Encyclopedia of Geodesy

Living Edition
| Editors: Erik Grafarend

Digital Terrain Models

  • Christian HirtEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02370-0_31-1


Digital Terrain Model. Digital description of the terrain surface using a set of heights over 2D points residing on a reference surface.


A Digital Terrain Model (DTM) approximates a part or the whole of the continuous terrain surface by a set of discrete points with unique height values over 2D points. Heights are in approximation vertical distances between terrain points and some reference surface (e.g., mean sea level, geoid and ellipsoid) or geodetic datum. Mostly arranged in terms of regular grids, the 2D points are typically given as geodetic coordinates (latitude and longitude), or planar coordinates (North and East values). DTMs usually assign a single unique height value to each 2D point, so cannot describe vertical terrain features (e.g., cliffs). DTMs are therefore “2.5D” rather than truly 3D models of the terrain (Weibel and Heller, 1991).

While DTMs represent the bare ground of the terrain, a Digital Surface Model (DSM) describes heights of...
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References and Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Spatial SciencesCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Advanced StudyTU MunichGermany