We need to perform raster calculations using more than two bands in PostGIS. At the moment, ST_MapAlgebra has a two-band form but doesn't support more than that.

I'm open to any solution others would like to offer, but am currently favoring writing a custom plpython function that might be called as follows

    ) new_raster_column
FROM some_table

where the custom function accepts and returns a bytea PostgreSQL datatype. Inside the function I am able to import gdal and use following

vsipath = '/vsimem/buffer'
gdal.FileFromMemBuffer(vsipath, gdal_rast)
rast = gdal.Open(vsipath)

gdal_rast above is the parameter being passed into the custom function resulting from the ST_AsGDALRaster function in the select clause. From there, I can turn the bands into numpy arrays and process as desired.

My problem comes in returning the processed raster back from the custom function to the database. I have tried the MEM driver to create an in-memory raster, but when I return that raster to the ST_FromGDALRaster function from the custom function I receive this error:

ERROR: RASTER_fromGDALRaster: Could not open bytea with GDAL.
Check that the bytea is of a GDAL supported format

Can the plpython function approach be salvaged? Or is there a better solution that avoids plpython altogether?

  • If you functions are linear, can you not call ST_MapAlgebra twice to combine 3 rasters. I realize that this does not directly answer the question. Jan 14, 2016 at 9:38
  • That is looking like the only solution that will work, I will try that approach.
    – dadbot
    Jan 14, 2016 at 19:41
  • Our data scientist just let me know that the functions are unfortunately non-linear so nesting ST_MapAlgebra functions won't work. Please let me know if there are other ideas out there.
    – dadbot
    Jan 14, 2016 at 20:46
  • 1
    Are you sure postgis only supports 2 bands? The documentation seems to indicate otherwise. postgis.net/docs/RT_ST_MapAlgebra.html
    – tilt
    Jan 15, 2016 at 20:27
  • I was looking at the expression version of ST_MapAlgebra, looks like the rastbandarg of the callback version will meet our needs. Missed that, thanks for calling it to my attention!
    – dadbot
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


tilt pointed out in the comments above that the rastbandarg version of ST_MapAlgebra's callback form accepts more than two raster bands. This approach solves the problem.

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