Skip to main content

The World in Relief on ETOPO

Full map of the world in browns, greens, and blues showing the contours of the surfaces  above and below the sea, derived from the ETOPO model from NOAA NCEI.
Courtesy of NOAA NCEI

By combining land topography, ocean bathymetry, and shoreline data, Earth TOPOgraphy (ETOPO) shows the world in relief. An even more comprehensive version of the model, ETOPO 2022, brings greater, more accurate details to the geophysical characteristics of Earth’s surface.

ETOPO, derived from the words Earth and topography, uses high-resolution renderings to model the contours and features of the planet, both above and below sea level. With this visualization, the characteristics of our world become more than two dimensional. In science, researchers use ETOPO models for many purposes:

  • Tsunami forecasting, modeling, and warning
  • Understanding tectonic formation and activity
  • Visualizing ocean circulation
  • Exploring the effects of climate change

ETOPO comes in two versions: Ice Surface, which depicts the surface of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets; and Bedrock, which depicts the bedrock underneath the ice sheets.

ETOPO 2022

The release of ETOPO 2022 adds enhanced resolution that incorporates recent advances in data sources and processing techniques. ETOPO 2022 uses a combination of numerous airborne lidar, satellite-derived topography, and shipborne bathymetry datasets from U.S. and global sources. Its predecessor, ETOPO1, has been an important modeling tool for the tsunami community since its introduction more than a decade ago. ETOPO1 had a grid resolution of about 2 km. The new ETOPO 2022 resolution will be an enhanced 15 arc-second resolution, about 0.5 km, which is four times higher than ETOPO1.

The NCEI scientific team behind the update notes, “We built and deployed state-of-the-art computational methods to measure the accuracy of our input data as well as the final ETOPO 2022 product with more than 800 billion laser-ranging measurements from NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite spanning nearly the entire globe over the calendar year 2021.”

The update is the latest since ETOPO’s previous release in 2010. Dr. Christopher Amante, an NCEI geospatial research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), originally developed ETOPO1 when he was a NOAA Hollings Scholar. His work with the project continues, and he participated on the team producing ETOPO 2022.

Related News