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Issue No. 45, Fall 2003



Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System Version 2.0 (CAPS2) Released

The Frozen Ground Data Center (FGDC) at NSIDC is pleased to announce the release of the Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System Version 2.0 CD set (CAPS2). This three-volume data and metadata collection is a result of a collaborative effort between the the World Data Center (WDC) for Glaciology, Boulder, the International Arctic Research Center (IARC), and the International Permafrost Association (IPA). CAPS2 was distributed to delegates at the July 2003 International Conference on Permafrost in Zurich and marks a key milestone for the FGDC and IPA in their effort to meet the strategy for data and information management laid out by the IPA's Standing Committee on Data, Information, and Communication.

CAPS v2.0 CDCAPS2 is a compendium of data and metadata currently available in the FGDC and around the world. It is a snapshot of frozen ground and related data holdings available as of Spring 2003 and enables access to these data for users lacking ready internet access or high-speed connections. CAPS2 includes over 100 data and information products and many more metadata descriptions for data available elsewhere. Highlights include regional and hemispheric maps of permafrost, frozen ground, soils, and related parameters and detailed metadata, summary data, photographs, and specialized bibliographies from major IPA programs, such as the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost's (GTN-P) borehole program, the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program, the Arctic Coastal Dynamics program, the Cryosols Working Group, and the Southern Hemisphere Working Group.

The FGDC is also beginning to develop new types of products geared toward improving Arctic climate assessments and models. Tingjun Zhang and others have been working to develop algorithms for determining frozen ground with passive microwave remote sensing. Christoph Oelke and others have been developing a model of active layer and seasonal frozen ground depth for the Arctic drainage basin based on data of snow water equivalent, soil temperature, soil dry-bulk density, and soil water content. Examples of these new products are included on CAPS2. Longer time series for these products will be available through the FGDC in the future.

Please contact NSIDC User Services to order a copy of the CAPS version 2.0 CD.


NSIDC Products Available at AGU Fall Meeting

NSIDC will be exhibiting at the upcoming Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), 8-12 December 2003, in San Francisco, California.
User Services representatives will be available to field questions and provide data products at the meeting’s exhibit hall, at booths #326 and 328. NSIDC scientists will also be available at the booth throughout the conference. Available products will include the CAPS2 CD set (see cover story), Northern Hemisphere EASE-Grid Weekly Snow Cover and Sea Ice Extent Version 2, and the “Into the Arctic” educational CD. The NSIDC Data Catalog will also be accessible from the booth.


NSIDC Products In Use

Two new products utilizing NSIDC data have recently been released.

The Institute of Environmental Physics and Remote Sensing of Bremen, Germany, is producing and distributing polar gridded 6.25 km sea ice concentrations. Ice concentrations are calculated from AMSR-E 89 GHz channels using the ARTIST Sea Ice algorithm version 5 (ASI5). The results have not yet been validated, though comparisons of AMSR-E ASI to SSM/I ASI data are consistent. The SSM/I ASI data have been compared to several different data sets from ship observations, numerical model results, ERS SAR, and SSM/I NT/NT2 data, among others.

The second product, a new global ocean database of annual, seasonal (winter and summer), and monthly climatological mean temperature and salinity is available on-line from the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington. The database improves on earlier global databases of the Arctic Ocean by merging data from several sources, including Canadian and Russian records. The Environmental Working Group Joint U.S.-Russian Atlas of the Arctic Ocean, which NSIDC distributes, is one of the input fields.


ACSYS Historical Ice Chart Archive (1553-2002)

This important collection consolidates and makes historical ice observations available digitally for the first time. Data are from the Arctic region between 30W and 70E, and charts are available on CD-ROM in GIS-compatible shapefile format. "Quicklook" versions of the charts are available on-line. The archive was constructed as part of the World Climate Research Programme's Arctic Climate System Study project. The data are made available through the International ACSYS/CliC Project Office, Norwegian Polar Institute, The Polar Environmental Centre, Tromsø.


