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The International Ice Patrol (IIP) has been collecting information on iceberg activity in the North Atlantic since 1913. This database contains the data from these sightings from 1960 through most current processing.
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.
International Ice Patrol. 1995, updated 2016. International Ice Patrol (IIP) Iceberg Sightings Database. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology. http://dx.doi.org/10.7265/N56Q1V5R
Iceberg size class
The North Atlantic prior to 2006: 40° N to 52° N, 39° W to 57° W
1960 to 2015
The IIP data files include latitude and longitude of sighted icebergs, coded iceberg size and shape class, and date and time of the sighting. The IIP area of responsibility is 40° N to 65° N and 39° W to 57° W. Note, the IIP area of responsibility prior to 2006 was 40° N to 52° N and 39° W to 57° W. The data set begins in 1960, and files are in space-delimited ASCII text files.
Ships transiting between Europe and east coast ports of Canada and the US traverse a great circle route that brings them into the vicinity of icebergs carried south by the cold Labrador Current near the Grand Banks. It was here that the R.M.S. Titanic sank in 1912, after it struck an iceberg. This disaster resulted in the loss of 1517 lives and led directly to the founding of the IIP in 1914. The mission of the IIP is to monitor iceberg danger near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and provide the limits of all known ice to the maritime community. The IIP does this by sighting icebergs, primarily through airborne Coast Guard reconnaissance missions; plotting and predicting iceberg drift using a model; and every 12 hours during the ice season, estimating the limit of all known ice. This limit, along with a few of the more critical predicted iceberg locations, is broadcast by radio stations and made available online as an Ice Bulletin. Twice daily, a radio facsimile chart of the area, depicting the limits of all known ice, is broadcast. The IIP broadcasts its products during the time of year that icebergs threaten shipping. This varies, but usually begins in February and ends in July.
NSIDC archives these data for the IIP. Other products, including a scientific bibliography and iceberg limit climatology, are available on the IIP Web site.
In 2010, a data user had questions about the data. NSIDC contacted B. Lis at the IIP for answers. For the convenience of other users, we are including the questions and answers here. (provided by B. Lis, IIP, Jan 2010)
Is there a way to track an iceberg from one year to the next? Each year's data re-numbers icebergs starting from 1.
The icebergs that IIP tracks near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland do not last to the next year; they melt due to the warmer waters of the North Atlantic current, the warmer air temperatures of spring and summer, and destructive wave action over time.
Can you give me a hint, pointer, heuristic, or something that would allow me to: (a) estimate volume in cubic meters from your general size descriptors and (b) estimate volume below the surface versus above the surface?
The iceberg size and shape information in the IIP iceberg-sighting database is very coarse and not useful for accurate calculation of the submerged shape or mass of an iceberg. For a discussion of iceberg size and shape, see the paper Determination of Iceberg Draft, Mass and Cross-Sectional Areas (Barker, Sayed, and Carrieres 2004).
There are several other reports on iceberg size and shape at the National Research Council Canada (NRCC) Canadian East Coast Ice Engineering Issues web site.
In addition to visual observations from ships and aircraft, the IIP makes use of information from drifting buoys, radar, and side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) as well as model output. In 2006, the IIP began synchronizing its database with the Canadian Ice Center's (CIS) iceberg database so that it contains icebergs seen and tracked by CIS as well as by the IIP. This accounts for an increase in icebergs to 65 degrees N beginning in 2006 in this data set. (Greg Wright, IIP, personal communication 8 Nov. 2006). Over the period of record, the IIP's seasonal iceberg database has changed format several times. These format changes have included the addition and/or deletion of varying fields. Each format is described in the Format section below.
The IIP database is provided in space-delimited ASCII text format with slight variations in the formatting of these files for five different time periods:
As of October 2014, work is currently being done to bring all files into Format A for easier use.
These data are provided in space-delimited ASCII text format. The columns of the data files are described in Table 1.
|1||Sighting Database Number||Numbers are repeated when an iceberg is "resighted" to a new position.
Numbers are in the range 2 to NNNN and 20001 to NNNNN.
