We propose an extension of map algebra to three dimensions for spatio-temporal data handling. This approach yields a new class of map algebra functions that we call "cube functions." Whereas conventional map algebra functions operate on data layers representing two-dimensional space, cube functions operate on data cubes representing two-dimensional space over a third-dimensional period of time. We describe the prototype implementation of a spatio-temporal data structure and selected cube function versions of conventional local, focal, and zonal map algebra functions. The utility of cube functions is demonstrated through a case study analyzing the spatio-temporal variability of remotely sensed, southeastern U.S. vegetation character over various land covers and during different El Nin??o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases. Like conventional map algebra, the application of cube functions may demand significant data preprocessing when integrating diverse data sets, and are subject to limitations related to data storage and algorithm performance. Solutions to these issues include extending data compression and computing strategies for calculations on very large data volumes to spatio-temporal data handling.
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Cubic map algebra functions for spatio-temporal analysis