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.
Comiso, J. 2000, updated 2015. Bootstrap Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS. Version 2. [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA: NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
NIMBUS-7, DMSP-F8, -F11, -F13, -F17
North and south polar regions
26 October 1978 – 31 December 2014
Daily (every other day for SMMR data), monthly
Sea ice concentration
Flat binary 2-byte integer; little-endian byte order; scaled by 10
V2. See the Version History section of this document for version information.
This sea ice concentration data set was derived using measurements from the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) on the Nimbus-7 satellite and from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) sensors on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's (DMSP) -F8, -F11, and -F13 satellites. Measurements from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) aboard DMSP-F17 are also included. The data set has been generated using the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) Bootstrap Algorithm with daily varying tie-points. Daily (every other day prior to July 1987) and monthly data are available for both the north and south polar regions. Data are gridded on the SSM/I polar stereographic grid (25 x 25 km) and provided in two-byte integer format.
Users should acquire the entire Version 2 data set in order to update their time series. For more information, refer to the Version History section of this document.
Data files are stored in the original Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) flat binary two-byte integer format, use the little-endian byte order convention, and are scaled by a factor of 10. An individual image of daily or monthly averaged data constitutes a granule in the Bootstrap sea ice concentration time series.
Data are available on the FTP site in the ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/pub/DATASETS/nsidc0079_gsfc_bootstrap_seaice/ directory. Within this directory there is one main folder, final-gsfc and within the main folder there are two subfolders, north and south. Within the subfolders there is a: daily folder and monthly folder. The daily folders are further subdivided into yearly folders. Monthly files are located in the monthly directory with no further subdivision. Figure 1 shows the directory structure.
Figure 1. File Organization
This section explains the daily file naming convention used for this product with an example.
Example File Name: bt_20060901_f13_v02_n.bin
Refer to Table 1 for the valid values for the file name variables listed above.
|bt||indicates that this file was created using the bootstrap algorithm|
|SSS||=||3-character sensor name:
n07 for Nimbus-7 SMMR
f08, f11, or f13 for DMSP SSM/I sensors
f17 for the DMSP SSMIS sensor)
|VV||=||2-digit version number (for example, 02)|
n for Northern
s for Southern
|.bin||indicates that this file is in binary format|
This section explains the monthly file naming convention used for this product with an example.
Example File Name: bt_200609_f13_v02_n.bin
Refer to Table 2 for the valid values for the file name variables listed above.
|bt||indicates that this file was created using the bootstrap algorithm|
|SSS||=||3-character sensor name (n07 for Nimbus-7 SMMR; f08, f11, or f13 for DMSP SSM/I sensors; f17 for the DMSP SSMIS sensor)|
|VV||=||2-digit version number (for example, 02)|
|H||=||Hemisphere (n for Northern, s for Southern)|
|.bin||indicates that this file is in binary format|
Northern Hemisphere files are approximately 266 KB. Southern Hemisphere files are approximately 205 KB.
The entire data set is approximately 7.6 GB.
Data set coverage includes the northern and southern polar regions. For a detailed description, see the SSM/I Polar Spatial Coverage Maps section of the Polar Stereographic Projections and Grids Web site.
SSM/I and SSMIS instrument coverage is global, except for circular sectors centered over the North Pole, 311 km in radius, located poleward of 87.2°. These sectors are never measured due to orbit inclination. The 50° scan pattern provided a swath width of 780 km at the Earth's surface. The spatial resolutions at the various frequencies ranged from approximately 27 km at 37 GHz to 148 km at 6.6 GHz. For more information, see the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) description Web page. The measurement footprint size or effective field of view (FOV) varies by frequency, as shown in the following table.
|19.3 GHz||70 x 45 km|
|22.2 GHz||60 x 40 km|
|37.0 GHz>||38 x 30 km|
SMMR instrument coverage is global, except for circular sectors centered over the North Pole, approximately 611 km in radius, located poleward of 84.5°. These sectors are never measured due to orbit inclination. The 50° scan pattern provided a swath width of 780 km at the Earth's surface. The spatial resolutions at the various frequencies ranged from approximately 27 km at 37 GHz to 148 km at 6.6 GHz. For more information see the Scanning Multi-channel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) description page. The measurement footprint size varies by frequency, as shown in the following table.
|6.6 GHz||148 x 95 km|
|10.7 GHz||91 x 59 km|
|18.0 GHz||55 x 41 km|
|21.0 GHz||46 x 30 km|
|37.0 GHz||27 x 18 km|
Sea ice concentrations are provided at a resolution of 25 km.