Numbers are not always sequential by date.
|2||Sighting Date||MM/DD/YYYY where MM: 2-digit month, DD: 2-digit day of month, YYYY: 4-digit year|
|3||Sighting Time||HHmm where HH: 2-digit hour, mm: 2-digit minute|
|4||Latitude||Latitude in decimal degrees North|
|5||Longitude||Longitude in decimal degrees West|
Method used to make the iceberg sighting (RAD: radar, R/V: radar/visual, VIS: visual, SAT-HIGH:satellite high-confidence, SAT-LOW: satellite low-confidence)
|7||Iceberg Size||Size of the iceberg sighted (GR: growler, BB: bergy bit, SM: small, MED: medium, LG: large, VLG: very large, RAD: radar berg/undetermined size). For a description of these sizes, see Canadian Ice Service (2005) page 2-16, Figure 2.3.
|8||Iceberg Shape||Shape of the iceberg sighted (TAB: tabular, NTB: nontabular, BLK: blocky, DD: dry dock, DOM: domed, GEN: general, PIN: pinnacled, RAD: radar berg/undermined shape, WDG: wedge). For a description of these shapes, see Canadian Ice Service (2005) page 2-17, Figure 2.4.
|9||Reporting Source||4-character call sign or abbreviation of the source that reported the iceberg sighting. See Table 2 for a list of these.|
|Reporting Source Abbreviation||Reporting Source Name|
|15xx, 17xx, 20xx||US Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft|
|CGxx||Canadian Coast Guard asset|
|Gxxx||Canadian aircraft (commercial or government)|
|9HA3||Merchant ship call sign|
|C6TN||Merchant ship call sign|
|OOCL||Merchant ship call sign|
|VRVQ||Merchant ship call sign|
|1||The iceberg number for that sighting, re-sighting, or deletion.|
|2||The calendar date of that sighting, re-sighting, or deletion.|
|3||The Julian date of that sighting, re-sighting, or deletion.|
|4||The time of that sighting, re-sighting, or deletion.|
|5||The latitude (North) of the sighting, re-sighting, or deletion.|
|6||The longitude (negative sign means W) of the sighting, re- sighting, or deletion.|
|7||The confidence level or means of sighting of the iceberg (VIS=visible, RAD=radar, and R/V=both radar and visible).|
|8||The sighted size of the iceberg (code in Table 4a).|
|9||The sighted shape of the iceberg (code in Table 4b).|
|10||The mobility of the iceberg when sighted (DFT=drifting, GND=grounded, and TOW=under tow).|
|11||The sighting source by call sign (code in Table 4c).|
|12*||The calendar date of the last position of the iceberg before it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|13*||The Julian date of the last position of the iceberg before it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|14*||The time of the last position of the iceberg before it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|15/16*||The latitude and longitude of the last position of the iceberg before it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|17*||The percentage melt of the iceberg at the last position of the iceberg before it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|18||The number of days drifted before it was it was either deleted or re-sighted.|
|19||For the years 1998-2004, the field 19 "size" refers to the estimated size of the last analysis (modeled) position for the iceberg entry. (B. Lis, personal communication, 1/2010)|
|20||Flag indicating if the iceberg was Deleted (DELETED), Active (ACTIVE), or Re-sighted (DELHIST).|
* Note that for the years 1998-present, fields 12-17 (date, Julian date, time, latitude, longitude, and percent melt) refer to the last analysis (modeled) position of the iceberg entry, not merely the last position. However, the IIP has determined that for the years 2006-present, the data in fields 12-17 (analysis date, time, position and melt) are not reliable. There is a problem with the way the data are being captured for this report. Since this is an "iceberg sighting" database, the IIP plans to report the relevant fields 1-11 and 18(status). (B. Lis, personal communication, 1/2010)
Example of the 1998 format:
1 02/05/1998 (036) 1200 49.79 -51.61 VIS LG DD DFT BAPS 02/14/1998 (045) 1200 48.88 -50.53 11.2 9 LG DELETED
Table 5 describes the data in the IIP's annual iceberg listings for Format C:
Sequential iceberg numbers used by IIP's computer model label each iceberg. Many numbers are listed more than once. The first listing of an iceberg gives the initial sighting information. Subsequent lines give the times and positions where the iceberg was resighted. "Resighted" is defined as an IIP update of the iceberg position based on new sighting information.
