Coastal Elevation Data and Mapping

Accurate elevation data is fundamental for assessing storm-related impacts and understanding coastal change and vulnerability. The USGS is conducting surveys using lidar (a remote sensing technology mounted on aircraft) to collect very high resolution elevation data covering a significant portion of the Hurricane Sandy impact area. These data will become part of The National Map and support scientific studies and planning related to hurricane recovery and rebuilding. In addition, a Coastal National Elevation Database, known as CoNED, is being established for the Hurricane Sandy region. The CoNED integrates topographic (land-based elevation) and bathymetric (seafloor-mapping) data from multiple sources into an integrated and seamless database. USGS is also improving the data delivery systems that make these data and other associated hazard information and imagery available to partners and stakeholders. View Fact Sheet


The photo shows what remains of houses in the community of Davis Park

Assess and Evaluate Coastal Vulnerability and Hazards

As Hurricane Sandy moved northward along the U.S. Atlantic coast in October 2012, U.S. Geological Survey scientists worked to determine where and how the storm’s waves and surge might dramatically reshape the beaches and dunes that stand between the storm and coastal developments. Through a complex modeling process that uses coastal elevations, wave forecasts, and potential storm surge, they predicted coastal change hazards, such as shoreline and dune erosion, that might be expected during a Sandy landfall.

Map of the northeast region affected by Sandy using the Coastal National Elevation Database (CoNED)

The National Elevation Dataset (NED)

The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is the primary elevation data product of the USGS. The NED is a seamless dataset with the best available raster elevation data of the conterminous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and territorial islands.

LIDAR specification

USGS LIDAR Specification

The NGP LIDAR Base Specification Version 1.0 is the official publication of what is widely known as "the v13 Spec." It has been completely reformatted and re-edited, and now includes a glossary, a metadata template, and a metadata example file.

Screen shot of the Earth Explorer tool.

Earth Explorer

A complete search and order tool for aerial photos, elevation data and satellite products distributed by the USGS.

Submerged Topography map at Dry Tortugas National Park.

Topographic and Bathymetric Surveys Using LIDAR Technology

LIDAR data acquired by the USGS in collaboration with many partners are fundamental to resource management decisions.

Post-Sandy map data provided by the Earth Explorer.

Data Delivery Systems for Hazards, Topographic and Bathymetric Elevation Data

The Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS) is a collection of imagery and documents designed to assist in the response to natural and artificial disasters.

Graph showing flood trends.

Mapping Flood and Inundation

USGS scientists, engineers, and technicians worked along the Atlantic Coast in response to Hurricane Sandy, deploying and maintaining storm tide sensors real-time stream gages in anticipation of Sandy’s arrival.

Data and Tools

Coastal Topography–Northeast Atlantic Coast, Post-Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Coastal Topography–Northeast Atlantic Coast, Post-Hurricane Sandy, 2012

This Data Series contains lidar-derived bare-earth (BE) topography, dune elevations, and mean-high-water shoreline position datasets for most sandy beaches for Fire Island, New York, and from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The data were acquired post-Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall as an extratropical cyclone on October 29, 2012.

National Assessment of Hurricane-Induced Coastal Erosion Hazards

USGS research focused on understanding the timing, magnitude, and variability of the impacts of hurricanes and extreme storms on the sandy beaches. The overall objective is to improve the capability to assess the vulnerability of the nation’s coasts to extreme storms and to predict actual coastal changes that results from specific storms. This capability provides critical support for managing coastal infrastructure, resources, and safety.

Image of hurricane Category-4 Hurricane Katrina moving towards the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on August 28, 2005.

Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS)

The USGS Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS) provides quick and easy access to satellite and aerial imagery to support emergency response and recovery operations during natural or human-caused disasters.

Digital Elevation Models map of the east coast.

USGS Center for Integrated Data Analytics

Advancing a broader understanding of our world by fostering collaborations to integrate data across scales and domains, improve access to data and research, and develop tools for analysis and visualization.

Digital Coast logo

Digital Coast

This NOAA-sponsored website is focused on helping communities address coastal issues and has become one of the most-used resources in the coastal management community. The dynamic Digital Coast Partnership is composed of members that represent the website's primary user groups.


Coastal Elevation Data and Mapping Team Lead

Teresa Dean