For more information, see Polar Stereographic Projections and Grids. The grid size varies depending on the region, as shown in the following table.
Bootstrap sea ice concentration data are available for 26 October 1978 through 31 December 2014.
SMMR data were collected every other day. (The scanner operated only on alternate days, due to spacecraft power limitations). Major data gaps occurred in August 1982 (4, 8, and 16 August) and 1984 (13 through 23 August) for both polar regions. Monthly means are generated by averaging all available files for each individual month, excluding pixels of missing data. Data were interpolated where missing pixels were present so that no areas of missing data remained.
SSM/I and SSMIS data are collected daily. Ice concentrations are provided for each day of data and as monthly means. Monthly mean files are generated by averaging all available daily files for each individual month, excluding pixels of missing data. A major data gap in the SSM/I data occurs from 03 December 1987 to 13 January 1988.
The data set consists of sea ice concentration derived from gridded brightness temperatures. Sea ice concentrations range from 0 to 100 percent. Please see the Parameter Range section for more details.
Data are stored as two-byte integers representing sea ice concentration values. The sea ice concentration data values are packed into integer format by multiplying the original sea ice concentration values by 10 (divide stored value by 10 to get the percent). The sea ice concentration values range from 0 to 1000. Land is registered as 1200 and the Northern Hemisphere hole (a region of the North Pole that is not measured due to orbit inclination, see the Spatial Coverage section) is registered as 1100.
The following is a sample data record from the Northern Hemisphere monthly data.
837 887 924 971 971 992 980 975 974 964 980 965 936 972 968 986
982 987 978 984 988 965 980 972 981 985 992 988 989 983 993 986
985 984 982 983 982 981 974 990 982 983 978 977 983 987 981 992
985 979 978 982 981 969 966 972 977 984 973 976 980 970 972 977
980 984 980 982 977 973 973 969 968 972 980 951 887 877 928 936
1200 1200 1200 969 1200 951 956 980 980 980 975 982 982 961 937 863
791 710 706 706 678
Sensitivity analysis of potential errors associated with the retrieval of sea ice products has been discussed previously (for example see Comiso et al. 1997 and other references associated with the NASA Team Algorithm sea ice products). Sea ice concentration errors are difficult to quantify because sea ice is an evolving ice cover and does not have uniform physical and radiative characteristics throughout the ice pack. The emissivity of sea ice is known to change as the ice cover develops from grease ice to nilas, pancake to young ice, or first year ice to multiyear ice (for definitions of these types of ice, see the NSIDC glossary page). The line AD in the scatter plot that provides the sea ice tie-point in the Bootstrap Algorithm corresponds to 100 percent ice for the relatively thick ice types such as first year or multiyear ice. Areas with 100 percent of thinner ice types are often estimated to have ice concentrations as low as 80 percent due to lower emissivities (Comiso et al. 1992). In the summer, retrievals in the Arctic could have biases caused by meltponding effects (Comiso and Kwok 1996).
Inside the ice pack, observations from helicopter and aircraft flights typically show very high sea ice concentrations with some 5 to 10 percent of the leads covered by nilas or pancake ice. The frequency distribution of sea ice concentration in highly consolidated ice areas has a standard deviation of about 3 percent, which includes sea ice cover with concentrations of less than 100 percent. Overall, retrieval accuracy is estimated to be approximately 5 to 10 percent except in some unusual cases, such as the presence of a large fraction of thin ice or meltponding within the pixel and the presence of stormy weather conditions, especially near the ice edge. Limited comparative analysis with high resolution instruments and other measurements confirm this, but more extensive validation in a greater number of places over all of the seasons would provide more accurate error assessments.
Although most bad data are easily identifiable and removed with little ambiguity, human judgments must be made and applied consistently to the time series data. While efforts were made to minimize errors in judgment and inconsistencies, the resulting data set is not perfect. Nevertheless, the data provider feels that these maps are suitable for some types of research studies, such as basin-scale trend analysis, model inputs, and some regional studies. They are less useful in evaluating conditions on a specific day in a localized region.
