The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLI-B4
13 Jun 2016
 | 13 Jun 2016


D. Gesch, M. Oimoen, J. Danielson, and D. Meyer

Keywords: Accuracy, DEM/DTM, Comparison, Geodesy, Global-Environmental-Databases, Land Cover, Mapping, Satellite

Abstract. The ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model Version 3 (GDEM v3) was evaluated over the conterminous United States in a manner similar to the validation conducted for the original GDEM Version 1 (v1) in 2009 and GDEM Version 2 (v2) in 2011. The absolute vertical accuracy of GDEM v3 was calculated by comparison with more than 23,000 independent reference geodetic ground control points from the U.S. National Geodetic Survey. The root mean square error (RMSE) measured for GDEM v3 is 8.52 meters. This compares with the RMSE of 8.68 meters for GDEM v2. Another important descriptor of vertical accuracy is the mean error, or bias, which indicates if a DEM has an overall vertical offset from true ground level. The GDEM v3 mean error of −1.20 meters reflects an overall negative bias in GDEM v3. The absolute vertical accuracy assessment results, both mean error and RMSE, were segmented by land cover type to provide insight into how GDEM v3 performs in various land surface conditions. While the RMSE varies little across cover types (6.92 to 9.25 meters), the mean error (bias) does appear to be affected by land cover type, ranging from −2.99 to +4.16 meters across 14 land cover classes. These results indicate that in areas where built or natural aboveground features are present, GDEM v3 is measuring elevations above the ground level, a condition noted in assessments of previous GDEM versions (v1 and v2) and an expected condition given the type of stereo-optical image data collected by ASTER. GDEM v3 was also evaluated by differencing with the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) dataset. In many forested areas, GDEM v3 has elevations that are higher in the canopy than SRTM. The overall validation effort also included an evaluation of the GDEM v3 water mask. In general, the number of distinct water polygons in GDEM v3 is much lower than the number in a reference land cover dataset, but the total areas compare much more closely.