Surfer 15 Whistler-Blackcomb Geovisualization Using Data Retrieved From Google Earth

By :Ryan Wilkinson

Geovizualization Project Assingment, @RyersonGEO, SA8905, Fall 2018


In this project a 3D Surface Map of Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia was created using XYZ data retrieved from Google Earth and the geovisualization software program Surfer 15. Surfer is an excellent geovisualization software program capable of creating 2D contour maps and 3D surface maps from XYZ and DEM data. The following method can work for any terrain location in the world that can be viewed on google earth and is certainly not limited to my chosen location.

Collection of Data from Google Earth:


The path tool on google earth was used to drop points on the Whistler-Blackcomb area, each red square represents a point that has corresponding latitude, longitude, and elevation values.

The image above shows the trace of the path that was drawn in order to collect the XYZ data from the Whistler area necessary for adequate creation of an accurate 3D surface map in Surfer.

Once the desired path was drawn it was saved under “My places” in google earth as a .kml file.

Data Conversion:

The .kml file was then uploaded into TCX converter. The altitude values are commonly not present during this stage therefore TCX converter can be used to add the altitudes using its “update altitude tool”. Once the altitudes were successfully calculated TCX converter was used to convert the file from a .KML to a .CSV in preparation for visualization in Surfer.


Grid File and 3D Surface Map Creation:

The .CSV File was then uploaded into Surfer’s grid data tool which is capable of creating grid files (.grd) from XYZ and DEM data. Grid files can be used to create 2D contour maps and 3D surface maps in Surfer.

The grid file was then used by the 3D Surface tool to create a 3D surface map of the Whistler area. Colour scales and variations can be easily changed in Surfer to achieve desired effect and convey information in the way the user chooses. The above colour scheme is called “terrain” and effectively visualize elevation change. The model can also be rotated and viewed from any desired angle in surfer using the “trackball” tool, multiple angles of the 3D surface map above can be seen in the finish product at the beginning of this blog post.