In order to qualify for inclusion in the SOTA scheme, a summit must have a topographic prominence of least 150 meters (termed P150) (or exceptionally, for summits in regions of especially low prominence, 100 meters, or P100). Ascertaining the exact prominence of candidate summits can be a time-consuming and painstaking task, depending on the information (usually maps) available. After they are identified and verified as meeting the prominence requirement, their local name and exact elevation still need to be determined before they can be assigned a SOTA reference number.
The only criterion for inclusion in the SOTA summits list is the prominence. Any place on earth that has the required prominence is eligible as SOTA summit, without any other consideration.
All activations must use legitimate access routes and comply with any local rules regarding use of the land. In particular, Activators must ensure that they have any necessary permission to operate from their chosen summit, or that access is customary.
Some of the initial work can be done automatically using software that analyses digital elevation models. This is by no means sufficient, but provides a very useful starting point for many regions.
Accessible software tools for this task include LandSerf and Winprom. Unfortunately, these programs require more memory than usually available on common computers to analyse areas the size of many countries. This often reduces the availability of the analysis results for people interested in identifying and validating SOTA summits.
In an effort to overcome at least some of the difficulties in identification of candidate summits, I have developed an experimental software (SRTMprom) that focuses on identifying summits meeting a given prominence requirement using publicly-available high-quality topographic source data, requiring as little memory as possible to get the job done.
Not all the peaks listed are actually eligible for SOTA since the SRTM elevation data by themselves are not accurate enough, especially for areas covered by trees, where the elevation recorded can be the top of the trees instead of the ground (so-called "penetration"), or in regions with narrow ravines. For the same reasons some eligible summits might not be identified.
Also, the definition of "prominence" causes a "winner takes all" effect, causing a summit reported as being only one meter higher than a neighbour to "hide" it.
Therefore, the SRTMprom results are a useful, but by no means sufficient, source of information to determine ultimately which summits are eligible for SOTA. Cross-checking with other sources of information, such as locally-produced maps or topological surveys of the region, is always necessary.
Andrew Kirmse has now published the results of his analysis of the complete Google Earth terrain database:
Further development of SRTMprom is therefore useless, as the results readily available now are better than what can be obtained from SRTM data analysis only.
For SOTA use, the prominence is the only criterion, and __visual control on accurate local maps is always required for each summit__.