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Issue no. 38, December 2001


Frozen Ground Data Center at NSIDC

Permafrost and seasonally frozen ground regions occupy about 24 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere.

Frozen ground data and information are critical for understanding fundamental processes, detecting environmental change, assessing impacts, validating models, and ensuring sound engineering standards. However, many of these data sets and information remain widely dispersed and unavailable to the science and engineering community, and some are in danger of being lost permanently.

The International Permafrost Association (IPA) has developed a strategy for data and information management to meet the requirements of the cold regions science, engineering, and modeling community. NSIDC played an active role in implementing this strategy by developing and distributing the first Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS) CD-ROM, including the Global Geocryological Database (GGD), in 1998. Now, NSIDC, in collaboration with the International Arctic Research Center (IARC), seeks to expand the CAPS data holdings, update the GGD, and improve frozen ground data availability through a new Web-based "Frozen Ground Data Center."

The project plan includes reformatting several existing data sets and creating value-added products, such as gridded fields for model validation and analysis. NSIDC will also acquire and distribute additional key data sets, and will credit all data providers. The IPA Standing Committee on Data, Information, and Communication will continue to coordinate the GGD and CAPS activities.

NSIDC solicits data contributions and suggestions on data acquisition, management, and distribution from the frozen ground research community. Visit the Frozen Ground Data Center for more information, or contact Mark Parsons or Tingjun Zhang to submit data.

Northern Hemisphere frozen ground

Map above shows the distribution of permafrost and average maximum extent of seasonally and intermittently frozen ground in the Northern Hemisphere. The solid black line indicates the average maximum extent of the seasonal snow cover. (See Polar Geography, vol. 23, p. 147, 1999)

Antarctic Glaciological Data Center Releases 10 m Temperature Compilation

The Antarctic Glaciological Data Center (AGDC) released a compilation of 10 m firn temperature measurements from Antarctica. Firn temperature from a depth of about 10 meters provides a close estimate of mean annual surface air temperature. The data in this collection precede the International Geophysical Year traverses of 1956-1958, and also include measurements from several major recent surveys. Data cover the entire continental ice sheet and several ice shelves with generally low coverage density.

The AGDC Web site provides convenient tools for viewing and selecting temperature data sets. Data are organized by traverse and by collection date. Users can view data online, with collection sites plotted on a satellite image of the continent, and can access text information about data sources and acquisition techniques. Data are available via ftp and are formatted as ASCII text files containing latitude, longitude, elevation, depth, temperature, and date of acquisition. Some files also contain surface and 10 m snow density and local accumulation rate measurements.

This data set is the archive for the THERMAP program, an effort to gather near-surface firn temperature data from a variety of published and unpublished sources. THERMAP includes more than 600 measurements. An online data submission form is available for investigators who would like to contribute their firn temperature data to this expanding archive.

The AGDC offers several "compiled products," data collections assembled from diverse sources to provide value-added compilations of important geophysical parameters. For more information about the AGDC and any of its products, visit AGDC or contact NSIDC User Services.

New Version of RAMP DEM

Version 2 of the high-resolution Radarsat Antarctic Mapping Project (RAMP) Digital Elevation Model (DEM) is now available. The DEM, developed by researchers at the Byrd Polar Research Center of the Ohio State University, combines topographic data from a variety of sources to provide consistent coverage of the entire Antarctic continent. The DEM has potentially broad applicability to studies of ice sheet morphology and ice dynamics.

Version 2 features expanded coverage of islands and surrounding ocean, increased accuracy and resolution over some areas, and improved error corrections. The 1 km, 400 m, and 200 m resolution DEM data can be downloaded from the NSIDC Web site in Arc/Info and binary grid formats. The 1 km and 400 m DEMs are also available in ASCII format. Access the data via the RAMP DEM catalog page.

IG-SIIWG Announces Final Meeting

The International Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Ice Information Working Group (IG-SIIWG) announced that it will cease operations, making its 29th annual meeting, held last year, its final.

The IG-SIIWG is an adhoc committee of the United States and Canadian federal government agencies that have mission responsibilities related to winter conditions on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. According to co-chairs John Falkingham and Paul Seymour, the Working Group's original focus -- winter navigation on the Great Lakes -- is now a reality, and routine operations can be better coordinated elsewhere.

Among the IG-SIIWG's most significant accomplishments was the establishment of the Joint United States/Canada Ice Working Group, formed in the mid-1980s and modeled after the IG-SIIWG. Other achievements include the establishment of a common Great Lakes ice chart terminology, coordination of winter activities, improved data availability and ice archiving activities, and improved ice cover climatology.

