I'm having a hard time trying to use elevation data from EU-DEM.

This data is in ETRS89 (EPSG:4258), according to their site.

Now, when I extract the elevation for a shore, I get 0 meters of altitude from those GeoTIFF files. This must be elevation over sea level, as it is a beach. A GPS using EPSG:4326, however, gives around 50 meters for the same spot (which matches the Geoid height for that location).

I need to be able to compare elevation values from GPS devices with data from this DEM files, I thought this would be maybe because the geoids are different (one is GRS80 and the other is WGS84). It turns out they are practically equivalent, and I tried converting between the two and the z value is not changed:

echo "-8.790094 42.198734 0.0" | gdaltransform -s_srs EPSG:4258 -t_srs EPSG:4326
-8.790094 42.198734 0

So my questions are:

  • What kind of elevation is provided by those EU-DEM files? It doesn't seem to be height over the ellipsoid, but rather height over mean sea level. I can't believe this is the case, as it would difficult using GPS 3D positions along with elevation data, and it seemed to me more straighforward that elevation survey satellites referenced elevation data to a standard ellipsoid.
  • What is the correct way to convert between elevation values in these GeoTIFF files to WGS84 elevation coordinates?
  • 1
    It almost certainly is height above "mean sea level" AKA EVRS2000. HAE (height above ellipsoid) doesn't guarantee that a fluid will run downhill so not very useful for analysis.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 23:47
  • Thanks, this indeed seems to be the case. If you post that as an answer I'll be happy to accept it.
    – jjmontes
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 15:51
  • Besides, I was wrong regarding GPS altitude reference: it should be height over MSL (making it compatible with EU-DEM files). The problem arises because many simpler GPS devices will report height over the ellipsoid.
    – jjmontes
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 15:59
  • could you be so kind to the community and please answer your question? How did you eventually convert these geotiff to WGS84? Commented Mar 26 at 8:49
  • @JoãoPimentelFerreira you'll need to use the EGM (Earth Gravitational Model) to convert height between "height over WGS84 ellipsoid" and "mean sea level" (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Gravitational_Model).
    – jjmontes
    Commented Mar 27 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


For those facing this problem, use the new DEM (Digital Elevation Model) instead, also from Copernicus.

The latest DEM GeoTIFF files from Copernicus not only are available in WGS84, but also give you already the height over sea level.

These GeoTIFF files are presented as tiles that can be fetched from the Copernicus PRISM project on the following webiste: https://sso.demf.pass.copernicus.eu (a registered account is necessary, but it's free).

Exemple here to download all the tiles for Portugal (mainland, Azores and Madeira)

enter image description here

Afterwards, in the download options we should select Projection: WGS-84, Format: TIFF and Interpolation: Bilinear.

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