IceBridge BGM-3 Gravimeter L1B Time-Tagged Accelerations

This data set contains vertical acceleration values for Antarctica using the BGM-3 Gravimeter. The data were collected by scientists working on the the International Collaborative Exploration of the Cryosphere through Airborne Profiling (ICECAP) project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with additional support from NASA Operation IceBridge.

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

As a condition of using these data, you must cite the use of this data set using the following citation. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Blankenship, Donald D., Thomas G. Richter, Scott D. Kempf, Duncan A. Young, Martin J. Siegert, Jason L. Roberts, Tas van Ommen, and Emmanuel Le Meur. 2012, updated 2014. IceBridge BGM-3 Gravimeter L1B Time-Tagged Accelerations. [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA: NASA DAAC at NSIDC.



Basler BT-67 DC-3T


BGM-3 Gravimeter

Spatial Coverage

East Antarctica

Spatial Resolution

Not applicable to these raw instrument outputs.

Temporal Coverage

31 December 2008 to 24 December 2011

Temporal Resolution



Vertical acceleration values

Data Format

Space-delimited ASCII text (.txt)

Metadata Access

View Metadata Record

Get Data



IceBridge Portal: Tool to visualize, search, and download IceBridge data.

Reverb: NASA search and order tool for subsetting, reprojecting, and reformatting data.

1. Contacts and Acknowledgments

Investigator(s) Name and Title

Donald D. Blankenship, Thomas G. Richter, Scott D. Kempf, Duncan A. Young
University of Texas at Austin
Institute for Geophysics
Austin, TX, 78759-8500, USA

Martin J. Siegert
University of Bristol
12 Berkeley Square University Road
Clifton, Bristol
BS8 1SS England

Jason L. Roberts and Tas van Ommen
Australian Antarctic Division
Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre
Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

Emmanuel Le Meur
University of Grenoble Alpes, LGGE, UMR5183
38041 Grenoble, France

Note: Data file header contains personnel information for each transect.

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


NASA's Operation Ice Bridge (grant NNX09AR52G, contract NNG10HP06C (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), and grant NNX11AD33G) to the University of Texas at Austin. NSF's International Polar Year activities (grant ANT-0733025) to the University of Texas at Austin, the Antarctic Ecosystems and Climate Collaborative Research Center at the University of Tasmania, and the UK's NERC grant NE/D003733/1 to University of Edinburgh. See data file header for funding information for each transect.

2. Detailed Data Description


The data files are in space-delimited ASCII text format, with a header offset by # leading characters, corresponding to the NASA Aerogeophysical ASCII data standard. Each data file is paired with an associated XML file. The XML files contain location, platform, and instrument metadata.

File and Directory Structure

Data are available on the FTP site in the directory. Within this directory are folders organized by date, for example /2011.12.13/.

Data stored in the /2008.12.31/ folder were collected as part of the 2009 campaign.

File Naming Convention

The ASCII text files are named according to the following convention and as described in Table 1:



Table 1. Naming Convention
Variable Description
IGBGM1B File name prefix indicating IceBridge BGM-3 Gravimeter L1B Time-Tagged Accelerations
YYYY Four-digit year of survey
DOY Day of year of survey
AAA Geographic area
JKBnx Host platform
XXXX Geographic track line
accel Acceleration values
.xxx Indicates ASCII text file (.txt), or XML file (.xml)

File Size

The data files range from approximately 16 KB to 1.5 MB.

XML files range from approximately 10 KB to 56 KB.


The entire data set is approximately 204 MB.

Spatial Coverage

These data were primarily collected over the Wilkes Subglacial Basin and Aurora Subglacial Basin in East Antarctica.

Spatial coverage for this data set is Antarctica, represented by this extent:

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

Spatial Resolution

Not applicable to these raw instrument outputs.

Projection and Grid Description

WGS-84 ellipsoid; ITRF 2008

Temporal Coverage

These data were collected from 31 December 2008 to 24 December 2011 as part of ICECAP, NSF, NERC, and Operation IceBridge funded campaigns. Data collected in late December 2008 are part of the 2009 campaign.

Temporal Resolution

ICECAP campaigns were conducted on an annual basis. East Antarctic campaigns for this data set typically extend from November to early January.

Parameter or Variable

Parameter Description

The gravimeter L-1B time-tagged accelerations files contain fields as described in Table 2.

Table 2. File Parameter Description
Parameter Description Units
YEAR Year of survey UTC
DOY Day of Year of survey UTC
SOD Second of day UTC
SEQ Packet sequence number n/a
LON Longitude Decimal degrees WGS-84
LAT Latitude Decimal degrees WGS-84
AC-ELEVATION Aircraft elevation at CG antenna Meters WGS-84
ROLL Roll, right wing down positive Degrees
PITCH Pitch, nose up positive Degrees
HEADING Heading, w.r.t north Degrees
VERT_ACCELERATION Vertical acceleration milliGals

Sample Data Record

A sample of the data file: IGBGM1B_2010321_ICP3_JKB2b_TF014a_accel.txt is shown in Figure 1.

sample data record

Figure 1. Sample Data Record

3. Data Access and Tools

Data Access

Data are available via:



IceBridge Portal: Tool to visualize, search, and download IceBridge data.

