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NGA releases high-resolution elevation data to public

By Paul Frommelt, Office of Corporate Communications

High-resolution elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission-Level 2 (SRTM-2), previously only available for the United States, will be made publicly available over the next 12 months, the White House announced today at the United Nations Heads of State Climate Summit in New York.

The first elevation dataset to be released will be over of the African continent and will be available on the United States Geological Survey’s Earth Explorer website, with future regions to be released within the coming year.

“I look forward to the broader impact that the release will have on the global scientific and capacity building community,” said National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Letitia Long.

Until now, SRTM data was only publicly available at a lower 90-meter resolution. The newly-released global 30-meter SRTM-2 dataset will be used worldwide to improve environmental monitoring, climate change research including sea-level rise impact assessments, and local decision support, the White House said.

The SRTM mission began in 2000 as a joint venture between NASA and NGA that used a modified radar system onboard Space Shuttle Endeavour to acquire elevation data for over 80 percent of the Earth’s land mass. The Department of Defense and intelligence community continues to use this topographic data for multiple applications – from developing navigation tools and supporting military operations, to geological and environmental purposes.

In August, Long authorized the removal of the Limited Distribution, or LIMDIS, caveat from the SRTM-2 dataset, making it available to the public on a phased-release schedule. The 30-meter topographic dataset was then sent to USGS for public distribution.

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission photo courtesy of NASA.