Blue Waters Extended to Produce Global Topography: high-resolution digital elevation models of the entire Earth

Blue Waters & NGA

The PGC team is excited to share the Blue Waters supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was granted a year extension for the production of global topography, supported by $11.1 million in funding from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) through the National Science Foundation (NSF). The collaboration, including researchers at PGC at the University of Minnesota and at Ohio State University, had its roots in mapping high-resolution digital elevation models (DEM) in the ArcticDEM and REMA projects. Now using similar state-of-the-art techniques, the team will produce DEMs of the entire Earth, enabling unprecedented volume, speed, accuracy and efficiency to global terrain mapping. Read more about the collaboration and EarthDEM project in the article links below.

“This agreement between NSF and NGA provides processing power that never before has been applied to geospatial data. The production of EarthDEM will change the way we see and measure the Earth’s surface,” said Paul Morin, Director of the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. “The continued operation of Blue Waters brings the dream of a global high-resolution digital surface model closer to reality.”




ArcticDEM and REMA projects are constructed from hundreds of thousands of individual stereoscopic Digital Elevation Models (DEM) extracted from pairs of submeter resolution DigitalGlobe satellite imagery licensed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, including data from WorldView-1, WorldView-2, and WorldView-3 with a small percentage from GeoEye-1 sensor. The DEMs are generated by applying fully automated, stereo auto-correlation techniques to overlapping pairs of high-resolution optical satellite images using the open source Surface Extraction from TIN-based Searchspace Minimization (SETSM) software, developed by M.J. Noh and Ian Howat at the Ohio State University.  The images are processed to Digital Elevation Models using compute power on the Blue Waters supercomputer located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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