1. Global Earth Science Community
  2. Community Data System Programs
  3. MEaSUREs Projects
  4. NASADEM: Creating a New NASA Digital Elevation Model and Associated Products

NASADEM: Creating a New NASA Digital Elevation Model and Associated Products

Our objective is to provide the scientific and civil communities with a state-of-the-art global digital elevation model (DEM) derived from a combination of Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) processing improvements, elevation control, void-filling and merging with data unavailable at the time of the original SRTM production:

We propose a significant modernization of the publicly- and freely-available DEM data. Accurate surface elevation information is a critical component in scientific research and commercial and military applications. The current SRTM DEM product is the most intensely downloaded dataset in NASA history. However, the original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NASA and NGA has a number of restrictions and limitations; the original full resolution, one-arcsecond data are currently only available over the US and the error, backscatter and coherence layers were not released to the public. With the recent expiration of the MOU, we propose to reprocess the original SRTM raw radar data using improved algorithms and incorporating ancillary data that were unavailable during the original SRTM processing, and to produce and publicly release a void-free global one-arcsecond (~30m) DEM and error map, with the spacing supported by the full-resolution SRTM data.

We will reprocess the entire SRTM dataset from raw sensor measurements with validated improvements to the original processing algorithms. We will incorporate GLAS data to remove artifacts at the optimal step in the SRTM processing chain. We will merge the improved SRTM strip DEMs, refined ASTER and GDEM V2 DEMs, and GLAS data using the SRTM mosaic software to create a seamless, void-filled NASADEM. In addition, we will provide several new data layers not publicly available from the original SRTM processing: interferometric coherence, radar backscatter, radar incidence angle to enable radiometric correction, and a radar backscatter image mosaic to be used as a layer for global classification of land cover and land use.

This work leverages an FY12 $1M investment from NASA to make several improvements to the original algorithms. We validated our results with the original SRTM products and ancillary elevation information at a few study sites. Our approach will merge the reprocessed SRTM data with the DEM void-filling strategy developed during the Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) 2006 project ("The Definitive Merged Global Digital Topographic Data Set") of Co-I Kobrick.

NASADEM is a significant improvement over the available three-arcsecond SRTM DEM primarily because it will provide a global DEM and associated products at one-arcsecond spacing. ASTER GDEM is available at one-arcsecond spacing but has true spatial resolution generally inferior to SRTM one-arcsecond data and has much greater noise problems that are particularly severe in tropical (cloudy) areas. At one-arcsecond, NASADEM will be superior to GDEM across almost all SRTM coverage areas, but will integrate GDEM and other data to extend the coverage. Meanwhile, DEMs from the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) Tandem-X mission are being developed as part of a public-private partnership. However, these data must be purchased and are not redistributable. NASADEM will be the finest resolution, global, freely-available DEM products for the foreseeable future.


Sean Buckley - PI, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Last Updated: Nov 15, 2017 at 12:13 PM EST