This data set provides a near-real-time (NRT) map of sea ice concentrations for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres from the SSMIS passive microwave instrument.
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.
Maslanik, J. and J. Stroeve. 1999, updated daily. Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations. [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA: NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Defense Meteorological Satellite Platform-F17 (DMSP-F17)
|Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS)|
North and south polar regions; 25 km resolution
Most recent three to six months; daily
Sea ice concentration
One-byte flat scaled binary (preceded by a 300-byte header)
A PNG browse image is provided with each data file
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado USA
Julienne Stroeve, Ken Knowles, Walt Meier
National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
Boulder, Colorado USA
Donald J. Cavalieri
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
Greenbelt, Maryland 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
Warning: Due to the compromised data integrity with the DMSP F17 vertically polarized 37 GHz channel (37V) of the Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder (SSMIS), which is a primary channel used for sea ice development, NSIDC is halting production of the Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations F17 data and switching over to the F18 satellite, starting with 1 April 2016 data. However, NSIDC is still working on the calibration of the F18 data so temporarily the F18 data will be uncalibrated and using F17 tie points.
This Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations (NRTSI) data set provides sea ice concentrations for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The near-real-time passive microwave brightness temperature data that are used as input to this data set are acquired with the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) on board the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F18 satellite, starting with 1 April 2016 data.
The SSMIS instrument is the next generation Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) instrument. SSMIS data are received daily from the Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and are gridded onto a polar stereographic grid. Investigators generate sea ice concentrations from these data using the NASA Team algorithm.
These NRTSI data are primarily meant to provide a best estimate of current ice conditions based on information and algorithms available at the time the data are acquired. Near-real-time products are not intended for operational use in assessing sea ice conditions for navigation. In addition, the NRTSI data are processed as closely as possible to the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Passive Microwave Data, however, the NRTSI data should be used with caution in extending the GSFC sea ice time series.
The NRTSI files are stored in flat, scaled binary data with one byte per pixel. The file format consists of a 300-byte descriptive header followed by a two-dimensional array of one-byte values containing the data. See the Parameter Description section of this document for data values and scaling factor. For each data file, a corresponding browse image in PNG format is provided.
For more information about the data header, see the Format section in the documentation for the GSFC sea ice concentrations.
The NRTSI data reside on FTP in the ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/pub/DATASETS/nsidc0081_nrt_nasateam_seaice directory. Within this directory there are four folders: north, south, browse, and F18_uncalibrated. The north folder contains the data for the north polar region from the F17 satellite, the south folder contains data for the south polar region from the F17 satellite, the browse folder contains the browse images (PNG files) from the F17 satellite in two folders, one for each hemisphere, and the F18_uncalibrated folder contains the date from the F18 satellite in three folders: browse, north, and south.
Note: This new directory structure is only temporary. Once we have fully calibrated the F18 data, the F17 data will be removed and the F18 data will follow the original F17 directory sturcture.
This section explains the Browse and Data file naming convention used for this product with an example.
Generic File Name: nt_YYYYMMDD_fxx_nrt_R.ext
Example Browse File Name: nt_20150101_f17_nrt_n.png
Example Data File Name: nt_20150101_f18_nrt_n.bin
|nt||Indicates this was created with the NASA Team algorithm|
|fxx||Indicates which DMSP satellite the data came from (f17: DMSP-F17 or f18: DMSP-F18)|
|nrt||Indicates these are near-real-time data|
|R||Region (n: north; s: south)|
|.ext||File extension (.bin: binary file, .png: PNG image file)|
File size varies by region:
North: 136.5 KB
South: 105.2 KB
North and south polar regions defined by the Polar Stereographic Projections and Grids spatial coverage map. The spatial resolution is 25 km.
Data are in a polar stereographic projection. For more information on this projection, see the Polar Stereographic Projections and Grids Web page.
size varies by region:
North: 304 columns x 448 rows
South: 316 columns x 332 rows
These data are updated daily and are retained on the FTP site until the Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Passive Microwave Data become available for the same time period. Roughly the most recent three to six months of near-real-time sea ice concentration data are available.
Sea ice concentration represents an areal coverage of sea ice. For a given grid cell, the parameter provides an estimate of the fractional amount of sea ice covering that cell, with the remainder of the area consisting of open ocean.
The sea ice concentration floating-point values (fractional coverage ranging from 0.0 to 1.0) are multiplied by a scaling factor of 250. To convert to the fractional range of 0.0 to 1.0, divide the scaled data in the file by 250. To convert to percentage values, divide the scaled data in the file by 2.5. Data files may contain integers from 0 to 255, as described in Table 2.
|0 - 250||Sea ice concentration (fractional coverage scaled by 250)|
|251||Circular mask used in the Arctic to cover the irregularly-shaped data gap around the pole (caused by the orbit inclination and instrument swath)|
Figure 1. Browse image for 01 March 2014.
