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Digital Elevation Models: Terminology and Definitions

Department of Oceanography, US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD 21402, USA
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa
Institute of Energy and Environment, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-010, Brazil
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space & Climate Physics, University College London, Holmbury St Mary, Surrey RH5 6NT, UK
School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK
Institute of Mathematical Problems of Biology, Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142290 Pushchino, Russia
U.S. Geological Survey, Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, Sioux Falls, SD 57198, USA
Eurostat, European Commission, L-2920 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Airbus Defence and Space, 88039 Friedrichshafen, Germany
VisioTerra, 14 rue Albert Einstein, Champs-sur-Marne, 77420 Paris, France
LatinGEO Lab IGM+ORT, Universidad ORT Uruguay, Montevideo 11100, Uruguay
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Geodesy and Geophysics Laboratory, SSAI Inc., Mail Code 61A, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
ESA—European Space Agency-Via Galileo Galilei, 1, 00044 Frascati, Italy
European Commission, DG Joint Research Centre, 21027 Ispra, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Tomaž Podobnikar
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(18), 3581;
Received: 28 July 2021 / Revised: 26 August 2021 / Accepted: 30 August 2021 / Published: 8 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Perspectives on Digital Elevation Model Applications)
Digital elevation models (DEMs) provide fundamental depictions of the three-dimensional shape of the Earth’s surface and are useful to a wide range of disciplines. Ideally, DEMs record the interface between the atmosphere and the lithosphere using a discrete two-dimensional grid, with complexities introduced by the intervening hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and anthroposphere. The treatment of DEM surfaces, affected by these intervening spheres, depends on their intended use, and the characteristics of the sensors that were used to create them. DEM is a general term, and more specific terms such as digital surface model (DSM) or digital terrain model (DTM) record the treatment of the intermediate surfaces. Several global DEMs generated with optical (visible and near-infrared) sensors and synthetic aperture radar (SAR), as well as single/multi-beam sonars and products of satellite altimetry, share the common characteristic of a georectified, gridded storage structure. Nevertheless, not all DEMs share the same vertical datum, not all use the same convention for the area on the ground represented by each pixel in the DEM, and some of them have variable data spacings depending on the latitude. This paper highlights the importance of knowing, understanding and reflecting on the sensor and DEM characteristics and consolidates terminology and definitions of key concepts to facilitate a common understanding among the growing community of DEM users, who do not necessarily share the same background. View Full-Text
Keywords: DEM; topography; elevation; surface; modeling; geomorphometry DEM; topography; elevation; surface; modeling; geomorphometry
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MDPI and ACS Style

Guth, P.L.; Van Niekerk, A.; Grohmann, C.H.; Muller, J.-P.; Hawker, L.; Florinsky, I.V.; Gesch, D.; Reuter, H.I.; Herrera-Cruz, V.; Riazanoff, S.; López-Vázquez, C.; Carabajal, C.C.; Albinet, C.; Strobl, P. Digital Elevation Models: Terminology and Definitions. Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3581.

AMA Style

Guth PL, Van Niekerk A, Grohmann CH, Muller J-P, Hawker L, Florinsky IV, Gesch D, Reuter HI, Herrera-Cruz V, Riazanoff S, López-Vázquez C, Carabajal CC, Albinet C, Strobl P. Digital Elevation Models: Terminology and Definitions. Remote Sensing. 2021; 13(18):3581.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Guth, Peter L., Adriaan Van Niekerk, Carlos H. Grohmann, Jan-Peter Muller, Laurence Hawker, Igor V. Florinsky, Dean Gesch, Hannes I. Reuter, Virginia Herrera-Cruz, Serge Riazanoff, Carlos López-Vázquez, Claudia C. Carabajal, Clément Albinet, and Peter Strobl. 2021. "Digital Elevation Models: Terminology and Definitions" Remote Sensing 13, no. 18: 3581.

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