The colored regions of this map show the extent of digital elevation data recently released by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). This release includes data for most of Europe and Asia plus numerous islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. SRTM flew on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour in February 2000 and used an interferometric radar system to map the topography of Earth's landmass between latitudes 56 degrees south and 60 degrees north.
The data were processed into geographic "tiles," each of which represents one by one degree of latitude and longitude. A degree of latitude measures 111 kilometers (69 miles) north-south, and a degree of longitude measures 111 kilometers or less east-west, decreasing away from the equator. The data are being released to the public on a continent-by-continent basis. This Eurasia segment includes 5,940 tiles, more than a third of the total data set. Previous releases covered North America and South America. Forthcoming releases will include Africa-Arabia and Australia plus an "Islands" release for those islands not included in the continental releases. Together these data releases constitute the world's first high-resolution, near-global elevation model. The resolution of the publicly released data is three arcseconds (1/1,200 of a degree of latitude and longitude), which is about 90 meters (295 feet).
European coverage in the current data release stretches eastward from the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula in the west, across the Alps and Carpathian Mountains, as well as the Northern European Plain, to the Ural and Caucasus Mountains bordering Asia. The Asian coverage includes a great diversity of landforms, including the Tibetan Plateau, Tarin Basin, Mongolian Plateau, and the mountains surrounding Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake. Mt. Everest in the Himalayas, at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) is the world's highest mountain. From India's Deccan Plateau, to Southeast Asia, coastal China, and Korea, various landforms place constraints upon land use planning for a great population. Volcanoes in the East Indies, the Philippines, Japan, and the Kamchatka Peninsula form the western part of the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Ocean.
Many of these regions were previously very poorly mapped due to persistent cloud cover or the inaccessibility of the terrain. Digital elevation data, such as provided by SRTM, are particularly in high demand by scientists studying earthquakes, volcanism, and erosion patterns for use in mapping and modeling hazards to human habitation. But the shape of Earth's surface affects nearly every natural process and human endeavor that occurs there, so elevation data are used in a wide range of applications.
In this index map color-coding is directly related to topographic height, with green at the lower elevations, rising through yellow and tan, to white at the highest elevations. The large, very dark green feature in western Asia is the Caspian Sea, which is below sea level. Blue areas on the map represent water within the mapped tiles, each of which includes shorelines or islands.
Elevation data used in this image was acquired by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, launched on February 11, 2000. SRTM used the same radar instrument that comprised the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) that flew twice on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994. SRTM was designed to collect three-dimensional measurements of the Earth's surface. To collect the 3-D data, engineers added a 60-meter-long (200-foot) mast, installed additional C-band and X-band antennas, and improved tracking and navigation devices. The mission is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the German and Italian space agencies. It is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, DC.
Orientation: North toward the top
Image Data: Colored SRTM elevation model
Date Acquired: February 2000