What are digital elevation models (DEMs)?

USGS Digital elevation models (DEMs) are arrays of regularly spaced elevation values referenced horizontally either to a Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) projection or to a geographic coordinate system. The grid cells are spaced at regular intervals along south to north profiles that are ordered from west to east. The USGS acquires bare-earth elevation source data through the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) and resamples the data to several National Map DEM products for the U.S. and territories.  The DEM products include 2, 1, 1/3, and 1/9 arc-second layers, as well as 5-meter DEMs in Alaska and 1-meter DEMs in the conterminous U.S.  The 2, 1, and 1/3 arc-second DEMs are logically seamless terrain surfaces in their respective areas of coverage and are produced from the highest quality elevation data held by the USGS.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 4

Where can I find a 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEM status map and get information on recent updates?

Status maps showing 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) product availability and recent updates are on the 3DEP Product Availability site. Areas containing recent updates are refreshed on a monthly basis. Download spatial metadata shapefiles showing the updated areas for each product from the 3DEP Product Metadata site. Acquire updated products through...

What sources of data are used to produce the standard 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs?

3DEP standard DEMs are produced from the highest quality elevation sources within the data holdings of the USGS National Geospatial Program. As of 2015, about 25% of the conterminous U.S. coverage is from high resolution lidar and photogrammetric source, while the remainder of the conterminous U.S. and Hawaii coverage is from USGS topographic map...

What is the vertical accuracy of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs?

The most recently published figure of absolute vertical accuracy of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs within the conterminous United States, in terms of the National Standard for Spatial Data Accuracy (NSSDA) at 95% confidence level, is 3.04 meters. It is important to note that the vertical accuracy actually varies significantly across the U.S...

Is there a difference between 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEM data and lidar data?

Yes, lidar data are represented as a cloud of variably spaced point locations (x,y,z) of any terrestrial target reflecting the laser pulse. In addition to bare-earth, the point cloud will typically include buildings, trees, towers, and powerlines. 3DEP DEMs are raster surfaces of bare-earth elevation values sampled at uniform horizontal increments...
Filter Total Items: 7
Date published: October 23, 2019

USGS Digital Elevation Models (DEM) Switching to New Distribution Format

In support of ongoing efforts to provide efficient, cloud ready, open data formats, the U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is announcing plans to migrate its 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) Digital Elevation Models (DEM) to a new data delivery format called Cloud Optimized Geotiff (COG) during the first half of fiscal year 2020.

Date published: February 7, 2019

USGS 3DEP Lidar Point Cloud Now Available as Amazon Public Dataset

The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is excited to announce the availability of a new way to access and process lidar point cloud data from the 3DEP repository.

Date published: August 8, 2018

New Elevation Map Service Available From the USGS 3D Elevation Program

The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) announces the availability of a new dynamic map service.

Date published: June 26, 2018

The 3D Elevation Program Distributing Lidar Data in LAZ Format

In support of ongoing efforts to provide efficient, cloud ready, open data formats for the use of lidar data, the USGS National Geospatial Program and its associated 3D Elevation Program is transitioning all of its lidar data distribution files to LAZ format by September 30, 2018.

Date published: May 23, 2018

Keeping Current with Map Services Made Easier

The National Map provides a new Simple Notification Service and has new URLs for some of its thematic cartographic map services.

Date published: May 23, 2018

Keeping Current with Map Services Made Easier

The National Map provides a new Simple Notification Service and has new URLs for some of its thematic cartographic map services.

Date published: September 5, 2016

EarthWord–Lidar

It’s not a radar for liars, it’s this week’s Earthword...

Filter Total Items: 9
Lidar-derived Digital Elevation Model over Zion National Park, Utah
December 31, 2105

Lidar-derived Digital Elevation Model over Zion National Park, Utah

Lidar-derived Digital Elevation Model over Zion National Park, Utah

Color Shade DEM of Meteor Crater
December 31, 2018

Color Shade DEM of Meteor Crater

Color Shade of a DEM(Digital Elevation Model) of Meteor Crater.

November 7, 2018

3D model of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō's crater

This 3D model of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō's crater was created from thermal images during an overflight of the cone. The deepest portion of the crater is about 320 meters (1050 feet) below the crater floor that existed prior to April 30.

Digital elevation model created by an Unmanned Aerial System
December 31, 2017

Digital Elevation Model Created by an Unmanned Aerial System

This digital elevation model was created using structure from motion software mounted to an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to analyze bridge scour. Studies using UAS have included stream temperature analyses, bird and mammal surveys, coastal change mapping, sandbar habitat surveys, fluvial erosion rates, microclimate mapping, air quality analysis, plant stress assessment,

...
November 30, 2017

Majuro Atoll — Topobathymetric Model

This video is of is a three-dimensional (3D) view of the Majuro Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands topobathymetric model which consists of topography (land elevation) and bathymetry (water depth). This video shows the importance of high-resolution, detailed topobathymetric models because the highest natural elevation for the Majuro Atoll is only three meters. This

video thumbnail: Elevation
April 30, 2012

Elevation

The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is the primary elevation data product produced and distributed by the USGS National 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). The NED provides seamless raster elevation data of the conterminous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the island territories. The NED is derived from diverse source data sets that are processed to a specification with a

November 18, 2010

PubTalk 11/2010 — Silicon, Software, and Science

Monitoring the Earth's Landscape with Low-Cost High-Tech

by Rian Bogle, Remote Sensing Specialist

 

  • The USGS is one of the world's largest providers of remote sensing data, employing the best tools and techniques to expand our knowledge of the Earth.
  • Working with low-cost field and aerial imaging technologies,
Digital Elevation Model of Mount St. Helens' Crater Glacier and lav...

DEM of Mount St. Helens' Crater Glacier and lava domes

Image of Mount St. Helens lava domes and Crater Glacier on October 1, 2012. The image was created from 1:12,000 scale vertical aerial photographs combined with ground control points from campaign GPS and targets. Photogrammetry software was used to collect a 3-D point cloud and combined to make this digital elevation model (DEM) focusing on the volcano's crater.