Feb. 13, 2017: Release 4 [v2.0: Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia), Canadian archipelago islands within Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (Canada), Faroe Islands, and northern and western regions of Greenland]

Dec. 12, 2016: Release 3 [v2.0 of: Alaska, Novaya Zemlya (Russia), Franz Josef Land (Russia), Baffin Island (Canada), Svalbard, (Norway), and Iceland]

Sept. 29, 2016: Release 2 [v1.0 of: Novaya Zemlya (Russia) and Franz Josef Land (Russia)]


ArcticDEM is an NGA-NSF public-private initiative to automatically produce a high-resolution, high quality, digital surface model (DSM) of the Arctic using optical stereo imagery, high-performance computing, and open source photogrammetry software. The ArcticDEM project is a response to the need for high quality elevation data in remote locations, the availability of technology to process big data, and the need for accurate measurement of topographic change. The producers did not intend for the final product as a single “eyes on” or edited product, but rather a collection of time-dependent elevation models and the infrastructure to process the flow of imagery from an ever-expanding constellation of satellites producing an ever-increasing volume of high-quality data.

Upon completion, ArcticDEM will encompass all land area north of 60° north latitude. In addition, coverage will include all territory of Greenland, the State of Alaska in entirety, and the Kamchatka Peninsula of the Russian Federation. The project commences with Alaska and will continue to other regions in the Arctic on a continual basis. The ArcticDEM initiative is expected to create a comprehensive elevation model of the Arctic within the two-year term of the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which began in April of 2015.

ArcticDEM data is constructed from in-track, high-resolution (~0.5 meter) imagery acquired by the DigitalGlobe constellation of optical imaging satellites and licensed through the NGA NextView contact. The majority of ArcticDEM data was generated from the panchromatic bands of the WorldView-1, WorldView-2, and WorldView-3 satellites. A small percentage of data was also generated from the GeoEye-1 satellite sensor.

ArcticDEM data is generated by applying stereo auto-correlation techniques to overlapping pairs of high-resolution optical satellite images. Using the Surface Extraction from TIN-based Searchspace Minimization (SETSM) software, developed by M.J. Noh and Ian Howat at the Ohio State University, stereopair images are processed to Digital Elevation Models using compute resources provided by the Blue Waters supercomputer located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Output DEM raster files are being made available as both “strip” files as they are output directly from SETSM and preserve the original source material temporal resolution, as well as mosaic files that are compiled from multiple strips that have been co-registered, blended, and feathered to reduce edge-matching artifacts. The time-dependent nature of the strip DEM files allows users to perform change detection analysis and to compare observations of topography data acquired in different seasons or years. The mosaic DEM tiles are assembled from multiple strip DEMs with the intention of providing a more consistent and comprehensive product over larger areas.

Current Release

The current ArcticDEM release (Release 4) contains version 2.0 of Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia), Canadian archipelago Islands within Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (Canada), Faroe Islands, and northern and western regions of Greenland. Release 4 includes 20,009 strip DEM components at 2 meter resolution to the ArcticDEM inventory and includes 2,421 mosaic tiles at 8 meter resolution.

Release History

Release 1: v1.0: Alaska
Release 2: v1.0: Novaya Zemlya (Russia) and Franz Josef Land (Russia)
Release 3: v2.0: Alaska, Novaya Zemlya (Russia), Franz Josef Land (Russia), Baffin Island (Canada), Svalbard, (Norway), and Iceland
Release 4 (current): v2.0: Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia), Canadian archipelago islands within Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (Canada), Faroe Islands, and northern and western regions of Greenland

ArcticDEM Strips

Strip DEM files correspond to the overlapping area of the input stereopair image swaths as they are collected by DigitalGlobe’s constellation of polar-orbiting satellites. Strip DEM dimensions will vary according to the satellite sensor that acquired the images and the off-nadir angle of collection. Most strips are between 16 km and 18 km in width, and 110 km and 120 km in length. Strip DEM files are provided at 2-meter spatial resolution in 32-bit GeoTIFF format. Elevation units are meters and are referenced to the WGS84 ellipsoid. Strip DEM files include metadata text files describing the xyz offsets to filtered IceSAT altimetry data, although these translations have not been applied to the DEM files.

Statistics: 20,009 strip DEM files totaling 21,008,634 square kilometers of area

Download: ArcticDEM Strip Index (Esri shapefile)

ArcticDEM Mosaic

Mosaicked DEM files are compiled from from the best quality strip DEM files which have been blended and feathered to reduce void areas and edge-matching artifacts. Filtered IceSAT altimetry data has been applied to the raster files to improve absolute accuracy. Mosaicked DEM files are distributed in 50 km x 50 km sub-tiles. Mosaicked DEMs are provided at 5-meter spatial resolution in 32-bit GeoTIFF format. Elevation units are meters and are referenced to the WGS84 ellipsoid.

Statistics: 738 tile folders containing 2,421 50km x 50km sub-tiles over the Arctic totaling 6,052,000 square kilometers of area

Download: ArcticDEM Tile Index (Esri shapefile)

Documentation and Citation

Explore Data

ArcticDEM Explorer

Esri has developed an online web mapping application to explore ArcticDEM data. The full-resolution ArcticDEM strips and mosaics are presented in this web map to quickly preview and explore the elevation data. With this web map, users can visualize the ArcticDEM data, preview the spatial coverage, and download simple exports.

The ArcticDEM Explorer is the best way to preview the datasets if no GIS or remote sensing software is available or you simply want to explore the entire dataset quickly.

Bulk Download

Use the links below to browse the directory for the entire ArcticDEM dataset. Refer to the documentation to see the directory structure, naming schemes, and download contents.

Users familiar with the GNU Wget utility can use the following commands to recursively download all available ArcticDEM data.

    2m strips files:

    wget -r -N -nH -np -R index.html* --cut-dirs=3 http://data.pgc.umn.edu/elev/dem/setsm/ArcticDEM/geocell

    5m mosaic files:

    wget -r -N -nH -np -R index.html* --cut-dirs=3 http://data.pgc.umn.edu/elev/dem/setsm/ArcticDEM/mosaic

GIS Layers

ArcticDEM can be accessed via web mapping services provided by Esri. The raster elevation data (strips and tiles) are served via an Esri Image Service. We also provide an Esri ArcGIS Online Feature Service for the ArcticDEM mosaic tile scheme (no raster elevation included in this).

The GIS layers can be used directly in desktop GIS software. The links below provide URLs to the web services and instructions for how to add and use the data in ArcGIS. Visit the ArcGIS Online item page(s) to download connection files or the indexes in many GIS formats (Esri shapefile, GDB, etc.). For other GIS software packages, consult the documentation.

ArcticDEM Image Service



Funding and Partners

ArcticDEM is funded under National Science Foundation awards 1043681, 1559691, and 1542736.

Partners: National Science Foundation, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, The Ohio State University, Cornell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National Center for Supercomputing Applications

PGC acknowledges support from the Arctic National Mapping Agencies in development of this ArcticDEM product by providing elevation experts to review and provide feedback on pre-release versions.

Mailing List

Click here to subscribe to occasional ArcticDEM updates via email.