When clipping the polygons of one table with polygons in another, ST_Intersection can return a set of results that can be handled with ST_Dump. The returned multiple geometries are not necessarily ST_Polygon but also ST_LineString (probably also a point). So when running a query

INSERT INTO c (geom)
  (SELECT (ST_Dump(ST_Intersection(a.geom,b.geom))).geom
  FROM a INNER JOIN b ON ST_Intersects(a.geom, b.geom));

when trying to populate the table "c" with clipped polygons, it fails with ERROR: Geometry type (LineString) does not match column type (Polygon)

I did another nested SELECT statement so only the polygon geometries came through, like:

INSERT INTO c (geom)
    (SELECT (ST_Dump(ST_Intersection(a.geom,b.geom))).geom
    FROM a INNER JOIN b ON ST_Intersects(a.geom, b.geom))) AS cl
    WHERE ST_GeometryType(cl.geom)='ST_Polygon');

As this is a bit cumbersome I am wondering if there is a more elegant solution for dropping invalid geometries?

  • BTW, I put <!-- language: lang-sql --> before the code blocks but there is still no highligting. Any hints for a noob? Mar 10, 2014 at 23:14
  • To format code simply paste it in, select it and use the Code Sample button {} above the Question editing window.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 10, 2014 at 23:30
  • Hm, I did that, the code is marked as "code", but the keywords are still not colored. Mar 11, 2014 at 0:01
  • I don't normally try to prettify SQL code here but I just found a Meta posting that looks useful at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/90521/… - have you left a "blank line between the comment and the code"?
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 11, 2014 at 0:32
  • An intersection of two geometries may yield any type of geometry, so I think your current solution is the most direct.
    – Mike T
    Mar 11, 2014 at 4:18

2 Answers 2


This might be a good spot to use an SQL-language function. Here's a quick one that should work for this situation:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION PolygonalIntersection(a geometry, b geometry)
RETURNS geometry AS $$
SELECT ST_Collect(geom)
(SELECT (ST_Dump(ST_Intersection(a, b))).geom 
-- union in an empty polygon so we get an 
-- empty geometry instead of NULL if there
-- is are no polygons in the intersection
WHERE ST_GeometryType(geom) = 'ST_Polygon';

This will retain the polygonal components of an intersection, but throw away everything else. It always returns a MultiPolygon, even if you have one or no components.

      square   as (SELECT ST_GeomFromText('POLYGON ((0 0, 0  1,  1  1,  1  0, 0 0))') AS geom),
biggersquare   as (SELECT ST_GeomFromText('POLYGON ((0 0, 0 10, 10 10, 10  0, 0 0))') AS geom),
adjacentsquare as (SELECT ST_GeomFromText('POLYGON ((0 0, 1  0,  1 -1, -1 -1, 0 0))') AS geom)   

SELECT ST_AsText(PolygonalIntersection(square.geom, biggersquare.geom))
  FROM square, biggersquare;
--"MULTIPOLYGON(((0 0,0 1,1 1,1 0,0 0)))"

SELECT ST_AsText(PolygonalIntersection(square.geom, adjacentsquare.geom))
  FROM square, adjacentsquare;

Very good answer from @dbaston. However, returning an empty geometry instead of null might cause issues because returned empty geometry has no srid. St_Intersection might return MultiPolygon as well. This updated function was really useful for me:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION PolygonalIntersection(a geometry, b geometry)
RETURNS geometry AS $$
SELECT ST_Collect(geom)
(SELECT (ST_Dump(ST_Intersection(a, b))).geom 
) SQ
WHERE ST_GeometryType(geom) = 'ST_Polygon' OR ST_GeometryType(geom) = 'ST_MultiPolygon';

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