NASA Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) at NSIDC

Supporting scientific study of the cryosphere

See Also

Scatterometry Data at NSIDC

This product Home page contains tools for ordering and working with the data, and information regarding the data products availability, how to obtain guide documentation, FAQs, and other related scatterometry information.

Related Resources

BYU Scatterometer Climate Record Pathfinder Project Web site

The Brigham Young University SCP Project Web site contains links to documentation, FAQs, image galleries, and more.

DAAC Data Projects: Active Microwave


Scatterometry is a form of radar remote sensing that employs a scatterometer instrument that initiates a microwave pulse toward a surface and then measures the resultant back scatter of the pulse to determine the geophysical characteristics of the surface. Scatterometers were originally designed to study ocean winds but have been found to be useful for observations of various land and ice features as well.

To support scatterometry studies of the Earth's cryosphere and biosphere, NASA funded the Scatterometer Climate Record Pathfinder (SCP) project to produce non-ocean scatterometer imagery and derived products. To date, four scatterometers have flown on five different spacecraft.

  • SeaWinds on QuikSCAT: A Ku-band scatterometer launched into space on board NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) satellite on 19 June 1999.
  • SASS on Seasat-A: A Ku-band scatterometer launched on 27 June 1978 that provided a baseline for studies of global change.
  • ESCAT on ERS -1 and -2: A C-band European Space Agency (ESA) instrument that flew on board the European Remote Sensing satellite 1 and 2 (ERS-1 and -2). ERS-1 launched on 17 July 1991 and ERS-2 launched on 21 April 1995. SCP scatterometry data are only available through January 2001 and provide a long baseline for studying global climate change.
  • NSCAT on ADEOS-I: A Ku-band instrument on board the Advanced Earth Observation Satellite-1 (ADEOS-1). The mission lasted from launch on 16 August 1996 until a power failure on 30 June 1997.
  • SeaWinds on ADEOS-II: A second SeaWinds instrument was launched on board ADEOS-II on 14 December 2002 to further extended the Ku-band scatterometer data series.

From these data, the SCP project has generated enhanced-resolution radar backscatter images on consistent, compatible grids. From this time series of radar images, derived products related to key climate-related parameters can be extracted for use in cryospheric and climate change studies.

NSIDC archives and distributes sea ice extent produced from daily-averaged QuikSCAT sigma-0 measurements for the Arctic and Antarctic in Scatterometer Image Reconstruction (SIR) binary image format, along with ASCII text files containing latitude and longitude coordinates along the sea ice edge, and browse images of SIR files in Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format. Ancillary products include daily-averaged total sea ice extent in ASCII format. NSIDC also provides links to other scatterometry data. To access this data, see the Scatterometry Data at NSIDC web page.

QuikSCAT image of Norhtern Hemipshere

Northern Hemisphere Image from QuikSCAT Sigma-0 Data
This is image was acquired 11 January 2004. Image courtesy of David Long, Brigham Young University.