IceBridge UAF Lidar Scanner L1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets

This data set contains contains scanning laser altimetry data points of Alaska Glaciers acquired using the airborne University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Glacier Lidar system. The data were collected as part of NASA Operation IceBridge funded 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

We kindly request that you cite the use of this data set in a publication using the following citation. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Larsen, Chris. 2010, updated 2015. IceBridge UAF Lidar Scanner L1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets, [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA: NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.



DeHavilland Otter DHC-3


UAF Glacier Lidar system

Spatial Coverage


Spatial Resolution

Approximately 20 cm

Temporal Coverage

19 August 2009 to present

Temporal Resolution




Data Format

LAS 1.2 sequential binary (.las)
XML (.xml)

Metadata Access

View Metadata Record

Get Data


1. Contacts and Acknowledgments

Investigator(s) Name and Title

Chris Larsen
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska Fairbanks
903 Koyukuk Drive
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, 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


This program has been supported by grants from NASA, NOAA and NSF. Current support comes from NSF Arctic Natural Sciences grant ARC-0612537 and from NASA's Operation Ice Bridge, Earth Science Project Office, Grant NNX09AP54G.

2. Detailed Data Description


The UAF Lidar Scanner Level-1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets data files are in LAS 1.2 sequential binary format. The LAS file format is a public file format for the interchange of 3-dimensional point cloud data between data users (ASPRS Standards Committee LASer (LAS) File Format Exchange Activities).

Each data file is paired with an associated XML file. XML files contain file level metadata and location, platform, and campaign information.

File and Directory Structure

Data are available on the FTP site in the directory. This directory is organized by date, for example /2009.08.19/ to /2014.08.23/. Folders contain LAS sequential binary files and XML files.

File Naming Convention

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



Table 1. File Naming Convention
Variable Description
ILAKS1B Short name for IceBridge UAF Lidar Scanner L1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets
YYYY Four-digit year of data collection
NNN Day of Year of acquisition
AAAA Glacier name
.xxxIndicates file type. For example: LAS 1.2 file (.las) or XML (.xml)

File Size

Data files range from approximately 1.3 MB to 2 GB.

XML files range from approximately 4 KB to 64 KB.


The total data set volume is approximately 154 GB.

Spatial Coverage

Spatial coverage for the IceBridge UAF Lidar Scanner Level-1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets campaigns:

Southernmost Latitude: 55° N
Northernmost Latitude: 72° N
Westernmost Longitude: 156° W
Easternmost Longitude: 130° W

Spatial Resolution

The footprint on the ground of the laser shot points is on the order of 20 cm in diameter. Average spacing along path and perpendicular to the flight path is roughly 1 meter by 1 meter, subject to Height Above Ground (HAG) flown and attitude of the aircraft. Preferred HAG is 500 to 600 m. Optimal conditions result in a swath 500 to 600 m wide with 1 meter by 1 meter density.

Projection and Grid Description

The data are provided with Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) eastings and northings. Easting and northing values are in UTM zones 6, 7, and 8. Geoid values are not included.

Temporal Coverage

These data were collected as part of NASA Operation IceBridge funded campaigns from 19 August 2009 to the present.

Temporal Resolution

IceBridge campaigns are conducted on an annual repeating basis. Alaska campaigns are conducted during May, June, July, August, and September.

Parameter or Variable

The UAF Lidar Scanner Level-1B Geolocated Surface Elevation Triplets data set contains elevation measurements with UTM easting and northing.

Parameter Description

Parameters contained in UAF Lidar Scanner Level-1B data files are described in Table 2. Column numbers 1 to 3 in Table 3 represent columns left-to-right in the data. Columns are not numbered in the data files.

Table 2. Parameter Description and Units
Column Description Units
1 UTM Easting Meters
2 UTM Northing Meters
3 Elevation (Height Above Ellipsoid (HAE)) Meters

3. Data Access and Tools

Get Data

Data are available via FTP.

Software and Tools

LAS files can be opened using tools available from the ASPRS Lidar Data Translation Toolset Web site. See also the LAStools Web page for various tools for converting, filtering, viewing, processing, and compressing LAS format lidar data.

4. Data Acquisition and Processing

The UAF altimetry data are comprised of a series of point measurements on the surface of glaciers recorded from an aircraft. Each point is derived from a pulsed laser range measurement combined with aircraft Global Positioning System Inertial Measurement Unit (GPS/IMU) positioning and orientation measurements. The footprint on the ground of the laser shot points is on the order of 20 cm in diameter. Coordinates and elevation for each point are referenced in the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF00) and are accurate to within +/- 30 cm. Longitude/Latitude values are derived by projecting the ITRF coordinates into WGS 84. Easting and northing values are in UTM zones 6, 7, and 8. All vertical data are in HAE.

