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I am trying to create contour maps in OSM with scales of 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 using 30-meter NASA SRTM data from here. Examples of what I'm trying to achieve can be seen on LINZ NZ Contours 1:50k and NZ Contours 1:250k pages:

enter image description here


Using methods strongly based on the OSM Contours page, I've managed to manipulate the SRTM data to render as follows:

initial render


I then tried to get something similar to Contours 1:250k by playing around with the rendering queries, but I've noticed my contour shapes are not exactly the same, and I fear I may be going about this the wrong way. Essentially, my query is almost identical to what's in the OSM Contours query section, except that I've modified the id: contours50 query to match WHERE height::int % 110 = 0. My attempt is on the left, the LINZ 1:250k version is on the right:

250k comparison


The commands I'm using to get all this into the database:

# Download .hgt file from NASA Earthdata

# Store .hgt file name in variable
source_file="S37E174"

# Prepare file for import
gdal_translate -q -co TILED=YES -co COMPRESS=DEFLATE -co ZLEVEL=9 "$source_file.hgt" "$source_file.tif"
gdalbuildvrt -q -overwrite SRTM1.vrt "$source_file.tif"
gdal_translate -q -co TILED=YES -co COMPRESS=DEFLATE -co ZLEVEL=9 -co PREDICTOR=2 -projwin 174.692262 -36.780183 174.818605 -37.028786 SRTM1.vrt srtm_30m.tif
gdal_contour -i 10 -a height srtm_30m.tif srtm_30m_contours_10m

# Import into database
cd srtm_30m_contours_10m/
shp2pgsql -p -I -g way -s 4326:900913 contour.shp contour | psql -h "$my_ip" -U postgres -d gis
shp2pgsql -a -g way -s 4326:900913 contour.shp contour | psql -h "$my_ip" -U postgres -d gis


My question: is this the correct way of scaling topographic information? Is there a better way of doing this?

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You're doing the right thing. I can't find anything on the LINZ pages to indicate the source of the contours you see on their pages, but there are at least a couple of possible reasons you see differences in the contours:

  1. You are using higher resolution data than they did to produce your contours - your last image shows a contour which has a broadly similar shape but far more detail.
  2. They simplified their contours to reduce complexity / make shapes nicer, and/or save data.

Below is an example - the original (left, file size about 5.5MB) produced from 30m SRTM data, the right processed with 'simplify geometry' in QGIS then smoothed (3.3MB):

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  • I'd like to add that simplification can also be done from the terminal. In my case, your answer led me straight to ogr2ogr output.shp contour.shp -simplify 0.0005 which achieves a similar effect. Mar 19 '18 at 21:13
  • Yes, I was being lazy - you can set up a super convenient chain of piped commands to produce final result, but try experimenting with various simplification values to see what looks best or fits the map needs. Also worth getting rid of features smaller than a certain size, or at least not display them, get rid of all the little circles. Not sure how to do that, though ...
    – Simbamangu
    Mar 20 '18 at 7:05

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