|2||The Julian date of the sighted/resighted position for this iceberg entry.|
|3||The calendar date of the sighted/resighted position for this iceberg entry (YY/MM/DD).|
|4||The time (UTC) for the sighted/resighted position for this iceberg entry.|
|5/6||The sighted or resighted position for this sighted/resighted iceberg entry (in degrees and minutes).|
|7||Reported size of the iceberg. Table 6a decodes the abbreviations.|
|8||Reported shape of the iceberg. Table 6b decodes the abbreviations.|
|9||Reported confidence of the sighting data. This represents the means used by the reporting source for identifying the iceberg and its characteristics. Table 6c decodes the abbreviations.|
|10||This column indicates the type of reporting source. Table 6d decodes the abbreviations.|
|11||The call sign of the reporting source.|
Julian date of the last analysis (i.e. computer model forecast) position for this sighting before it is either deleted or resighted.
|13||Calendar date of the last analysis position for this sighting.|
|14||The time (UTC) of the last analysis position for this sighting.|
|15/16||The last analysis position for this sighting before it was deleted or resighted (in degrees and minutes).|
|R/V||radar and visual|
|BERG||Iceberg number "+", "D", or "X" following iceberg number indicates iceberg record was a re-sight or the information has been updated. "D" or "X" indicates the last resighted information for that iceberg in the file.|
|SCD||Source of the sighting information, based on Table 8a.|
|SITED POSITION||Latitude and longitude (degrees, minutes to hundredths) of iceberg sighting|
|SITED TIME||Date (MMM DD/HHMM) of iceberg sighting; times are GMT.|
|DESC||Size and type of iceberg, based on Table 8b.|
|LAST ANAL POS||Last position provided by IIP iceberg prediction model for this iceberg|
|PREDICTED POSITION||This field is not defined in the documentation|
|DOP||Number of days-on-plot for the iceberg before deletion or resighting|
|OFF PLOT||Date the iceberg was taken off plot or resighted|
|Note: DOP and OFF PLOT are described in the documentation but may not appear in the 1992 data file.|
|3||CANADIAN AES SLAR|
|4||CANADIAN AES VISUAL|
|5||COMMERCIAL AIR RECONNAISSANCE|
|8||NAVPOLAR (U.S. NAVY)|
The following fields are included for each record:
|Iceberg number||This field contains a sequential number for each iceberg sighted within each iceberg season (1 October to 30 September).|
|Sighting Index||This is a symbol used by the model to indicate whether the iceberg is a resight of a previous sighting. A "+" is used to indicate the iceberg is an earlier sighting of a resighted iceberg. A "D" is used to indicate the last sighting of an iceberg. In some cases, the first and last sighting of an iceberg are the same.|
|Resight||A "Y" (for yes) or "N" (for no) is entered in this field to indicate whether or not the sighting was considered a resight of a previously sighted iceberg.|
|Sighting Source||This column is used to describe the source that reported the iceberg to Ice Patrol. This column was first recorded digitally in 1984 and the code was modified in 1989. See Table 10 below for the code used to describe the sighting source.|
|Sighting Position||The latitude and longitude of the sighted position of the iceberg.|
|Sighting Date||The date the iceberg was sighted (MMM DD,YYYY/HHMM)|
|Sighting Time||The time (in Universal Coordinated Time) of the iceberg|
|Iceberg Description||Ice Patrol uses a simplified code to describe the sighted icebergs. The code is tied to generalized sizes and shapes used by the iceberg drift model. See Table 11 below for the code used to describe the iceberg description.|
|Last Model Analysis Position||The last model predicted position for the iceberg produced using analysis winds before the iceberg was removed from the active list. (An iceberg report can be removed from the active model list by being resighted or deleted by the operator.)|
|Number of Icebergs represented by sighting record||In areas of heavy concentrations, groups of icebergs may be reported together. The number of icebergs in each sighting report is represented in this field.|
|Days on Plot||This field indicates the number of days the iceberg sighting was drifted by the model before being removed from the list of active icebergs.|
|Date of Last Model Position||The date of the position of the last model analysis position.|
|Number||1984-1988||1989 to Present|
|1||Ice Patrol Aircraft Radar/SLAR||Ice Patrol Aircraft/SLAR|
|2||Ice Patrol Aircraft Visual||Ice Patrol Aircraft Visual|
|3||AES Aircraft Radar/SLAR||AES Aircraft Radar/SLAR|
|4||AES Aircraft Visual||AES Aircraft Visual|
|5||Ship Report - Radar||Other Air reconnaissance*|
|6||Ship Report - Visual||Ship Reports|
|7||Oil Industry Sources||Lighthouse/Shore|
|8||Lighthouse/Shore||Defense Department Sources|
|9||Defense Department Sources||Other|
|* This category includes iceberg sighting reports received from aircraft
flying support for the hydrocarbon industry operating on the Grand Banks.
