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IceBridge KT19 IR Surface Temperature

This data set contains surface temperature measurements of Arctic sea ice and land ice acquired using the KT19 pyrometer alongside the NASA Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) Instrument onboard the NASA P-3 aircraft. The data were collected as part of the Operation IceBridge funded survey campaigns.

Operation IceBridge products may include test flight data that are not useful for research and scientific analysis. Test flights usually occur at the beginning of campaigns. Users should read flight reports for the flights that collected any of the data they intend to use. Check IceBridge campaign Flight Reports for dates and information about test flights.

Table of Contents

  1. Contacts and Acknowledgments
  2. Detailed Data Description
  3. Data Access and Tools
  4. Data Acquisition and Processing
  5. References and Related Publications
  6. Document Information

Citing These Data

The following example shows how to cite the use of this data set in a publication. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Krabill, William, and Eric Buzay. 2012, updated 2013. IceBridge KT19 IR Surface Temperature, [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA: NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.



NASA P-3 aircraft


Heitronics KT19.85 Series II Infrared Radiation Pyrometer

Spatial Coverage

Arctic and Antarctic sea ice and land ice

Spatial Resolution

15 m diameter spot below the aircraft

Temporal Coverage

12 October 2011 to the present

Temporal Resolution



Surface temperature
Internal sensor temperature

Data Format

Comma delimited ASCII text

Metadata Access

View Metadata Record

Data Access


1. Contacts and Acknowledgments

Investigator(s) Name and Title

William Krabill
NASA/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)
Code 615
Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory
Wallops Island, VA 23337

Eric Buzay
University of North Dakota
National Suborbital Education and Research Center
4149 University Avenue Stop 9011
Grand Forks, ND
58202-9011 USA

Technical Contact

NSIDC User Services
National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449  USA
phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services


The ATM project team would like to acknowledge the dedicated NASA P-3 flight crew, whose efforts allowed the safe and efficient collection of this data over some of the most isolated and extreme regions on this planet.

2. Detailed Data Description

This data set is a result of a request from the IceBridge Sea Ice Science Team to provide infrared radiation surface temperature measurements over sea ice for flights onboard the NASA P-3 aircraft. For surface temperature measurements and other parameters from IceBridge missions onboard the NASA DC-8, see the IceBridge NSERC L1B Geolocated Meteorologic and Surface Temperature Data data set.


The KT19 data files are in ASCII text format with each row of the file corresponding to a separate measurement record.

File and Directory Structure

Each IceBridge flight has a single KT19 data file. Therefore, all the KT19 data files from a campaign will be supplied in a single campaign folder. Files describing instrument or software errors may be included separately.

Data files are organized on the FTP site,, as described in Figure 1.

directory structure

Figure 1. Directory Structure

File Naming Convention

KT19 data files are named according to the following convention and as described in Table 1.

File name example:




Table 1. File Naming Convention
Variable Description
IAKST1B Short name for IceBridge KT19 IR Surface Temperature
KT19_PROCESSED KT19 Level-1B processed data file
YYYY Four-digit year of survey
MM Two-digit month of survey
DD Two-digit day of survey
hh Two-digit hour for start of log file
mm Two-digit minute for start of log file
ss Two-digit second for start of log file
.txt Indicates ASCII text file

All dates and times included in the filenames are based on machine local-time.

File Size

KT19 data files are approximately 2 MB in size for each hour of data collected, or 16 MB for a nominal 8-hour flight.


The KT19 data set contains 1.5 GB of data.

Spatial Coverage

Spatial coverage includes Arctic sea ice and land ice, represented by the coverage noted below.

Arctic / Greenland:
Southernmost Latitude: 60° N
Northernmost Latitude: 90° N
Westernmost Longitude: 180° W
Easternmost Longitude: 180° E

Southernmost Latitude: 90° S
Northernmost Latitude: 53° S
Westernmost Longitude: 180° W
Easternmost Longitude: 180° E

Spatial Resolution

The KT19 sensor is fitted with a lens that has a two degree field of view. At 450 m above ground level, this produces an optical measurement footprint on the ground that is approximately 15 m in diameter. At a nominal aircraft speed of 125 m/sec and a sampling frequency of 10 Hz, the centers of two consecutive spots will be 12.5 m apart along the aircraft ground track.

Projection and Grid Description

The KT19 data incorporates a GPS location that is referenced to the WGS 84 datum.

Temporal Coverage

Seasonal ongoing campaigns from 12 October 2011 to the present. Note: data files for 05 and 06 March 2012 are test flights.

Temporal Resolution

IceBridge campaigns are conducted on an annual repeating basis. Arctic and Greenland campaigns are conducted during March, April, and May, and Antarctic campaigns are conducted during October and November.

KT19 surface temperature measurements are collected for every science flight in the NASA IceBridge Arctic campaigns beginning in March 2012. Currently, this comprises 43 flights from 14 March 2012 through 17 May 2012. The KT19 collects surface temperature measurements at 10 Hz for the duration of each flight.

Parameter or Variable

The KT19.85 sensor provides a measurement of the surface temperature of an object in degrees Celsius. For compensation purposes, the sensor also provides a measurement of its internal temperature, in degrees Celsius, which may vary as much as 30°C throughout the course of a flight. The surface temperature measurement provided has not had any correction applied for changes in internal temperature.

