The resolution and accuracy of digital elevation models (DEMs) have direct influence on further geoscientific computations like landform classifications and hydrologic modelling results. Thus, it is crucial to analyse the accuracy of DEMs to select the most suitable elevation model regarding aim, accuracy and scale of the study. Nowadays several worldwide DEMs are available, as well as DEMs covering regional or local extents. In this study a variety of globally available elevation models were evaluated for an area of about 190,000 km2. Data from Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) 30 m, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) 30 m and 90 m, Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) World 3D 30 m and TanDEM-X WorldDEM™ – 12 m and 90 m resolution were obtained. Additionally, several very high resolution DEM data were derived from stereo satellite imagery from SPOT 6/7 and Pléiades for smaller areas of about 100–400 km2 for each dataset. All datasets were evaluated with height points of the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) instrument aboard the NASA Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation (ICESat) satellite on a regional scale and with nine very high resolution elevation models from UAV-based photogrammetry on a very large scale. For all datasets the root mean square error (RMSE) and normalized median absolute deviation (NMAD) was calculated. Furthermore, the association of errors to specific terrain was conducted by assigning these errors to landforms from the topographic position index (TPI), topographic roughness index (TRI) and slope. For all datasets with a global availability the results show the highest overall accuracies for the TanDEM-X 12 m (RMSE: 2.3 m, NMAD: 0.8 m). The lowest accuracies were detected for the 30 m ASTER GDEM v3 (RMSE: 8.9 m, NMAD: 7.1 m). Depending on the landscape the accuracies are higher for all DEMs in flat landscapes and the errors rise significantly in rougher terrain. Local scale DEMs derived from stereo satellite imagery show a varying overall accuracy, mainly depending on the topography covered by the scene.
Kramm, T., & Hoffmeister, D. (2019). Evaluation of digital elevation models for geomorphometric analyses on different scales for northern Chile. In International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences - ISPRS Archives (Vol. 42, pp. 1229–1235). International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. https://doi.org/10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-2-W13-1229-2019