Raymond Assel served as co-chair of IG-SIIWG for 29 years and played a leading role in progress made by the group.

World Glacier Inventory Web Site Updated

NSIDC recently updated its World Glacier Inventory (WGI), which contains information for over 65,000 glaciers, about 40 percent of the global total. Parameters include geographic location, area, length, orientation, elevation, and classification of morphological type and moraines.

The revised inventory includes a new Web interface and error corrections for some glacier positions. The inventory consists of glacier "snapshots," based on single observations in time. The WGI is made available in partnership with the World Glacier Monitoring Service, Zurich, Switzerland.

HDF-EOS Tools and Information

NSIDC created a series of Web pages that address the complexity of Hierarchical Data Format - Earth Observing System (HDF-EOS) files. MODIS snow and sea ice products are in HDF-EOS format. This site provides simple instructions and tools for extracting HDF-EOS objects and writing them to ASCII or flat binary formats. The site also summarizes methods for utilizing existing geolocation information. Links to other HDF-EOS resources are also available. Visit NSIDC's HDF-EOS page.


NSIDC Unveils Revamped Web Site

In an effort to provide easier access to its online information, NSIDC released its redesigned Web site. A site-wide navigation bar includes links to NSIDC data, projects, research, the cryosphere (which replaces the previous Education section), and a site map. The new home page also provides instant access to the NSIDC data catalog, projects, publications, the cryosphere, gallery, coldlinks (NSIDC's extensive list of snow and ice-related links), and a new searchable data catalog.

Other additions to the site include "The Cryosphere at a glance," which features a daily image of snow and sea ice extent around the globe, a weekly feature highlighting different areas of our Web site, and "About NSIDC," which details NSIDC's history, sponsors, user statistics, and data management and research.

To help guide users to content that may have moved, a "Page Not Found" error page includes a link to the site map and a contact form. Simply fill out the form, specifying the page for which you are searching, and NSIDC User Services will point you in the right direction. Visit the new Web site at NSIDC.

"All About Snow" Web Site

NSIDC's new Web site includes an updated version of the "All About Snow" page that features common questions and answers about snow, interesting snow facts, a snow glossary, a new gallery, and links to other snow topics on the Web. "All About Snow" also includes the "Avalanche Awareness" page, which lists information about avalanches and avalanche safety, and "The Blizzards of 1996" page, which links to weather maps and images of the 1996 blizzard event in the northeastern United States.

NSIDC's 25th Anniversary Celebration

On Thursday, October 11, 2001, NSIDC celebrated its 25th anniversary with talks and a reception at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Don Cline, Head of Operations at the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, started the day's events with a talk on the NASA Cold Land Processes Initiative. In the afternoon, a discussion on NSIDC's role in the next quarter century was chaired by Mark Anderson (Associate Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln) and included panelists Don Cline, Ted Haberman (NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center), Judy Curry (Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU), and Koni Steffen (Associate Director, CIRES Cryospheric and Polar Processes Division, and Professor of Geography at CU).

Susan Avery, Director of CIRES, Greg Withee, Assistant Administrator of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and Jerry Peterson, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research at CU, all paid tribute to NSIDC's achievements during the past 25 years. NSIDC Director Roger Barry also gave an introduction to and history of the data center and its activities. A high tea reception and poster exhibit followed the panel discussion.

Thanks to everyone who made the day such a success. Anniversary events will continue at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, December 10-14, 2001, with oral and poster sessions during the week and a reception on Tuesday, December 11.


International Permafrost Symposium

NSIDC scientist Tingjun Zhang gave two oral presentations at the International Permafrost Symposium held in Ulaabartar, Mongolia, Sept. 1 - 6, 2001. Zhang also visited the Institute of Geography and the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology. With funding from the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, preliminary agreement has been made for scientific and data exchange between these institutes and NSIDC. These future data exchanges will enhance the holdings of the Frozen Ground Data Center at NSIDC. (See feature story).


NSIDC welcomes Lisa Ballagh (Operations Technician), Ruth Duerr (Operations Supervisor), Andy Etringer (Research Assistant), Jeff Groth (Systems Administrator), Daryl Kohlerschmidt (Administrative Assistant), and Mike Wygant (Operations Technician), all of whom joined us this fall.

NSIDC bids farewell to Robin Welsh (Science/Technical Writer). We wish her the best of luck in her new endeavors, and we congratulate her and her husband on the arrival of their new daughter, Madeleine.