Selected Highlights

The Place of Archives in Research Today

Modern geography and climate study focus completely on change detection, meaning research proceeds by comparing old and new measurements. Without libraries, and other historical collections, our quest for early data can only go back so far. The digital era for Earth science data begins in the mid-1970s, a time when major shifts in climate began in earnest. How different are our polar regions now, from say, a hundred years ago? Satellites and other modern data sets show us that glaciers are retreating, sea ice is shrinking, and polar oceans are warming. We can see an earlier springtime for northern plants, and a much earlier snowmelt. Records from the earliest observations reveal how unusual these changes are, and can document the first stages of change—a perspective made possible when archived data are available.

Successful research relies on accurate, stable and available records and data; its results help answer a questioning public and urge societies and governments to action. Below are just a few examples of our collections.

The Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX)

The AIDJEX program was the first major western sea ice experiment constructed specifically to answer emerging questions about how sea ice moves and changes in response to the influence of ocean and atmosphere. A pilot study in 1972 was followed by the AIDJEX field program in 1975 and 1976.

Held within the NSIDC Analog Archives collection are eighty-two 8" x 10" black and white and color photographs taken during the 1972 AIDJEX Pilot Study. The photographs were taken by Tom Marlar of CRREL, and also Pat Martin, who took aerial photographs of the camp on the ice. These images capture the participants, their research facilities, including the Convair 990 aircraft, and some of the activities performed during the pilot study.

Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX) Second Pilot Study, March - May 1972: A Documentary Film

The project described in this documentary was a pilot study conducted in 1972 in preparation for the AIDJEX main experiment of 1975 to 1976. The study included a main camp on drifting sea ice in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska along with two satellite camps forming a station triangle with a 100 km side length.

Cold Land Processes Field Experiment (CLPX)


The NASA Cold Land Processes Field Experiment (CLPX) was a multi-sensor, multi-scale field program of nested study areas in Colorado and Wyoming, USA, designed to extend the current local-scale understanding of water fluxes, storage, and transformations to regional and global scales.

DAAC Annuals

Sensing Our Planet: NASA Earth Science Research Features, formerly the DAAC Alliance Annual, is a multidisciplinary publication highlighting research using data from NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites. The publication is researched, written, and produced annually at the NSIDC DAAC on behalf of the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) data centers. Although these are available online, one copy of the originals is held in the NSIDC archives.

The Dehn Collection of Arctic Sea Ice Charts, 1953-1986

This collection of charts depicts ice conditions in the seas off Alaska and western Canada coasts. Ice edge position and some ice concentration and other information are included, though the notations on the charts are often sparse and discontinuous in space and time, especially for older charts in the series. These charts, more that 6,800 in number, were donated to NSIDC by the estate of William H. Dehn.

Drifting Station Alpha Documentary Film

This film documents the activities that occurred on Drifting Station Alpha in the Arctic Ocean during the International Geophysical Year, 1957 to 1958. The film is narrated by project leader, Norbert Untersteiner, and chronicles the life of the team as they built their camp and set up experiments. Station Alpha was the first long-term scientific base on arctic pack ice operated by a Western country. At the time of its establishment, Russia had already operated six drifting ice camps of this kind. However, due to the strategic importance and sensitivity of the Arctic Basin, little information from these early stations had reached the West. Station Alpha drifted in an area of the Arctic ocean located 500 km north of Barrow, Alaska USA from April 1957 to November 1958; the film covers this entire time period. Digitized copies of the film are available on DVD.

Glacier Photograph Collection

The Glacier Photograph Collection is an online, searchable collection of photographs, mostly in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Greenland. Photographs were taken from the air and ground. The dates of the photographs range from the 1800s to the present day. These photographs constitute an important historical record, as well as a data collection of interest to those studying the response of glaciers to climate change.

