Digital elevation model and orthophotographs of Greenland based on aerial photographs from 1978-1987

Niels J. Korsgaard, Christopher Nuth, Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Anders A. Bjørk, Anders Schomacker, Kurt H. Kjær

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Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) play a prominent role in glaciological studies for the mass balance of glaciers and ice sheets. By providing a time snapshot of glacier geometry, DEMs are crucial for most glacier evolution modelling studies, but are also important for cryospheric modelling in general. We present a historical medium-resolution DEM and orthophotographs that consistently cover the entire surroundings and margins of the Greenland Ice Sheet 1978-1987. About 3,500 aerial photographs of Greenland are combined with field surveyed geodetic ground control to produce a 25 m gridded DEM and a 2 m black-and-white digital orthophotograph. Supporting data consist of a reliability mask and a photo footprint coverage with recording dates. Through one internal and two external validation tests, this DEM shows an accuracy better than 10 m horizontally and 6 m vertically while the precision is better than 4 m. This dataset proved successful for topographical mapping and geodetic mass balance. Other uses include control and calibration of remotely sensed data such as imagery or InSAR velocity maps.
Original languageEnglish
Article number160032
JournalScientific Data
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Cryospheric science
  • Geomorphology
  • Climate and Earth system modelling

Cite this

Korsgaard, N. J., Nuth, C., Khan, S. A., Kjeldsen, K. K., Bjørk, A. A., Schomacker, A., & Kjær, K. H. (2016). Digital elevation model and orthophotographs of Greenland based on aerial photographs from 1978-1987. Scientific Data, 3, [160032].