Patterson graduated from Oneonta State with a B.A. in geography. In 1982, he earned a M.A. in geography from University of Hawaii at Manoa. For five years, he worked as the Catography Lab Manger at the University of Utah. He is currently employed by the United States National Park Service in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
He developed a technique known as Resolution Bumping also know as Patterson's technique. By combining low-resolution and a high-resolution GTOPO30 data, a DEM can be created that minimizes graphical noise without sacrificing the readablity of the downsampled data. He also has done extensive work in creating oblique, 3D landscapes and panoramas.There are a number of techniques and design styles he created.
-  Patterson, Tom., "Resolution bumping GTOPO30 in Photoshop: How to Make High-Mountains More Legible," shadedrelief.com. Retrieved 24 September 2012.