Evolution of errors in the altimetric bathymetry model used by Google Earth and GEBCO

Marks, KM, Smith WHF, Sandwell DT.  2010.  Evolution of errors in the altimetric bathymetry model used by Google Earth and GEBCO. Marine Geophysical Research. 31:223-238.

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accuracy, Bathymetric grids, errors, GEBCO, geosat, Global bathymetry, Google Earth, gravity-anomalies, inversion, Multibeam, prediction, satellite altimetry, Satellite bathymetry, seamount, ship-borne profiles, topography


We analyze errors in the global bathymetry models of Smith and Sandwell that combine satellite altimetry with acoustic soundings and shorelines to estimate depths. Versions of these models have been incorporated into Google Earth and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). We use Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) multibeam surveys not previously incorporated into the models as "ground truth" to compare against model versions 7.2 through 12.1, defining vertical differences as "errors." Overall error statistics improve over time: 50th percentile errors declined from 57 to 55 to 49 m, and 90th percentile errors declined from 257 to 235 to 219 m, in versions 8.2, 11.1 and 12.1. This improvement is partly due to an increasing number of soundings incorporated into successive models, and partly to improvements in the satellite gravity model. Inspection of specific sites reveals that changes in the algorithms used to interpolate across survey gaps with altimetry have affected some errors. Versions 9.1 through 11.1 show a bias in the scaling from gravity in milliGals to topography in meters that affected the 15-160 km wavelength band. Regionally averaged (> 160 km wavelength) depths have accumulated error over successive versions 9 through 11. These problems have been mitigated in version 12.1, which shows no systematic variation of errors with depth. Even so, version 12.1 is in some respects not as good as version 8.2, which employed a different algorithm.