QGIS: No Data in raster layers

In QGIS, filters normally ignore No Data cells automatically. However, this is not always easy, especially if a filter examines neighboring cells and these contain No Data. What happens depends on the implementation, but is problematic in both cases.

In raster layers, “No Data” is coded with a specific number, e.g. -9999. If, for example, the mean value within a 3✕3 neighborhood is calculated, the result in the vicinity of each No Data cell is of course nonsense. If you replace the -9999 (in Numpy) with NaN (which is only possible with float), the respective cell will become No Data as well, because a calculation is not possible. The No Data cells infect their neighbors, so to speak.

One possibility is to fill the no-data cells with any reasonably meaningful value. QGIS itself and GDAL offer various ways of doing this, but these have the disadvantage that only one single band is processed at a time. You would therefore have to process each band individually and then merge the results back into one layer.

My new QGIS plugin Scipy Filters (I blogged about it here) allows you to fill no-data cells in all bands, with:

  • Null
  • A user-defined constant
  • The mean value of the band (estimated by GDAL or calculated exactly)
  • The minimum value of the data type
  • The maximum value of the data type
  • The central value of the data type

Later, you will probably want to know which cells were originally “No Data”. The plugin can also create a No Data mask (binary raster with 0 and 1) and apply this mask to a raster layer, i.e. set the corresponding cells back to No Data.