NSIDC staff visually checked the entire set of data files, including file structure, comparisons to existing SMMR- and SSM/I-derived sea ice concentration grids, and information files and examination of data quality.
Please note that in this document, a large fraction of the text was supplied by the data set provider. It may include qualitative judgments and statements by the provider and does not necessarily represent endorsements or imply that independent assessments have been performed by NSIDC staff.
Basic limitations arise from the sensor resolution, temporal coverage, and algorithm assumptions and characteristics. Users should review the information provided on fields of view, temporal sampling, and algorithm characteristics.
Particular care is needed in interpreting the sea ice concentrations during summer when melt is underway and in regions where new sea ice makes up a substantial part of the sea ice cover. As noted, some residual errors remain due to sensor differences and to weather effects along with mixing of ocean and land area within the sensor field of view.
No data coverage is available for regions poleward of 84.5° N for SMMR and 87.2° N for SSM/I or SSMIS due to the inclination of the orbits. SMMR data were acquired every other day, while SSM/I data were acquired daily. SSMIS data are also acquired daily.
Data are available via FTP.
Fortran tools are provided which extract the sea ice concentration files and geolocate the data. Sample Fortran code is provided for reading and displaying these sea ice concentration data.
Sample Interactive Data Language (IDL) commands to read and display sea ice grids and latitude/longitude grids are provided via the IDL commands text file. In addition, IDL tools to extract the sea ice concentration files and geolocate the data, as well as masking tools that limit the influence of non-sea ice brightness temperatures, are provided.
The NSIDC DataViewer, written in IDL, is also available for use with this data set. The DataViewer is an interactive tool for viewing and displaying satellite images from select NSIDC passive microwave data sets. For more information and access to this tool, refer to the dataviewer.tar.gz section of the Polar Stereographic Data Display Tools Web page.
Table 6 lists the tools that can be used with this data set. For a comprehensive list of all polar stereographic tools, see the Polar Stereographic Data Tools Web page.
|Tool Type||Tool File Name(s)|
|mapll.for and mapxy.for|
|psn25lats_v3.dat and pss25lats_v3.dat|
|psn25lons_v3.dat and pss25lons_v3.dat|
|Pixel-Area||psn25area_v3.dat and pss25area_v3.dat|
|Land Masks||gsfc_25n.msk and gsfc_25s.msk|
|coast_25n.msk and coast_25s.msk|
|ltln_25n.msk and ltln_25s.msk|
|Region Masks||region_n.msk and region_s.msk|
Satellite passive microwave sensors provide global radiance measurements that may be used to map, monitor, and study Arctic and Antarctic polar sea ice. The microwave data used for this sea ice concentration data set spans over 25 years, starting with the launch of the SMMR instrument on NASA's Nimbus-7 in 1978 and continuing with the DMSP SSM/I series beginning in 1987.
Sea ice concentrations are generated using brightness temperatures (Tbs) derived from SMMR and SSM/I radiances. The goal in the creation of the data set is to produce a long-term, consistent data set in which sea ice extent and area differences between the sensors are reduced that could serve as a baseline for future measurements. The Bootstrap data set provides improved consistency between sensors and enhanced removal of weather and land contamination.
The Bootstrap data set includes gridded daily and monthly averaged sea ice concentrations (every-other-day for the SMMR data) for both the north and south polar regions beginning 26 October 1978 through the most current processing.
Algorithms designed to estimate sea ice concentration using passive microwave data frequently do not work well over open ocean. When applied, instead of predicting the expected zero value, the algorithms predict sea ice concentration values as high as 35 percent, particularly in regions with excessive winds and stormy weather. A climatological sea surface temperature mask was applied to remove pixels from regions where the ocean surface is above freezing. Also, land contamination (false ice along the coast due to pixels containing a mixture of land and ocean) were removed using a filter adapted from Cho et al. (1996). Even with these quality-control measures, some residual sea ice concentrations remain in the open ocean and along the coast.