Parameter Description

Each row of the KT19 ASCII data file corresponds to a separate measurement record. The data file contains eight columns of data, with each column corresponding to a different variable describing the measurement, as shown in Table 2.

The files also contain a number of header lines, each one beginning with a # to identify it as part of the header. The header contains the settings used for acquisition (emissivity, response time, temperature units, etc.) and the last header line describes the information found in each column of the data.

Table 2. Parameter Description
Parameter Description Units
Year Year of measurement Years
Day_Of_Year Day of year of measurement Days
Seconds_Of_Day Seconds of day of measurement (UTC) Seconds
Latitude Latitude of GPS antenna Decimal degrees
Longitude Longitude of GPS antenna Decimal degrees
Aircraft_Altitude_Above_Ellipsoid Height of GPS antenna above WGS84 ellipsoid Meters
KT19_Temperature Surface temperature measured by the KT19 Degrees Celsius
KT19_Internal_Temperature KT19 instrument internal temperature Degrees Celsius

Sample Data Record

Below is a list of the header and the first ten records from data file IAKST1B_KT19_PROCESSED_20120323_195720.txt. The eight comma-separated fields in each record correspond to the parameters described in Table 2.

3. Data Access and Tools

Data Access

Data are available via FTP.

Software and Tools

The data files may be opened using any software capable of reading ASCII text data.

4. Data Acquisition and Processing

Data collection for the KT19 data takes place on a CappuccinoPC mini-PC running Ubuntu 10.4. The computer communicates with the KT19 sensor over the RS-232 interface, and communicates with a GPS-logging computer over Ethernet. The combination of these two data streams provides geo-located surface temperature measurements.

Data Acquisition Methods

The collection and logging of the KT19 data is managed by a python script called After the KT19 sensor is powered on, the script is initiated and issues initialization commands to the sensor that set the temperature units, response time, reference temperature method, and emissivity constant. After that, the script begins the data collection loop, which queries the KT19 sensor at 10 Hz for the surface temperature, and at 0.5 Hz for internal temperature. This script also communicates with a separate GPS logging machine onboard the ATM GPS rack, which is running a program called linlogger. The linlogger program broadcasts a real-time GPS message over Ethernet at 2 Hz. All of the messages returned from the KT19, as well as the real-time GPS messages, are time-stamped with machine local-time and written to a log file as they arrive.

Derivation Techniques and Algorithms

No special algorithms or techniques are used in the processing of the KT19 data set.

Processing Steps

A processing script, called, loads in all of the collected data from a flight and linearly interpolates the measurements to the frequency at which the KT19 surface measurements were collected. The interpolation uses the machine local-time stamp as the independent variable.

Error Sources

On a few flights, the KT19.85 sensor would return an empty string when queried for a temperature measurement. As soon as the operator identified this error, the data file would be closed, power would be cycled to the sensor, and a new data file started. Therefore, some flights have more than one data file.

The KT19 sensor is a nadir-viewing optical instrument, so it will measure the temperature of the first surface that appears below the aircraft. As long as no clouds are between the aircraft and the ice below, the surface measurement will correspond to the ice surface. However, if any clouds appear between the aircraft and the ice surface, then the KT19 temperature measurement will correspond to the clouds. The KT19 data set does not contain any information about the presence of clouds. A secondary data set, such as IceBridge DMS L1B Geolocated and Orthorectified Images or IceBridge CAMBOT L1B Geolocated Images, can be used to identify the objects that were measured by the KT19.

Sensor or Instrument Description

The Heitronics KT19.85 Series II pyrometer measures infrared radiation wavelengths between 9.6 and 11.5 microns. By assuming an emissivity of 0.97, a reasonable estimate for most sea and land ice, the radiation measurement can be directly converted to a measurement of the target's surface temperature. The KT19.85 model is designed for long-distance measurement of water, ice, and clouds, and has an effective measurement range from -50°C to 200°C, with a resolution of 0.01°C. The lens has a two degree field of view, which yields a 15-meter viewing footprint on the ground at 450 m above ground level. The response time of the KT19 detector is nominally set to 0.3 second to provide a good balance between measurement sensitivity and noise reduction for a measurement frequency of 10 Hz. For instrument accuracy and other instrument specifications, see

5. References and Related Publications

Related Data Collections

Related Web Sites

  • Heitronics KT19.85 Infrared Pyrometer, Wintronics Web site:(
  • IceBridge Data Web site at NSIDC (
  • IceBridge Web site at NASA (
  • ICESat/GLAS Web site at NASA Wallops Flight Facility (
  • ICESat/GLAS Web site at NSIDC (

6. Document Information

Acronyms and Abbreviations

The acronyms used in this document are listed in Table 3.

Table 3. Acronyms and Abbreviations
Acronym Description
ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange
ATM Airborne Topographic Mapper
CIRES Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science
FTP File Transfer Protocol
GPS Global Positioning System
IR Infrared
KT19 Heitronics KT19.85 Series II pyrometer
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NSIDC National Snow and Ice Data Center
L1B Level-1B processing
WGS 84 World Geodetic System 1984

Document Creation Date

01 August 2012

Document Revision Date

25 February 2013

09 April 2013

Document URL