Glaciological Data Series

The Glaciological Data series is published by NSIDC on an irregular basis. Issues usually focus on a single topic and include specialized bibliographies, inventories and survey reports, and workshop proceedings relating to snow and ice research, as well as invited or contributed articles on data sets. Contributions are edited, but not refereed or copyrighted. Although the PDFs are online, the originals are in the NSIDC archives.

Good Days on the Trail, 1938-1942: Film Footage of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

This film documents student hiking trips conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA during the summers of 1938-1942. The hikes took place in various locations west of Boulder, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Roosevelt National Forest. The film contains rare historical footage of the Rocky Mountains, including Arapaho Glacier and Fair Glacier.

Great Lakes Aerial Photos of Ice Conditions

The collection consists of approximately 50,000 high-quality negatives and transparencies showing ice cover impact on navigation or hydroelectric operation from 1963 to 1973. Coverage is not systematic or complete. Indexing has not been undertaken, but latitude and longitude of flight line begin and end points are logged. Photos from many flights have been made into photomosaics that can be used on-site as a gross index to the 9-inch roll negatives. Photographic flights were carried out by a U.S. Air Force photomapping wing, using flight lines selected by NOAA Lake Survey Center (now Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory).

Note: This collection is available for on-site use only by appointment. Contact NSIDC User Services to make an appointment.

Great Lakes Ice Reports, 1899-1970

NSIDC holds the analog, original reports in their archives. The digital version is held outside of NSIDC at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

Greenland Snow Pit and Core Stratigraphy (Analog and Digital Formats)

This data set is comprised of scientific field study notebooks from geologist Carl S. Benson describing his traverses of Greenland from 1952 to 1955. The notebooks contain data on Greenland snow accumulation, snow temperature, stratigrapy, ice sheet facies, and snow densification. Dr. Benson's notebooks also include a supplementary 1956 snow accumulation study done by the U.S. Air Force. The notebooks have been scanned and put into PDF format. In addition, a compendium of Greenland snow accumulation data, compiled by Dr. Benson in 1986, is included that spans 1911 to 1981. It is in ASCII text format.

International Polar Year Historical Data and Literature

The International Polar Year Historical Data and Literature collection (formerly known as the Discovery and Access of Historic Literature from the IPYs (DAHLI) project) is an online data collection consisting primarily of photographs, publications, and observational data records from, and relating to, the first two International Polar Years (IPY) 1882-83 and 1932-33 and the International Geophysical Year (IGY)1957-58. Examples of data contained in observational records include, but are not limited to: air magnetic vertical intensity, air conductivity, atmospheric-electric observations, auroral log data, potential-gradient electrographic data, dust counts, and meteorological observations.

Harry F. Reid : Exploring Glacier Bay Blog

In 1890 and 1892, Harry Fielding Reid traveled to Glacier Bay, Alaska. During the expedition, Reid mapped Glacier Bay, collaborated with John Muir, measured the movement of the glaciers, created sketches and made photographs of the glaciers, and produced 24 notebooks. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is transcribing these expedition notebooks and posting his log notes so you can follow along with Reid's expeditions and experience Glacier Bay as he saw it over 100 years ago in this unique blog.

Rocky Mountain National Park Glacier Survey Reports

The National Park Service (NPS) conducted glacier surveys in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado, beginning in 1932. This collection of glacier surveys covers the years 1932 to 1952. Most of the reports include several glacier photographs.

See Also

Glacier Photograph Collection
The Glacier Photograph Collection is an online, searchable collection of photographs, mostly in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Greenland.

Data at NSIDC
Search for Data Sets in NSIDC's Online Catalog.

IPY Historical Data and Literature
The IPY Historical Data and Literature collection (formerly known as the Discovery and Access of Historic Literature from the IPYs (DAHLI) project) is an online data collection of photographs, publications, and observational data records related to the first two International Polar Years (IPY) and the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

World Glacier Inventory
The World Glacier Inventory contains information for over 100,000 glaciers through out the world. Parameters within the inventory include geographic location, area, length, orientation, elevation,and classification of morphological type and moraines