|** The Canadian Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) operates an iceberg drift prediction model called BAPS. When icebergs drift south of 52 North they will report the predicted positions to Ice Patrol and Ice Patrol will enter the sighting in the IIP iceberg drift model.|
|1||Growler (less than 15 meters in length)|
|3||Small Non-Tabular (between 15 and 60 meters in length)|
|4||Small Tabular (between 15 and 60 meters in length)|
|5||Medium Non-Tabular (between 60 and 122 meters in length)|
|6||Medium Tabular (between 60 and 122 meters in length)|
|7||Large Non-Tabular (greater than 122 meters in length)|
|8||Large Tabular (greater that 122 meters in length)|
|If Ice Patrol receives a visual iceberg sighting report without a size, medium is used. If Ice Patrol receives a visual iceberg sighting report without a description, non-tabular is used. Non-tabular includes all iceberg shapes (examples; pinnacle, dry-dock, domed) except tabular.|
This portion of the database covers the years 1960 to 1981. The below comments for each data field apply to this portion of the database.
|Iceberg Number||Although this number is intended to be unique for each ice season, some numbers were duplicated within the same season. All of the duplicate numbers which represent sightings of different icebergs were retained in the database.|
|Sighting Index||This field was left blank.|
|Resight||Prior to about the late 1970s, Ice Patrol made little to no distinction between resights and new iceberg sightings.|
|Sighting source||When this portion of the database was originally placed in computerized format, three source choices were used; USCG Aircraft, USCG Ship, or other. In merging this portion of the data set, USCG ship reports were encoded as "6" (ship reports). If the iceberg description was recorded as a radar target and the sighting source was a USCG aircraft, the sighting source was set to "1" (USCG Aircraft Radar/SLAR). If the iceberg description was "non-radar" and the sighting source was a USCG aircraft, the sighting source was encoded as "2" (USCG Aircraft Visual). The "other" category could include lighthouse reports, shipping reports, and reports from commercial aviation.|
|Sighting Time||No sighting times were originally recorded for this portion of the database and the sighting time field was set to 0000.|
|Last Model Analysis Position||The iceberg drift model was not in use and this position was set to 0 North 0 West.|
|Number of Icebergs||Original sightings during this period were classified in different manners with respect to the number of icebergs represented by each sighting. The following code was used when the data for this period was computerized and the code can be found in Table 13.|
|Days on Plot||Set to zero|
|Date of Last Model Position||Set to xxxxxx|
|Model Years Portion of the database||During the early years of the model, not all of the data fields were used. The below comments for the data field refer to the years in parenthesis.|
|Iceberg Index (1982-1984)||During this period, a problem in the computer program logic occasionally allowed a "D" to placed where a "+" belonged. The error was carried forward into the database and is not considered critical because of the proper use of the resight data field.|
|Sighting Source (1982-1983)||This field was not used by the model during this period. In creating the database, the sighting source was set to "X" (Unknown) for these records.|
|Number of Icebergs (1982-1985)||This field was not used in the model during this period. In creating the database, this field was set to 1 for these records.|
|3||Many. If the actual number of icebergs the record represented was known, that number was entered. This number could be 1, 2, or 3. After about the mid-1970s, one record generally represented a single iceberg. When this portion of the database was being entered, the original entry for the number of icebergs represented by the record was carried forward unless the number was greater than 20. In that case, the number of icebergs for the record was questionable and the number was set to one.|
All data reside on the NSIDC FTP site in the ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/pub/DATASETS/NOAA/G00807/ directory.
Files in Format A are named according to the following conventions:
Where YYYY is the 4-digit year of the sightings.