Data are available via FTP.
Software and tools for reading and displaying the files are located in the tools directory on the FTP site and descriptions of the tools can be found on the Polar Stereographic Data Tools Web page. Software includes IDL and Matlab routines to ingest and read these NRT sea ice concentration data. Table 3 lists the tools that can be used with this data set.
|Tool Type||Tool File Name(s) or Description|
|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|
The SSMIS instrument is a microwave radiometer that senses emitted microwave radiation from the Earth's surface. This radiation is affected by surface and atmospheric conditions, and thus provides a range of geophysical information including sea ice concentration.
The input data for the NRTSI product are the Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Brightness Temperatures. These near-real-time SSMIS gridded brightness temperature data are computed daily by NSIDC from swath brightness temperatures obtained from the Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The input Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Brightness Temperatures are gridded onto the NSIDC polar stereographic grid. NSIDC generates sea ice concentrations from these brightness temperature data using the NASA Team Sea Ice Algorithm. The NRTSI data processing is as close as possible to that used for the Goddard Space Flight Center Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I Passive Microwave Data (GSFC data set). These data are updated daily and are retained on the FTP site until the GSFC data set becomes available for the same time period. Roughly the most recent three to six months of near-real-time sea ice concentration data are available.
SSMIS data from the DMSP-F18 satellite are used in the current near-real-time product. The near-real-time data are intended to facilitate time-sensitive research dependent upon precise detection of seasonal polar sea ice formation and break up and to provide the product within one to two days following data acquisition. These data are primarily meant to provide a best estimate of current ice conditions based on information and algorithms available at the time the data are acquired. Note: Near-real-time products are not intended for operational use in assessing sea ice conditions for navigation and should be used with caution in extending the GSFC sea ice time series. For historical SMMR, SSM/I, and SSMIS sea ice concentration data, please see GSFC data set.
The NRTSI data are created using the following general steps:
A number of masks are applied to the input brightness temperature data to make the land area consistent with other sea ice concentration data sets, to remove spurious ice, and to remove the section of Earth not imaged by the sensor over the North Pole. The sections below explain the masks applied to these data during the processing of this product at NSIDC.
Weather effects can cause the passive microwave signature of seawater to appear like that of ice (Cavalieri 1995). Atmospheric water vapor is often the reason behind false ice detection. Most of these false ice signatures are removed with a standard brightness temperature filter, but some are too close to those of real ice. Sea surface temperature (SST) fields that show where water is usually too warm for ice, maximum ice extent fields that show where ice has never been before (in the satellite record), or sea ice climatologies can be used to mask out spurious ice resulting from residual weather effects.
For the Northern Hemisphere, spurious sea ice caused by residual weather effects are removed by applying Polar Stereographic Valid Ice Masks Derived from National Ice Center Monthly Sea Ice Climatologies. The masks have the additional benefit of removing some of the false ice detections that can occur along coasts. No extra manual removal of false ice is done as is done in the GSFC data set. Note: Prior to January 2015, the Northern Hemisphere was masked with the climatology based on the SST masks from AMSR-E. See the Version History section of this document for more information on why these new masks are being applied.
For the Southern Hemisphere, spurious ice caused by residual weather effects are removed by applying a valid ice mask derived from maximum ice climatology masks based on SST masks from AMSR-E data.
The SSMIS Pole Hole mask (gsfc_pole_hole.N17) is a circular mask that symmetrically covers the observed maximum extent of the missing data resulting from the orbit inclination and instrument swath near the North Pole. For SSMIS, the hole is 94 km in radius and is located poleward of 89.18° N with an area of 0.029 million km2. This area is masked out to provide the smallest, most consistent missing area we can create from satellite swath data which has a jagged, irregular coverage around the North Pole. See the Version History section of this document for information on the different pole hole masks that have been used for this product.
Ice can be falsely detected along coasts due to contamination of ocean pixels by the passive microwave emission of land. While the nominal grid cell size of the gridded products is 25 km x 25 km, the -3dB footprint of the 19.35 GHz SSM/I and SSMIS passive microwave channel is 72 km x 44 km (Kunkee et al 2008). To remove spurious Northern Hemisphere coastal ice, the NRTSI product processing uses the land spillover correction used in the GSFC data set that is described in NASA Technical Memorandum 104647 (Cavalieri et al, 1997) and in the Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SSMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Passive Microwave Data guide document. The rational behind this land spillover approach is that ice will have retreated from most coasts in late summer, so that coastal ice observed at this time by passive microwave instruments is probably a false detection. To reduce the chance of removing ice where it really does exist, the method searches for and requires the presence of open water in the vicinity of the grid cell to be corrected. The method uses the monthly data from 1992 as a basis for correcting SSMIS data.
