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Performance Assessment of TanDEM-X DEM for Mountain Glacier Elevation Change Detection

Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Księcia Janusza 64, 01-452 Warsaw, Poland
Département des sciences de l’environnement, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351, boul. des Forges, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, QC G9A 5H7, Canada
Glaciology Laboratory, Centro de Estudios Científicos (CECs), Av. Prat 514, Valdivia 5110466, Chile
Centro de Ciencias Ambientales EULA, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción 4089100, Chile
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(2), 187;
Received: 8 November 2018 / Revised: 22 December 2018 / Accepted: 3 January 2019 / Published: 18 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mountain Remote Sensing)
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TanDEM-X digital elevation model (DEM) is a global DEM released by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) at outstanding resolution of 12 m. However, the procedure for its creation involves the combination of several DEMs from acquisitions spread between 2011 and 2014, which casts doubt on its value for precise glaciological change detection studies. In this work we present TanDEM-X DEM as a high-quality product ready for use in glaciological studies. We compare it to Aerial Laser Scanning (ALS)-based dataset from April 2013 (1 m), used as the ground-truth reference, and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) V003 DEM and SRTM v3 DEM (both 30 m), serving as representations of past glacier states. We use a method of sub-pixel coregistration of DEMs by Nuth and Kääb (2011) to determine the geometric accuracy of the products. In addition, we propose a slope-aspect heatmap-based workflow to remove the errors resulting from radar shadowing over steep terrain. Elevation difference maps obtained by subtraction of DEMs are analyzed to obtain accuracy assessments and glacier mass balance reconstructions. The vertical accuracy (± standard deviation) of TanDEM-X DEM over non-glacierized area is very good at 0.02 ± 3.48 m. Nevertheless, steep areas introduce large errors and their filtering is required for reliable results. The 30 m version of TanDEM-X DEM performs worse than the finer product, but its accuracy, −0.08 ± 7.57 m, is better than that of SRTM and ASTER. The ASTER DEM contains errors, possibly resulting from imperfect DEM creation from stereopairs over uniform ice surface. Universidad Glacier has been losing mass at a rate of −0.44 ± 0.08 m of water equivalent per year between 2000 and 2013. This value is in general agreement with previously reported mass balance estimated with the glaciological method for 2012–2014. View Full-Text
Keywords: glacier; TanDEM-X; DEM; Chile; Universidad Glacier; elevation change; mass balance; performance glacier; TanDEM-X; DEM; Chile; Universidad Glacier; elevation change; mass balance; performance

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Podgórski, J.; Kinnard, C.; Pętlicki, M.; Urrutia, R. Performance Assessment of TanDEM-X DEM for Mountain Glacier Elevation Change Detection. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 187.

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