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Data Series 769

Topobathymetric Model of Mobile Bay, Alabama

By Jeffrey J. Danielson, John C. Brock, Daniel M. Howard, Dean B. Gesch Jamie M. Bonisteel-Cormier, and Laurinda J. Travers

Thumbnail of Map Sheet (14.1 MB)


Topobathymetric Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are a merged rendering of both topography (land elevation) and bathymetry (water depth) that provides a seamless elevation product useful for inundation mapping, as well as for other earth science applications, such as the development of sediment-transport, sea-level rise, and storm-surge models. This 1/9-arc-second (approximately 3 meters) resolution model of Mobile Bay, Alabama was developed using multiple topographic and bathymetric datasets, collected on different dates. The topographic data were obtained primarily from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Elevation Dataset (NED) ( at 1/9-arc-second resolution; USGS Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL) data (2 meters) (; and topographic lidar data (2 meters) and Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey (CHARTS) lidar data (2 meters) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ( Bathymetry was derived from digital soundings obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) ( and from water-penetrating lidar sources, such as EAARL and CHARTS.

Mobile Bay is ecologically important as it is the fourth largest estuary in the United States. The Mobile and Tensaw Rivers drain into the bay at the northern end with the bay emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at the southern end. Dauphin Island (a barrier island) and the Fort Morgan Peninsula form the mouth of Mobile Bay. Mobile Bay is 31 miles (50 kilometers) long by a maximum width of 24 miles (39 kilometers) with a total area of 413 square miles (1,070 square kilometers).

The vertical datum of the Mobile Bay topobathymetric model is the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88). All the topographic datasets were originally referenced to NAVD 88 and no transformations were made to these input data. The NGDC hydrographic, multibeam, and trackline surveys were transformed from mean low water (MLW) or mean lower low water (MLLW) to NAVD 88 using VDatum ( VDatum is a tool developed by the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) that performs transformations among tidal, ellipsoid-based, geoid-based, and orthometric datums using calibrated hydrodynamic models. The vertical accuracy of the input topographic data varied depending on the input source. Because the input elevation data were derived primarily from lidar, the vertical accuracy ranges from 6 to 20 centimeters in root mean square error (RMSE).

he horizontal datum of the Mobile Bay topobathymetric model is the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD 83), geographic coordinates. All the topographic and bathymetric datasets were originally referenced to NAD 83, and no transformations were made to the input data. The bathymetric surveys were downloaded referenced to NAD 83 geographic, and therefore no horizontal transformations were required. The topbathymetric model of Mobile Bay and detailed metadata can be obtained from the USGS Web sites:

First posted September 19, 2013

  • DS 769 PDF Map Sheets
    The Map Sheets directory provides topobathmetric information for various locations of Mobile Bay, Alabama.

For additional information contact:
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
600 Fourth Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Danielson, J.J., Brock, J.C., Howard, D.M., Gesch, D.B., Bonisteel-Cormier, J.M., and Travers, L.J., 2013, Topobathymetric model of Mobile Bay, Alabama: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 769,

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