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2004 USGS/NASA Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL): Western Florida, Post-Hurricane Charley (Seamless Topo-Bathy)

browse graphicThis kmz file shows the extent of coverage for the 2004 USGS Northern Gulf Post-Hurricane Ivan lidar data set.
A seamless (bare-earth and submerged) elevation map (also known as a Digital Elevation Model, or DEM) of a portion of western Florida, post-Hurricane Charley, was produced from remotely sensed, geographically referenced elevation measurements cooperatively by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Elevation measurements were collected over the area using the NASA Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL), a pulsed laser ranging system mounted onboard an aircraft to measure ground elevation, vegetation canopy, and coastal topography. The system uses high-frequency laser beams directed at the Earth's surface through an opening in the bottom of the aircraft's fuselage. The laser system records the time difference between emission of the laser beam and the reception of the reflected laser signal in the aircraft. The plane travels over the target area at approximately 50 meters per second at an elevation of approximately 300 meters. The EAARL, developed by NASA at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, measures ground elevation with a vertical resolution of +/-15 centimeters. A sampling rate of 3 kilohertz or higher results in an extremely dense spatial elevation dataset. Over 100 kilometers of coastline can be surveyed easily within a 3- to 4-hour mission. When subsequent elevation maps for an area are analyzed, they provide a useful tool to make management decisions regarding land development.

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    • LAZ
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    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
      • publication: 2009-01-01
      Data Presentation Form: Digital image
      Dataset Progress Status Complete
      Data Update Frequency: Not planned
      Supplemental Information: Raw lidar data are not in a format that is generally usable by resource managers and scientists for scientific analysis. Converting dense lidar elevation data into a readily usable format without loss of essential information requires specialized processing. The U.S. Geological Survey's Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) has developed custom software to convert raw lidar data into a GIS-compatible map product to be provided to GIS specialists, managers, and scientists. The primary tool used in the conversion process is Airborne Lidar Processing System (ALPS), a multi-tiered processing system developed by a USGS-NASA collaborative project. Specialized processing algorithms are used to convert raw waveform lidar data acquired by the EAARL to georeferenced spot (x,y,z) returns for "first surface" and "bare earth" topography. The zero crossing of the second derivative (that is, detection of local maxima) is used to detect "first surface" topography, while the trailing edge algorithm (that is, the algorithm searches for the location prior to the last return where direction changes along the trailing edge) is used to detect the range to the last return, or "bare earth." Statistical filtering, known as the Random Consensus Filter (RCF), is used to remove false bottom returns and other outliers from the EAARL topography data. The filter uses a grid of non-overlapping square cells (buffer) of user-defined size overlaid onto the original point cloud. The user also defines the vertical tolerance (vertical width) based on the topographic complexity and point sampling density of the data. The maximum allowable elevation range within a cell is established by this vertical tolerance. An iterative process searches for the maximum concentration of points within the vertical tolerance and removes those points outside of the tolerance (Nayegandhi and others, 2009). These data are then converted to the North American Datum of 1983 and the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (using the GEOID03 model). Each file contains data located in a 2-kilometer by 2-kilometer tile, where the upper-left bound can be assessed quickly through the filename. The first 3 numbers in the filename represent the left-most UTM easting coordinate (e###000) in meters, the next 4 numbers represent the top-most UTM northing coordinate (n####000) in meters, and the last 2 numbers (##) represent the UTM zone in which the tile is located (for example, sm_e123_n4567_17). The development of custom software for creating these data products has been supported by the U.S. Geological Survey CMG Program's Decision Support for Coastal Parks, Sanctuaries, and Preserves Project. Processed data products are used by the U.S. Geological Survey CMG Program's National Assessments of Coastal Change Hazards Project to quantify the vulnerability of shorelines to coastal change hazards such as severe storms, sea-level rise, and shoreline erosion and retreat.
      Purpose: The purpose of this project was to produce a highly detailed and accurate seamless elevation map of a portion of western Florida, post-Hurricane Charley for use as a management tool and to make these data available to natural-resource managers and research scientists.
      Time Period: 2004-08-17  to  2004-08-18
      Spatial Reference System:
      Spatial Bounding Box Coordinates:
      N: 27.074949
      S: 26.419666
      E: -82.013156
      W: -82.452251
      Spatial Coverage Map:
      • Bathymetry/Topography
      • USGS remote sensing
      • Airborne Lidar Processing System
      • ALPS
      • Digital Elevation Model
      • DEM
      • EAARL
      • Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar
      • laser altimetry
      • lidar
      • remote sensing
      • topography
      • hurricanes
      • erosion
      • US
      • Florida
      • Sarasota County
      • Charlotte County
      • Lee County
      Use Constraints No constraint information available
      Fees Fee information not available.
      Lineage Statement Lineage statement not available.
      • Jacobs Technology, U.S. Geological Survey, CMGP, St. Petersburg, FL
      • DOC/NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC > National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce
      Processing Steps
      • The data are collected using a Cessna 310 aircraft. The NASA Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL) laser scanner collects the data using a green (532-nanometers) raster scanning laser, while a digital camera acquires a visual record of the flight. The data are stored on hard drives and archived at the U.S. Geological Survey office in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the NASA office at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The navigational data are processed at Wallops Flight Facility. The navigational and raw data are then downloaded into the Airborne Lidar Processing System (ALPS). Data are converted from units of time to x,y,z points for elevation. The derived surface data can then be converted into raster data (GeoTIFFs).
      • The NOAA Coastal Services Center received the data in LAS format. The files contained Lidar elevation and intensity measurements. The data were projected in UTM coordinates (NAD83; Zone 17N) and referenced to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88) using the Geoid03 model. The following processes were performed to make the data available within the Digital Coast: 1. The data were converted from UTM (NAD83; Zone 17N) to geographic coordinates (NAD83). 2. The data were converted from NAVD88 (orthometric) heights to GRS80 (ellipsoidal) heights using the Geoid03 model. 3. The data were reclassified to reflect the ASPRS LAS bare earth classification. 4. The LAS data were sorted by latitude and the headers were updated.
      • The NOAA National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) received lidar data files via ftp transfer from the NOAA Coastal Services Center. The data are currently being served via NOAA CSC Digital Coast at The data can be used to re-populate the system. The data are archived in LAS or LAZ format. The LAS format is an industry standard for LiDAR data developed by the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS); LAZ is a loseless compressed version of LAS developed by Martin Isenburg ( The data are exclusively in geographic coordinates (either NAD83 or ITRF94). The data are referenced vertically to the ellipsoid (either GRS80 or ITRF94), allowing for the ability to apply the most up to date geoid model when transforming to orthometric heights.

      Metadata Last Modified: 2013-05-07

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