This NRTSI data set is created using brightness temperature data from CLASS in order to provide the product within one to two days following data acquisition.
Additionally, these NRTSI data may:
Through time, the sensor used for this data set has changed from SSM/I on the DMSP F13 and F15 to the SSMIS on the DMSP F17. To correct for the sensor differences, NSIDC conducted preliminary inter-calibration between F13 and F15 using an overlap period of 01 January 2007 to 31 December 2007. These data should retain reasonable consistency, though differences of approximately 50,000 sq km may be possible in daily total extents. For the latest transition to F17 SSMIS data, NSIDC has conducted preliminary inter-calibration between F13 and F17 using an overlap period of 01 April 2008 to 31 March 2009. A direct intercomparison of the year of daily sea ice extent (F13-F17) yielded an average daily difference of approximately 2800 sq km with an average magnitude of difference of approximately 28,000 sq km.
The SSMIS sensor is a conically-scanning passive microwave radiometer that harnesses the imaging and sounding capabilities of three previous DMSP microwave sensors, including the SSMI, the SSM/T-1 temperature sounder, and the SSMI/T-2 moisture sounder. The SSMIS sensor measures microwave energy at 24 frequencies from 19 to 183 GHz with a swath width of 1700 km. Please refer to the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) Web page for more details. For a detailed platform description, refer to the DMSP Satellite F17 Web page.
Table 4 provides a summary of the version history of this product.
|Version||Release Date||Description of Changes|
Version 1.1 Summary:
|v1.0||1999||Initial release of this data product|
In March 2015, NSIDC decided to begin using the SSMIS pole hole mask instead of the SSM/I pole hole mask because the SSMIS pole hole mask is 10 times smaller than the SSM/I one. For SSM/I, the pole hole is 311 km in radius and is located poleward of 87.2° N with an area of 0.31 million km2. In comparison, for SSMIS, the hole is 94 km in radius and is located poleward of 89.18° with an area of only 0.029 million km2.
With declining Arctic sea ice, the SSM/I pole hole may be covering areas where ice is now retreating. The smaller pole hole is less likely to mask these areas of retreat.
In January 2015, NSIDC also decided to change the residual weather climatology mask being applied to the northern portion of this data set. This was done for a number of reasons:
Note: All v1.0 data that was available in 2015 was reprocessed to v1.1 in March 2015.
The DMSP-F13 satellite that has been central to our sea ice products for the past several years is nearing the end of its mission and is no longer a reliable resource for our sea ice products. As is standard data practice, we have transitioned to a newer sensor. As of 02 June 2009, NSIDC has switched its SSM/I processing stream from the DMSP-F13 satellite to SSMIS data from the DMSP-F17 satellite.
One year earlier, on 02 June 2008, NSIDC switched its SSM/I processing stream from the DMSP-F13 satellite to the DMSP-F15 satellite due to a failing recorder on F13. For continuity, F15 data were acquired and processed from 01 January 2008 until 25 February 2009. On 16 February 2009, however, NSIDC switched its SSM/I processing stream back to the DMSP-F13 satellite due to an issue with the DMSP-F15 SSM/I 22 GHz frequency brightness temperature fields. NSIDC continued to produce the F13 products until further degradation of the SSM/I instrument on 11 May 2009.
Regarding the F13 and F15 data, you should be aware of the following differences in the satellite data:
Cavalieri, D. J., C. I. Parkinson, P. Gloersen, and H. J. Zwally. 1997. Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Concentrations from Multichannel Passive-Microwave Satellite Data Sets: October 1978 to December 1996, User's Guide. NASA Technical Memorandum 104647. 17 pages.
Kunkee, D. B., G. A. Poe, D. J. Boucher, S. D. Swadley, J. E. Wessel, E. A. Uliana. 2008. Design and Evaluation of the First Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 46(4): 863-883.
The acronyms used in this document are listed in Table 5.
|ANSI||American National Standards Institute|
|ASCII||American Standard Code for Information Interchange|
|DMSP||Defense Meteorological Satellite Program|
|FTP||File Transfer Protocol|
|GHRC||Global Hydrology Resource Center|
|GSFC||Goddard Space Flight Center|
|MSFC||Marshall Space Flight Center|
|NASA||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|NRTSI||Near-Real-Time Sea Ice concentration|
|NSIDC||National Snow and Ice Data Center|
|PNG||Portable Network Graphics|
|SMMR||Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer|
|SSM/I||Special Sensor Microwave/Imager|
|SSMIS||Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder|
|URL||Uniform Resource Locater|