New High Resolution DEM of Antarctica Available

Caitlin Dempsey


250 million measurements have resulted in the release of the highest available resolution digital elevation model (DEM) covering the Antarctic ice sheet and ice shelves.  The model was developed from data collected by CryoSat-2 altimetry between July 2010 and July 2016.  

The 1 kilometer resolution DEM is covers about 350,000 sq. km. more area than the previous DEM published in March 2017. The DEM covers elevation measurements for 94% of the continents ice sheets and 98% of ice shelf grid cells.

The European Space Agency launched CryoSat-2 on April 8, 2010, to collect data in order to better understand the relationship between the world’s ice layers and climate change. To study changes in polar ice coverage, the satellite collects data on ice thickness over land and ocean.

CryoSat’s radar altimeter is able to detect minor changes in ice height across Antarctica which means researchers will be able to track changes in the continents ice sheet.

Ice height in Antarctica. Source: CPOM
Ice height in Antarctica. Source: CPOM

The DEM can be accessed from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) portal.

Developing the Antarctica Elevation Dataset

Researchers used 6 years of CryoSat-2 Baseline-C Level 2 surface elevation measurements collected between July 2010 and July 2016 by the SIRAL (SAR Interferometer Radar Altimeter) instrument on the CryoSat-2 spacecraft.

Once the DEM was developed, researchers compared the model’s elevation estimations to measurements taken by aircraft laser altimeters during NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission to assess the DEM’s accuracy.

Overall,  94 % of the grounded ice sheet and 98 % of the floating ice shelves were observed with the areas north of 88 S interpolated using ordinary kriging.

The details about the development of this DEM are available in:

Slater, Shepherd, McMillan, Muir, Gilbert, Hogg, Konrad and Parrinello: A new digital elevation model of Antarctica derived from CryoSat-2 altimetry, The Cryosphere, 2018. DOI 10.5194/tc-12-1551-2018.

See Also

Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!