Data Acquisition Methods

The GPS records the position of the aircraft every second as it flies over a glacier. The laser continually measures the distance between the aircraft and the glacier surface, and the gyroscope measures the direction the laser is pointing.

The Riegl scanner has a 60 degree beam sweep, range up to 650 m, and measures 20,000 data points per second. The IMU measures the aircraft attitude (pitch, roll, yaw, and rates about those axes) and several other measurements, all at 100 times per second. The Trimble GPS records raw, dual frequency data which is post-processed after the survey against similar data recorded at a fixed GPS base station to provide precise positioning of the aircraft. At typical aircraft speeds and heights data are collected on a roughly 1 meter by 1 meter grid along a 500 meter wide swath (UAF Glacier Lidar System Web page).

Derivation Techniques and Algorithms

Processing Steps

The following processing steps are performed by the data provider.

  1. All GPS processing of the aircraft position uses L1 frequency 1575.42 MHz and L2 frequency 1227.6 MHz data recorded at 5 Hz, processed with the TRACK GPS differential phase kinematic positioning program, a module of the GAMIT/GLOBK software programs from the Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT. For further information on TRACK, see
  2. GPS base station coordinates are found using Online Positioning User Service (OPUS). For further information on OPUS, see The kinematic processing and the laser shot point coordinates are referenced to these base station coordinates.

Version History

On 21 September 2012, the 2009 and 2010 data were replaced with V01.1 reprocessed data. The reprocessing involved:

  1. Identifying and correcting infrequent timing shifts wherein the laser scanner data and IMU/GPS data were misaligned by 1 or 2 integer seconds. This only concerned a small handful of files, but the effect can introduce errors on the order of 10's to 100's of meters in horizontal and vertical coordinates of the point cloud data.
  2. Applying corrected boresight angles, that is, the small angular offsets between the IMU/GPS reference frame and the laser vector. These corrections were applied to all data. The previous, incorrect boresight angles introduced errors on the order of meters to 10's of meters in the horizontal and vertical coordinates of the point cloud data.
  3. Cleaning of spurious data points that did not represent real targets or surfaces. These appear in the previous versions of these data as random, individual points far away from the surfaces being imaged.

Sensor or Instrument Description

The UAF lidar scanner is a laser altimetry system used for measuring surface elevation changes of glaciers throughout Alaska and western Canada. The altimetry system consists of a highly accurate GPS receiver, a laser, and a gyroscope.

The main components of the UAF lidar scanner are a Riegl LMS-Q240i scanning laser altimeter, an Oxford Technical Solutions Inertial+2 inertial measurement unit, a Trimble R7 geodetic GPS receiver, and a small form factor PC for data logging.

5. References and Related Publications

Kwok, R., G. F. Cunningham, S. S. Manizade, and W. B. Krabill. 2012. Arctic sea ice freeboard from IceBridge acquisitions in 2009: Estimates and comparisons with ICESat. Journal of Geophysical Research 117: C02018. doi:10.1029/2011JC007654.

Related Data Collections

Related Web Sites

GAMIT-GLOBK, MIT Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (

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 (

NOAA OPUS: Online Positioning User Service (

UAF Glacier Lidar System Web page (

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
ASPRS American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
CIRES Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science
FTP File Transfer Protocol
GPS Global Positioning System
HAE Height Above Ellipsoid
HAG Height Above Ground
IMU Inertial Measurement Unit
ITRF International Terrestrial Reference Frame
L1B Processing Level-1B
L1 L1 is a civilian-use GPS signal broadcast on the 1575.42 MHz frequency, that currently contains the course acquisition signal used by all current GPS users. Also known as L1C.
L2 L2 is a civilian-use GPS signal broadcast on the 1227.6 MHz frequency. Also known as L2C.
LAS Laser file format for lidar point cloud data
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NSF National Science Foundation
NSIDC National Snow and Ice Data Center
UAF University of Alaska Fairbanks
URL Uniform Resource Locator
UTM Universal Transverse Mercator
WGS 84 World Geodetic System 1984

Document Creation Date

19 December 2011

Document Revision Date

08 February 2012

16 July 2012

16 December 2014

10 June 2015

Document URL