Uncertainties in the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Heights: Insights from the Indian Himalaya and Peninsula
The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) are used with the consensus view that it has a minimum vertical accuracy of 16 m absolute error at 90% confidence (Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) of 9.73 m) world-wide. However, vertical accuracy of the data decreases with increase in slope and elevation due to presence of large outliers and voids. Therefore, studies using SRTM data “as is”, especially in regions like the Himalaya, are not statistically meaningful. New data from ~200 high-precision static Global Position System (GPS) Independent Check Points (ICPs) in the Himalaya and Peninsular India indicate that only 1-arc X-Band data are usable “as is” in the Himalaya as it has height accuracy of 9.18 m (RMSE). In contrast, recently released (2014-2015) “as-is” 1-arc and widely used 3-arc C-Band data have a height accuracy of RMSE 23.53 m and 47.24 m and need to be corrected before use. Outlier and void filtering improves the height accuracy to RMSE 8 m, 10.14 m, 14.38 m for 1-arc X and C-Band and 3-arc C-Band data respectively. Our study indicates that the C-Band 90 m and 30 m DEMs are well-aligned and without any significant horizontal offset implying that area and length computations using both the datasets have identical values.