About xDEM

About xDEM#

xDEM is a Python package for the analysis of DEMs, with name standing for cross-DEM analysis1The core features of xDEM rely on cross-analysis of surface elevation, for example for DEM alignment or error analysis. and echoing its dependency on xarray. It is designed for all Earth and planetary observation science, although our group currently has a strong focus on glaciological applications.

The core mission of xDEM is to be easy-of-use, modular, robust, reproducible and fully open.

Additionally, xDEM aims to be efficient, scalable and state-of-the-art.


xDEM is in early stages of development and its features might evolve rapidly. Note the version you are working on for reproducibility! We are working on making features fully consistent for the first long-term release v0.1 (planned early 2024).

In details, those mean:

  • Ease-of-use: all DEM basic operations or methods from published works should only require a few lines of code to be performed;

  • Modularity: all DEM methods should be fully customizable, to allow both flexibility and inter-comparison;

  • Robustness: all DEM methods should be tested within our continuous integration test-suite, to enforce that they always perform as expected;

  • Reproducibility: all code should be version-controlled and release-based, to ensure consistency of dependent packages and works;

  • Open-source: all code should be accessible and re-usable to anyone in the community, for transparency and open governance.


Additional mission points, in particular scalability, are partly developed but not a priority until our first long-term release v0.1 is reached. Those will be further developed specifically in a subsequent version v0.2.

And, additionally:

  • Efficiency: all methods should be optimized at the lower-level, to function with the highest performance offered by Python packages;

  • Scalability: all methods should support both lazy processing and distributed parallelized processing, to work with high-resolution data on local machines as well as on HPCs;

  • State-of-the-art: all methods should be at the cutting edge of remote sensing science, to provide users with the most reliable and up-to-date tools.

The people behind xDEM#

xDEM was created during the GlacioHack hackaton event, that was initiated by Amaury Dehecq2 and took place online on November 8, 2020.

The initial core development of xDEM was performed by members of the Glaciology group of the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW) at ETH Zürich3, with contributions by members of the University of Oslo, the University of Washington, and University Grenobles Alpes.

We are not software developers but geoscientists, and we try our best to offer tools that can be useful to a larger group, documented, reliable and maintained. All development and maintenance is made on a voluntary basis and we welcome any new contributors. See some information on how to contribute in the dedicated page of our GitHub repository.