Accuracy evaluation of digital elevation models derived from Terrestrial Radar Interferometer over Helheim Glacier, Greenland

Xianwei Wang, Denis Voytenko, David M. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glaciers in polar regions are sensitive to climate and ocean changes and can thin rapidly as a consequence of global warming. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) from remote sensing observations have been widely used to detect changes in polar glaciers. DEMs from Terrestrial Radar Interferometer (TRI) have recently been used for high frequency glacier change and glacier-ocean interaction studies. However, it is unclear whether TRI DEM over a large study area can be combined directly with remote sensing observations to investigate glacier changes as well as the accuracy of TRI DEM at far range. In this study, we deployed a TRI close to Helheim Glacier, East Greenland and generated DEMs using TRI and satellite laser altimetry. We analyzed the accuracy of the TRI DEM using theoretical calculations, comparisons based on repeat observations, and comparisons with a high accurate ArcticDEM. The validation results suggest that for stable ground surfaces, the uncertainty (standard deviation) is <5 m at range < 9.8 km. Averaging across time (e.g. one hour) decreases the uncertainty almost linearly with range, over 0.5 m to 1.2 m when the range increases from 7.0 km to 10.0 km. Increasing the correlation coefficient threshold for phase unwrapping does not significantly reduce uncertainty. TRI DEMs are influenced by systematic error at far range primarily due to coarse azimuth resolution and phase unwrapping difficulties in discontinuous interferograms. As the absolute accuracy of TRI DEMs is not uniformly distributed in the range direction (farther points have worse uncertainty), our findings indicate that TRI DEMs within range of 10 km can reach <5 m uncertainty, which can be compared with DEMs obtained from remote sensing satellites to detect glacier thinning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112759
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Accuracy and precision
  • ArcticDEM
  • Digital elevation model
  • Helheim Glacier
  • ICESat-2/ATLAS
  • Terrestrial radar interferometer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Accuracy evaluation of digital elevation models derived from Terrestrial Radar Interferometer over Helheim Glacier, Greenland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this