyone help troubleshoot this problem?

2 Answers 2


There is an internal conversion of the polygons to raster when you process a tabulate area (same with zonal histogram and zonal statistics). Therefore even if your polygons align with the raster cells, you could have a feature to raster conversion that ends up with non matching grids. This can be fixed by setting the tool environment with equal pixel size and totally fixed if you convert your feature to raster (with snapping pixel and fixed pixel size) before launching the tabulate area.

  • Dear radouxju -- thanks very much for your answer. I tried your suggestions, but got the same output. Maybe I did not execute this properly; here is what I did: converted polygon fishnet to raster with environment settings: Processing Extent -- Snap Raster set to the raster file and Raster Analysis cell size set to the appropriate resolution. I then used this new raster as my zone dataset for tabulate area, with the same environment settings as above. Any thoughts? The thing that puzzles me most is that the output area sums are ten times larger than the zones.
    – Zoe
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 15:06
  • Does each cell have an unique ID when you convert to raster ? Maybe you should check for duplicate IDs
    – radouxju
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 15:16
  • Thank you for the tip! That was indeed the problem. When I created the ID field, it was set to a precision of 6, so values above 999999 would not compute to the right of the tens digit. A silly mistake...
    – Zoe
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 9:37

The problem was that the zones did not have unique id's. When I calculated the id field, it was not set to a large enough precision for all of the polygons. I recreated the id field with a larger precision and problem solved.

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