The SMMR and SSM/I instruments are dual-polarized and multi-frequency microwave radiometers that sense emitted microwave radiation at an incidence angle of about 53° and an altitude of about 800 km. At microwave frequencies, the observed radiance varies linearly with the temperature of the emitting material, according to the Rayleigh-Jeans law, and is usually expressed in terms of brightness temperature. The constant of proportionality in the linear relationship is the emissivity, which provides information about the electrical and physical properties of the material itself. The observed brightness temperatures come primarily from the Earth's surface with some contributions from the atmosphere and outer space. Depending on frequency and polarization, the brightness temperature is affected by changing surface, subsurface, and atmospheric conditions. The multichannel capability allows for the discrimination of different surfaces and atmospheric effects and allows for the development of algorithms that provide a range of geophysical information about the surface.
Please refer to the following documents for details on sensors and platforms:
Four sets of satellite data are used to create the Bootstrap sea ice data stream:
Sea ice concentrations were processed by GSFC using SMMR brightness temperatures. The SMMR brightness temperatures were processed and quality checked at GSFC (Gloersen et al. 1992).
Bootstrap sea ice concentrations were processed at GSFC using DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Brightness Temperatures from NSIDC. Processing of DMSP-F17 brightness temperatures is ongoing. For more information on the brightness temperatures, see the DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Brightness Temperatures documentation.
Sea ice concentrations for this data set were derived from a revised Bootstrap algorithm which uses a different set of tie-points and adjustments. For algorithm background, please see the Enhanced Sea Ice Concentrations from Passive Microwave Data document (Comiso and Nishio 2008).
With Version 2 of the data set (released September 2007), adjustments were made to the tie-points to make the ongoing SMMR-SSM/I time series consistent with the AMSR-E Bootstrap algorithm product (see Enhanced Sea Ice Concentrations from Passive Microwave Data for further information). In addition to the inter-calibration of the SMMR-SSM/I with AMSR-E, the algorithm was adjusted in the Antarctic to remove negative bins of a few percent ice concentration. Other minor changes were also made for Version 2. Full documentation of the Version 2 data is available in the Enhanced Sea Ice Concentrations from Passive Microwave Data document. Users should thoroughly examine the Version 2 documentation before using the data.
Data were interpolated in areas with missing pixels according to the following steps. First, data were spatially interpolated only for isolated empty pixels. An empty pixel was replaced by the average of four good surrounding pixels, or if four good pixels were not available, then a smaller number of pixels was selected. Second, a time interpolation was applied to the spatially interpolated map. Time interpolation was based on a weighting scheme; the closer the good data were in time, the higher the weighted value. For each empty pixel, the algorithm searched forward in time for a good pixel, and backward in time for a second good pixel. The algorithm determined how many days ahead and behind the two good pixels occurred and calculated the weight of each pixel. A weighted average of the two good pixels was then calculated, and the result was used for the empty pixel. During the SSM/I period, most temporal interpolations were conducted using only adjacent days. During the SMMR period, particularly in 1986 when larger gaps were present, temporal interpolations had separations of more days.
Table 7 outlines the processing and algorithm history for this product.
|V2.1||May 2015||Updated the date through 31 December 2014.|
|V2||September 2007||Changes to this version include:
Important: Because Version 2 is inter-calibrated with AMSR-E, it is not compatible with Version 1 of this data set. Users should acquire the entire Version 2 data set in order to update their time series. This product is also not consistent with the NSIDC-produced Bootstrap Product, the DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Brightness Temperatures. For further information on Version 2 data processing, see Enhanced Sea Ice Concentrations from Passive Microwave Data.
|V1||January 1996||Original version of data. For information on the Version 1 data processing, see the Bootstrap Sea Ice Concentrations Version 1 Processing Steps Web page.|
Cho, K., N. Sasaki, H. Shimoda, T. Sakata, and F. Nishio. 1996. Evaluation and Improvement of SSM/I Sea Ice Concentration Algorithms for the Sea of Okhotsk. Journal Remote Sensing of Japan 16(2):47-58.
Comiso, J. C., and F. Nishio. 2008. Trends in the Sea Ice Cover Using Enhanced and Compatible AMSR-E, SSM/I, and SMMR Data. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, C02S07, doi:10.1029/2007JC0043257.
