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3D National Topography Model

The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) is a new initiative that updates, improves, and integrates USGS elevation and hydrography data to support the most demanding scientific requirements and enable data-driven decisions across user communities. Key elements of the 3DNTM are in place or under active development. 

The 3D National Topography Model | 3DNTM Development | 3DNTM Governance 

 

The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM):  The Next Generation of Topographic Mapping - in 3D 

Topography is defined by terrain and water, each influencing and shaping the other. The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) is a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initiative (Anderson and others, in review) to embrace this inherent relationship between the Earth’s surface and the water that interacts with it. The initiative updates and integrates USGS elevation and hydrography data to model the Nation in 3D. The transition to an integrated approach to create and manage elevation and hydrography data will result in higher quality data that are updated more frequently. The 3DNTM provides the terrestrial component of the USGS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shared vision of a 3D Nation to build an elevation foundation – from the peaks of our mountains to the depths of our waters. Shared by USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this vision recognizes the importance of elevation data for both resilient communities and the United States (U.S.) economy. The 3D Nation Elevation Requirements and Benefits Study (3D Nation Study) (NOAA, 2022) conducted jointly by NOAA and the USGS identified potential annual benefits of 10.8 billion dollars U.S. for new topographic and inland bathymetry data. These benefits are possible when publicly available data without restrictions are available to support innovative uses and mission critical requirements of a broad user community. 

3D National Topography Model Graphic Slide
The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) is a vision for an integrated 3D model of elevation and hydrography data that will support environmental, climate change, and infrastructure applications. It responds to changing U.S. policy and will support Federal, State, local, and other stakeholder needs.
3DNTM Components graphic
The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) is comprised of three components:  an ongoing effort to complete national baseline datasets, new development of the next generations hydrography and elevation programs, and a longer-term goal to fully integrate hydrography, elevation, and other data from The National Map in a 3D data model.    

3DNTM Development  

The 3DNTM and its component parts are being designed following lessons learned in initiating and implementing 3DEP.  The figure below outlines the steps that the USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) takes to build the new programs, the 3D Hydrography Program and the next generation of 3DEP, as the second development track of 3DNTM.    

National Mapping Program Graphic
In developing the next generation elevation and hydrography programs, the National Geospatial Program follows the same steps that were used to develop the 3DEP baseline program, including documenting requirements and benefits, developing the program design based on the requirements, vetting and publishing the program plan as a call to action, establishing and implementing executive governance, communicating broadly to stakeholders, developing and maintaining specifications, establishing a partnership vehicle for use by all sectors, developing internal contracting and validation processes, and operationalizing data processing and delivery.  

The USGS is responsible for the topographic mapping of the United States and fulfills this in part by co-leading both the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16 Elevation and Inland Water themes and managing the Nation’s elevation and hydrography datasets.  As a part of this responsibility, the USGS is developing a program plan, the 3D National Topography Model Call for Action Part 1: 3D Hydrography Program. This plan will introduce the new vision for the Nation’s topographic data; an initiative for refreshing the Nation’s hydrography data and improving discovery and sharing of water-related data.  3D National Topography Model Call for Action Part 2: Next Generation 3DEP is also in progress to lay out a program to extend the surface model to include bathymetry and provide new vintages of elevation data to use with the 3DEP baseline.   

The final 3DNTM development track is a longer-term goal to research and develop a 3D data model that in the future will fully integrate the next generations of elevation and hydrography. Our goal will be to integrate other data from The National Map to further enhance the usefulness and comprehensiveness of the future 3D topographic model.  We are beginning some of the research on this and will be expanding these efforts in the future. 

3DNTM Timeline
The 3D National Topography Model (3DNTM) is a vision for an integrated 3D model of elevation and hydrography data that will support environmental, climate change, and infrastructure applications. It responds to changing U.S. policy and will support Federal, State, Tribal, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), local, and other stakeholder needs. 

3DNTM Governance  

The 3DNTM effort requires reimagined, integrated governance including all aspects of the vision.    

Current Governance  

The existing governance bodies currently include:  

  • The 3DEP Executive Forum, led by the USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems, provides interagency strategic oversight to the program and directs the 3DEP Working Group.  
  • The 3DEP Working Group (3DEP WG), led by the NGP 3DEP Data Acquisition Lead, provides interagency operational coordination, oversees the annual acquisition process and plans, and hosts the E3D Working Group that focuses on technical and research topics.  The 3DEP WG also coordinates with the Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping as part of the 3D Nation Elevation Subcommittee to fulfill portfolio management duties of the Elevation Theme under the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).  
  • The 3D Hydrography Working Group (3DHP WG), led by the NGP 3DHP Data Acquisition Lead, provides interagency operational coordination, hosts a technical subcommittee, and in the future will oversee the annual acquisition process and plans as the program is stood up.  
3DEP Governance Hierarchy
Existing 3DEP governance includes the 3DEP Executive Forum and Working Group, and coordination with the Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping as part of the 3D Nation Elevation Subcommittee under the FGDC.  

Proposed Future Governance  

The existing 3DEP governance has been successful in building partnerships and funding to advance the baseline goal for national lidar coverage (IfSAR in Alaska) through the commitment of a few key agencies. The National Landslides Preparedness Act (NLPA) enacted in 2021 establishes the 3DEP Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee (FICC) to be led by the Department of the Interior.  By codifying the governance into law, the NLPA provides an opportunity to increase the number of agencies engaging with the program.  The structure and next steps for the FICC are currently being determined by the DOI Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.    

NPLA Public Law 116-323 states that the DOI Secretary, in coordination with the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security, shall establish an interagency 3DEP FICC to coordinate 3D elevation data management across the Federal Government.  The law defines membership and states that the Committee shall develop and update periodically a strategic plan that establishes goals and priorities for 3DEP and a detailed management plan to implement the strategic plan.  The law further established a National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) 3DEP Subcommittee under the Federal Geographic Data Committee that will provide an assessment and recommendations relating to 3DEP to the FICC.  The Subcommittee was established in August 2022 and published an assessment in July 2023.    

The emerging Call for Action plans for 3DHP and next generation 3DEP should serve as input to the Interagency 3DNTM Strategic and Detailed Management Plans required of the FICC by the NLPA.