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Analysis of the accuracy of Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) height models using International Global Navigation Satellite System Service (IGS) Network


The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) carried out in February 2000 has provided near global topographic data that has been widely used in many fields of earth sciences. The mission goal of an absolute vertical accuracy within 16 m (with 90% confidence)/RMSE ∼10 m was achieved based on ground validation of SRTM data through various studies using global positioning system (GPS). We present a new and independent assessment of the vertical accuracy of both the X- and C-band SRTM datasets using data from the International GNSS Service (IGS) network of high-precision static GPS stations. These stations exist worldwide, have better spatial distribution than previous studies, have a vertical accuracy of 6 mm and constitute the most accurate ground control points (GCPs) possible on earth; these stations are used as fiducial stations to define the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). Globally, for outlier-filtered data (135 X-band stations and 290 C-band stations), the error or difference between IGS and SRTM heights exhibits a non-normal distribution with a mean and standard error of 8.2 ± 0.7 and 6.9 ± 0.5 m for X- and C-band data, respectively. Continent-wise, Africa, Australia and North America comply with the SRTM mission absolute vertical accuracy of 16 m (with 90% confidence)/RMSE ∼10 m. However, Asia, Europe and South America have vertical errors higher than the SRTM mission goal. At stations where both the X- and C-band SRTM data were present, the root mean square error (RMSE) of both the X- and C-bands was identical at 11.5 m, indicating similar quality of both the X- and C-band SRTM data.

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This is an IITBESCDL/001/2014 publication. The work was funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences India, Grant No. MoES/16/01/09-RDEAS and Department of Science and Technology India, Grant No. SR/S4/ES-415/2009 to Malay. VS acknowledges IITB for the Teaching Assistantship in the Department of Earth Sciences. Critical reviews by two anonymous reviewers and comments of the JESS handling editor helped to significantly improve the quality of this paper. We are grateful to the editorial staff of JESS for painstakingly putting this paper together. We benefited from discussions with Sridevi Jade, D Ramakrishnan and Rishikesh Bharti.

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Correspondence to MALAY MUKUL.

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MUKUL, M., SRIVASTAVA, V. & MUKUL, M. Analysis of the accuracy of Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) height models using International Global Navigation Satellite System Service (IGS) Network. J Earth Syst Sci 124, 1343–1357 (2015).

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  • Geodesy
  • error
  • accuracy
  • georeferencing
  • radar
  • SRTM.