Reverb: NASA search and order tool for subsetting, reprojecting, and reformatting data.

Software and Tools

No special tools are required for the ASCII text files.

4. Data Acquisition and Processing

Theory of Measurements

This data set has four data types:

  1. Timestamps: time in UTC
  2. Aircraft positions: geodetic location of the reference GPS antenna
  3. Aircraft attitudes: three angles to describe the aircraft orientation in reference to direction North and the local vertical.
  4. Force on a constrained vertical sensor converted to equivalent acceleration of an unconstrained mass reported as Vertical Acceleration. Vertical Acceleration is the purpose of this data set. The other fields are auxiliary data.

A sensitive accelerometer is held vertical by a 2-axis platform which counters aircraft pitch and roll. The measured force on the accelerometer is reported as the Vertical Acceleration by the device. This is the sum of gravitational force and force due to inertial accelerations in the vertical direction.

Data Acquisition Methods

The output of the gravimeter consists of accelerations measured in real time. These accelerations are recorded at a rate of 1 Hz by the external data recording system which time stamps the data as they are acquired and recorded.

Derivation Techniques and Algorithms

Raw instrument outputs are recorded with timestamps then minimally processed to convert from the native instrument output format to ASCII formatted numerical values.

Trajectory and Attitude Data

Trajectory and attitude data from GPS and an IMU external to the instrument are prepended to instrument data to create the data records in these files.

Processing Steps

The raw instrument output format is captured at 1 Hz and time stamped. The raw format is converted to ASCII numeric values and recorded. This raw numeric data consists of a value which is multiplied by a Scale Factor and added to a Bias to obtain the acceleration values in milligals, which is the value recorded in these data files. The header for each file has entries for the Scale Factor and Bias used.

The time stamps are slightly corrected by a few milliseconds to remove jitter from the acquisition system.

Version History

On 02 May, 2012, V01 2011 Antarctica data were replaced by V01.1. In V01.1, additional fields were added containing low-precision real-time position and orientation data resampled to match the times of the existing geophysical samples.

On 26 April 2013, the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Antarctica data were replaced. The format of 2009 and 2010 Antarctica data was revised to that of the 2011 Antarctica data, ensuring the time stamps are UTC year, day, and time, and adding georeferencing fields including real time position, roll, pitch and heading. For some campaigns V01.2 includes more flights than V01.1.

Error Sources

Instrumental Errors

he gravity instrumentation must be stabilized in temperature over a period of time related to the length of time it has been off and uncontrolled. For most of these data the instrument was well stabilized. For data from the 2010-11 season, the instrument had large issues with drift.

Environmental Conditions

The precise accelerations recorded by the gravimeter are subject to degradation by aircraft maneuvering, turbulence and shocks, and to a lesser extent by smooth changes in altitude. The best results are from smooth, straight, level flight as can be determined by examination of the GPS trajectory.

Quality Assessment

Quality depends on the flight conditions for each data transect and must be assessed on a flight by flight basis. Smooth flight with small trajectory changes will produce good data.

Sensor or Instrument Description

Instrument name: Bell Aerospace (now Lockheed-Martin) BGM–3 number #203.

Type: Two–axis stabilized platform scalar gravimeter.

Resolution: 1 Hz in time.

5. References and Related Publications

Description of typical field use: Richter, T. G., J. W. Holt, and D. D. Blankenship. 2001. Airborne Gravimetry Over the Antarctic Ice Sheet, International Symposium on Kinematic Systems in Geodesy, Geomatics and Navigation, (Banff), 576–585, 2001.

Description of BGM–3 gravimeter: Bell, R. E., and A. B. Watts. 1986. Evaluation of the BGM–3 Sea Gravity Meter System on Board R/V Conrad, Geophysics, 51:1480-1493.

Related Data Collections

Related Web Sites

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
BGM Bell Gravity Meter
CIRES Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science
FTP File Transfer Protocol
GPS Global Positioning System
ICECAP International Collaborative Exploration of the Cryosphere through Airborne Profiling
IMU Inertial Measurement Unit
L1B Processing Level-1B
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NERC Natural Environment Research Council
NSF National Science Foundation
NSIDC National Snow and Ice Data Center
URL Uniform Resource Locator
UTC Universal Time Code
WGS-84 World Geodetic System 1984

Document Creation Date

10 June 2014

Document Revision Date


Document URL