View NSIDC Data on Virtual Globes: Google Earth

The National Snow and Ice Data Center offers some of our data in the form of images. We have created Google Earth™ files that enable you to overlay the following data-based images on a virtual globe. Our goal is to help people better understand the cryosphere—where the world is frozen—by making our data more visible and interactive.

Featured Data highlights some of our most requested data, as well as our newest Google Earth files.
You can view more snow, ice, ice shelves, glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice on the globe.
Or, you can use Google Earth to locate cryospheric field data sets on the globe.

Note: Each of our Google Earth files may reference multiple subjects and data sets. A particular file may be listed under more than one subject in the table that follows.

Featured Data

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

September Sea Ice Extent, 1979-2013

Compare satellite images of September sea ice minimum extents for the last thirty years for both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

September sea ice extent, 1979-2013 file for Google Earth (KMZ, 343 KB, Updated October 2013)

Data Source: Sea Ice Index

Sea Ice on Google Earth

Sea Ice: Minimum and Maximum Extents

View Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents from 1979 through present for the months March (maximum sea ice extents) and September (minimum sea ice extents). Note: September is the default month when the file is opened. To see March, click on the March layer in the Google Earth side panel.

Sea ice extents file for Google Earth (KMZ, 1.8 MB, Updated July 2013).

Data Source: Sea Ice Index

Climate Change Tour Image

A Climate Change Tour of Cold Places
View a narrated tour of the snowy and icy regions of the world covering sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves, and permafrost.

Climate Change Tour of Cold Places (KML, 32 KB)

Data Sources and Acknowledgements

Note: This was a collaborative project between NSIDC and the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education.

Also see: Scientists Answer Student's Questions about the Cryosphere

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Wilkins Ice Bridge Collapse, February-April 2009
View a time series of satellite images showing the break up of an ice bridge that was shoring up the Wilkins ice shelf.

Wilkins ice bridge collapse file for Google Earth (KMZ, 547 KB)

Data Source: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)

image of MODIS snow cover data on Google Earth

Snow (MODIS Sensor)
View global, monthly average snow cover each month for one year:

NOTE: Currently, this time series ends with 2009, and the following months are also missing from this time series: June 2001, March 2002, and December 2003.

2009 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2008 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2007 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2006 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2005 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2004 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2003 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2002 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2001 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2000 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)

Data Source: MODIS/Terra Snow Cover Monthly L3 Global 0.05Deg CMG, Version 5


View More Snow, Ice, Glaciers, Permafrost, and Sea Ice on the Globe

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Glaciers and Climate Change
View glacier photograph pairs showing how some glaciers have changed over time

Glaciers and climate change file for Google Earth (KML, 48 KB)

Data Source: Glacier Photograph Collection

Sea Ice, Glacier Photo Pairs, Larsen B Iceshelf Collapse images Google Earth

Changes in Glaciers, the Larsen B Ice Shelf, and Arctic Sea Ice Extent
View photographs showing long-term changes in glaciers; watch the disintegration of the Larsen B ice shelf; and view Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents from 1979 through present

Glaciers, ice shelves, and sea ice file for Google Earth (KML, 8 KB)

Data Sources: Glacier Photograph Collection; Sea Ice Index; Animation of Larsen B breakup

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

View photographs of more than 10,000 glaciers, 1880s to present

Glaciers and permafrost file for Google Earth (KML, 5.2 KB)

Data Source: Glacier Photograph Collection; Circum-Arctic Map of Permafrost and Ground-Ice Conditions

Note:.On October 1, 2007 we added more than 1,200 Greenland glaciers and several Franz Josef, New Zealand glaciers. Prior users may download the new file to get the updates.

GLIMS ASTER glacier footprints on Google Earth

Glaciers: GLIMS ASTER Glacier Footprints
View approximately 150,000 ASTER browse images over regions of the world where glaciers exist (from 2000-present)

GLIMS ASTER glacier footprints file (KMZ, 4 KB)

Data Source: GLIMS Glacier Database; Terra ASTER Metadata Inventory, EROS

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Greenland Annual Surface Melt, 1979 - 2007
View the extent and frequency of surface melt for the Greenland ice sheet

Greenland melt file for Google Earth (KMZ, 404 KB)

Data Source: Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Characteristics Derived from Passive Microwave Data

IceTrek iceberg tracks

Icebergs: IceTrek Iceberg Tracks
Explore the lifecycle of drifting Antarctic icebergs, and view photos from instruments riding on the bergs

IceTrek iceberg tracks file (KMZ, 6.7 MB)

Data Source: IceTrek Web site

Larsen B Iceshelf collapse image

Ice Shelves: Breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf
Watch the disintegration of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, as captured in MODIS satellite images

Larsen B ice shelf file for Google Earth (KMZ, 3 MB)

Data Source: Animation of Larsen B breakup


Frozen Ground on Google Earth

Permafrost, Ground Ice
View permafrost and ground ice types and extents in the Northern Hemisphere

Glaciers and permafrost file for Google Earth (KML, 8 KB)

Data Source: Circum-Arctic Map of Permafrost and Ground-Ice Conditions

ice edge image

Sea Ice: Nordic Seas Ice Edge
View changes in the sea ice edge in the Nordic Seas, from 1967 to 2002, for the months March through August.

Nordic Seas ice edge (KML, 892 KB)

Data Source: March through August Ice Edge Positions in the Nordic Seas, 1750-2002


Locate Cryospheric Field Data Sets on the Globe

AGDC Field Data on Google Earth

Antarctic Glaciological Data Center Field Data
Locate and link to Antarctic images and data sets from the Antarctic Glaciological Data Center (AGDC)

Antarctic data file for Google Earth (KMZ, 11 KB)

Data Source: NSIDC Antarctic Glaciological Data Center

See Also

Movie of sea ice extents, 1979-2008, on Google Earth

2008 sea ice extent side-by-side with 1979-2008 climatology (QuickTime, 1.6 MB)

NSIDC Google Earth technical experiments

Atlas of the Cryosphere

Related Resources

NSIDC Virtual Globes Help and Documentation

More information on NSIDC Google Earth files.


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