Comiso, J. C., D. Cavalieri, C. Parkinson, and P. Gloersen. 1997. Passive Microwave Algorithms for Sea Ice Concentrations: A Comparison of Two Techniques. Remote Sensing of the Environment 60(3):357-84.
Comiso, J. C. 1995. SSM/I Concentrations Using the Bootstrap Algorithm. NASA Reference Publication 1380. 40 pages.
Comiso, J. C, T. C. Grenfell, M. Lange, A. Lohanick, R. Moore, and P. Wadhams. 1992. Microwave Remote Sensing of the Southern Ocean Ice Cover. Microwave Remote Sensing of Sea Ice, ed. Frank Carsey. Washington D.C.: American Geophysical Union. 243-59.
Comiso, J. C. and C. W. Sullivan. 1986. Satellite Microwave and In-Situ Observations of the Weddell Sea ice Cover and its Marginal Ice Zone. Journal of Geophysical Research 91(C8):9,663-81.
Comiso, J. C. 1984. Characteristics of Winter Sea Ice from Satellite Multispectral Microwave Observations. Journal of Geophysical Research 91(C1):975-94.
Comiso, J. C., S. F. Ackley, and A. L. Gordon. 1984. Antarctic Sea Ice Microwave Signature and Their Correlation with In-Situ Ice Observations. Journal of Geophysical Research 89(C1):662-72.
Gloersen P., W. Campbell, D. Cavalieri, J. Comiso, C. Parkinson, H. J. Zwally. 1992. Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice, 1978-1987: Satellite Passive Microwave Observations and Analysis. NASA Special Publication 511.
National Snow and Ice Data Center. 1992. DMSP SSM/I Brightness Temperature and Sea Ice Concentration Grids for the Polar Regions on CD-ROM - User's Guide. NSIDC Special Report - 1. 222 pp.
Parkinson, C. L., J. C. Comiso, H. J. Zwally, D. J. Cavalieri, P. Gloersen, and W. J. Campbell. 1987. Arctic Sea Ice 1973-1976 from Satellite Passive Microwave Observations. NASA Special Publication 489.
Pearson, F. 1990. Map Projections: Theory and Applications. Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press. 372 pages.
Snyder, J. P. 1987. Map Projections - A Working Manual. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1395. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Government Printing Office. 383 pages.
Snyder, J. P. 1982. Map Projections used by the U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1532.
Zwally, H. J., J. C. Comiso, C. L. Parkinson, W. J. Campbell, F. D. Carsey, and P. Gloersen. 1983. Antarctic Sea Ice 1973-1976 from Satellite Passive Microwave Observations. NASA Special Publication 459.
The following related documents are available on the NSIDC Web site:
|Enhanced Sea Ice Concentrations from Passive Microwave Data||Bootstrap algorithm description||http://nsidc.org/data/docs/daac/nsidc0079_bootstrap_seaice/docs/Bootstrap_Algorithm_Revised07.pdf|
|Polar Stereographic Projections and Grids||Grid description||http://nsidc.org/data/grids/ps_grid.html|
|Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I)||SSM/I instrument description||http://nsidc.org/data/docs/daac/ssmi_instrument.gd.html|
|Scanning Multi-channel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR)||SMMR instrument description||http://nsidc.org/data/docs/daac/smmr_instrument.gd.html|
|Bootstrap Sea Ice Concentrations Version 1 Processing Steps||Version 1 processing description||http://nsidc.org/data/docs/daac/nsidc0079_bootstrap_seaice/processing_steps_V1.html|
Josefino C. Comiso
Oceans and Ice Branch, Code 971
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771 USA
NSIDC User Services
National Snow and Ice Data Center
CIRES, 449 UCB
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449 USA
phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services
The following acronyms and abbreviations are used in this document.
|AMSR-E||Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System|
|DMSP||Defense Meteorological Satellite Program|
|FTP||File Transfer Protocol|
|GSFC||Goddard Space Flight Center|
|IDL||Interactive Data Language|
|NASA||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|NSIDC||National Snow and Ice Data Center|
|SMMR||Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer|
|SSM/I||Special Sensor Microwave Imager|
|SSMIS||Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder|
|URL||Uniform Resource Locator|