Elevation

Terrain datasets collected from spaceborne and airborne sensors offered as Digital Elevation Model(s)


Introduction

Elevation data is a digital representation of the Earth’s terrain. Data can be represented as points (x,y,z) or in a gridded format (raster).

Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are gridded raster where each pixel of the image has a value, the elevation above a model of the Earth (WGS84 Ellipsoid, for example). The size of each rectangular pixel (e.g. 2 meters x 2 meters) is referred to as the spatial resolution.

Elevation data can be collected in many ways, including airborne laser sensors (LiDAR), photogrammetry from aerial photography or satellite imagery stereo pairs, or surveying.

DEM
Digital Elevation Model of a mountainous area. Low areas are represented in black and scale to the highest areas in white.
Shaded relief representation of the same area above. Although shaded relief does not explicitly show the elevation values, it is used for cartography and interpretation.

Elevation Datasets

Stereo-derived Elevation Models

ArcticDEM

BACKGROUND

The ArcticDEM project is a joint collaboration between the PGC and many U.S. agencies to produce a high resolution Digital Elevation Model for the entire Arctic. PGC has a dedicated page for ArcticDEM and more information can be found there.

Go to ArcticDEM.

ACCESS DATA

Visit the ArcticDEM page for downloads, documentation, and more information.

REMA

BACKGROUND

The Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) project, led by Ian Howat at The Ohio State University was funded under National Science Foundation award #1543501 in 2016. Development is currently underway to complete a pan-Antarctic digital elevation model.

REMA is constructed from stereoscopic, sub-meter resolution imagery collected by the WorldView satellite constellation. The high spatial and radiometric resolution of the imagery enables photogrammetric digital elevation model (DEM) extraction over low contrast terrains such as snow, ice, and shadows.

These DEMs have horizontal and vertical offsets of up to several meters that can be reduced to the DEM relative accuracy of 0.2 meters with a single ground control point. REMA will use available control points from ground and LiDAR surveys to register individual DEMs and optimized, least-squares co-registration to provide control between overlapping DEMs over large regions.

REMA will have a posting of 10 meters and accuracy better than 1 meter.

EFFORTS

The project lead, Ian Howat at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center is leading development. Data processing, facilitated by the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The PGC provides satellite imagery, manages DEM production, and will freely disseminate the final data products.

For more information, contact Ian Howat.

ACCESS DATA

Data currently under development.

Custom Elevation Models

BACKGROUND

Because much of the commercial satellite imagery that PGC holds has been collected in stereo mode, PGC has the ability to produce elevation models from any (high quality) imagery pair.

Custom DEM production is provided to PGC core users and can be requested for polar areas where stereo imagery exists.

Refer to the Stereo Elevation Models guides for information on how to use and request stereo-derived DEMs.

ACCESS DATA

Contact your User Services point of contact or fill out a Data + Services Request.

McMurdo Dry Valleys LiDAR

Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) Campaign (2001)

BACKGROUND

In December 2001, an joint NASA, NSF, and USGS campaign collected LiDAR using the Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) laser altimetry system in the McMurdo Sound, Antarctica region. In all, 18 sites were collected including Taylor Valley and Mount Erebus.

MDV LiDAR Coverage Map (2001)
LiDAR collection swaths (in gray) in the McMurdo Sound region from the 2001 ATM campaign.

The raw point cloud data was gridded into a 2 meter resolution Digital Elevation Model.

Read more on the project website.

EFFORTS

The PGC, although not involved in data collection, processing, or archiving has the original gridded files available on our server for download. Each gridded DEM is available in a .zip file for quick download and use.

Antarctic LiDAR and Airphoto Campaign (2014-2015)

BACKGROUND

Under NSF Award 1246342, Principal Investigator Andrew Fountain (Portland State University) led a campaign to collect high resolution LiDAR and aerial photography for the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. The campaign was conducted by the NSF’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM). The campaign flew for several weeks in December 2014 and January 2015.

EFFORTS

The LiDAR and aerial photography is currently being processed and will be available for download later in 2017.

Please contact Andrew Fountain for more information.

ACCESS DATA

Coming 2017!

Looking for More?

The PGC has compiled a list of other polar elevation data resources from a variety of agencies.

View Guide