Files in Formats B, C, D, and E are named according to the following convention:
IIP_YYYY.txt or IIP_YY.txt or IIP_YY_YY.txt
Where YYYY is the 4-digit year of the sightings. Note: Some files use just a 2-digit year to express the date and files with two different years in the file name contain the range of years indicated in the name.
Files range in size from 40 KB to 6.3 MB. The total volume is approximately 26 MB.
The North Atlantic prior to 2006: 40° N to 52° N, 39° W to 57° W
The North Atlantic 2006 and forward: 40° N to 65° N, 39° W to 57° W
These data span 1960 to 2015.
The following shows the first 13 lines of 2010_IIP_IcebergSightingDatabase.txt:
2 12/08/2009 1456 60.72 -63.66 RAD RAD RAD GPCD 3 12/08/2009 1456 60.90 -63.78 RAD RAD RAD GPCD 4 01/14/2010 1336 54.88 -55.68 RAD RAD RAD GPCD 5 01/15/2010 1523 60.96 -63.82 RAD RAD RAD GPCD 6 02/24/2010 1633 55.20 -58.21 R/V MED DD GPCD 6 03/09/2010 1451 54.69 -56.88 R/V SM DOM GPCD 7 02/24/2010 1633 55.15 -58.60 R/V MED DD GPCD 8 02/24/2010 1636 55.07 -58.28 R/V LG DD GPCD 9 02/24/2010 1638 54.98 -58.11 R/V MED DOM GPCD 10 02/24/2010 1639 55.23 -58.47 R/V LG DD GPCD 10 03/09/2010 1448 54.61 -56.81 RAD LG DD GPCD 11 02/24/2010 1641 54.96 -57.83 R/V SM DD GPCD 11 03/09/2010 1445 54.75 -56.57 R/V MED WDG GPCD
Data are available via FTP.
Iceberg sightings are reported by US Coast Guard aerial reconnaissance, by Canadian Coast Guard ships, by merchant ships, by US and Canadian satellite sources, by commercial aerial reconnaissance and even lighthouse keepers. The sighting source coded in the iceberg database may be an aircraft tail number, a ship call sign, or just an abbreviation (Table 2).
Note: Where data files say the sighting method was radar, the sighting was observed by a shipboard or airborne radar system and not satellite. If the sighting method says SAT-HIGH, then the iceberg was sighted by Satellite, with high confidence that sighting is an iceberg whereas SAT-LOW means the iceberg was sighted by Satellite, with low confidence that sighting is an iceberg.
Canadian Ice Service. 2005. MANICE: Manual of Standard Procedures for Observing and Reporting Ice Conditions, revised 9th ed. Environment Canada Canadian Ice Service: Ottawa.
Refer to the International Ice Patrol Scientific Bibliography Web page for more references.
USCG International Ice Patrol
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NSIDC User Services
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phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services
We thank the IIP for providing yearly updates. Maintenance and distribution of the data set from NSIDC is supported by funding from NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) and the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC).
The acronyms used in this document are listed in Table 14.
|ASCII||American Standard Code For Information Interchange|
|CIS||Canadian Ice Center|
|FTP||File Transfer Protocol|
|GMT||Greenwich Mean Time|
|IIP||International Ice Patrol|
|NRCC||National Research Council Canada|
|SLAR||Side-Looking Airborne Radar|
|USCG||U. S. Coast Guard|
Documentation is based on material provided prior to 1996 by IIP, Groton, CT. The original author is unknown.
In October, 2001, R. Welch published the online documentation.
February 2016: A. Windnagel updated documentation with the 2015 data update.
February 2015: A. Windnagel updated documentation with the 2014 data update.
October 2014: A. Windnagel updated the documentation with the 2010-2013 data update and removed the WDC version. Also, put the information into the new guide doc template.
October 2012: F. Fetterer and A. Windnagel made edits and added a question and answer section in response to a user inquiry using information provided by Barbara Lis (IIP) in 2011 and added information about the 2010 and 2011 data files.
December 2011: A. Windnagel changed the investigator contact.
November 2011: A. Windnagel made some minor formatting and text updates.
July 2006:This document was reformatted and information from earlier "read me" files (iip_fmt.txt and wdc_fmt.txt) was incorporated. The "read me" files were then removed from the FTP site. F. Fetterer oversaw these changes. In December, 2006, minor edits were made.