AMSR-E Data Reminder

NSIDC will archive and distribute all AMSR-E products, including Levels 1A, 2, and 3 data.

NSIDC began receiving Level 1A data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and releasing them to the public on 19 June. Level 1A data are accessible via the Earth Observing System (EOS) Data Gateway (EDG) and via NSIDC's Data Pool. Level 2A brightness temperatures were made available 2 September 2003. Higher-level (Level 2B and Level 3) AMSR-E products are expected to be available 1 March 2004.

In addition to the standard, final products in the EDG and Data Pool, non-standard, preliminary data will be available at NSIDC until the corresponding standard product is released (about eight days later). Preliminary data may be incomplete and have not been subject to quality controls. Access to the preliminary data is unrestricted, but NSIDC requests that users register to receive it.


Cryospheric session at IUGG

NSIDC's Richard Armstrong convened a two-day session at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, Sapporo, Japan, 7-8 July, on the topic of Remote Sensing of the Cryosphere. Oral presentations and posters summarized current research on glaciers, sea ice, frozen ground, and snow cover in 12 different countries around the world.



NSIDC participated in the seventh meeting of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)/Council of Managers of the National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) Joint Committee on Antarctic Data Management (JCADM), held in Brussels on 30 June - 4 July. Greg Scharfen and Rob Bauer, U.S. members of JCADM, reported on the activity of the NSF-funded U.S. Antarctic Data Coordination Center, which facilitates the development of U.S. Antarctic data set descriptions for inclusion in the Antarctic Master Directory (AMD), a node of the International Directory Network (IDN) Global Change Master Directory (GCMD). The number of U.S. data set descriptions in the AMD has more than doubled in the last year to 633. Some 22 countries are now participating in the effort to populate the AMD with data set descriptions, which are in an easy-to-use and common format, and often have links to the actual data sets.


International Conference on Permafrost

NSIDC staff played an active role in the Eighth International Conference on Permafrost, held in Zurich, Switzerland, 21-25 July, presenting papers or posters on "Distribution of seasonally and perennially frozen ground in the Northern Hemisphere," "Comparing thaw depths measured at CALM sites with a medium-resolution hemispheric heat conduction model," "Could the current warming endanger the status of frozen ground regions of Eurasia?," and "Frozen ground data information: advances in the International Permafrost Association (IPA) Geocryological Data System." The meeting was attended by some 280 scientists from 23 countries. NSIDC Director Roger Barry chaired the IPA Standing Committee on Data, Information, and Communication. A major committee activity has been planning the Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System Version 2.0 (see cover story). Copies of the three-CD set were provided to all registered participants. For more information, visit the Frozen Ground Data Center.


Precipitation Monitoring

NSIDC Director Roger Barry and NOAA liaison Florence Fetterer participated in a workshop on "Ensuring Quality Long-term Monitoring with Precipitation Gauges," 15-16 May, hosted by B. Weatherhead (CIRES/NOAA). Barry gave a presentation on "Precipitation measurements and problems." Measuring solid precipitation is difficult to do accurately because wind reduces the amount of snow that is deposited in gauges.


Polar AMS

NSIDC's Julienne Stroeve gave a talk on "Greenland Albedo Variability" at the Polar AMS Meeting in Hyannis, MA, 12-16 May 2003. She used the NOAA/NASA AVHRR Polar Pathfinder data set to examine variability from 1981 to 2000, and MODIS and MISR imagery to quantify albedo during 2002, when melt on Greenland's ice sheet exceeded earlier records.


NSIDC Hires Deputy Director

Clark Judy has just joined NSIDC as its first Deputy Director, responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Center. He has a PhD in watershed science from Colorado State University, and over 30 years of academic, agency, and private-sector experience. Prior to joining NSIDC, he managed a multi-company team providing environmental site investigation and restoration support to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

NSIDC created this position to provide better coordination between the service groups and the various projects and programs housed within the Center. Dr. Judy’s responsibilities will include implementing a matrix management approach that will enhance workflow and improve NSIDC’s response to its sponsors and customers.


NASA Funds Three NSIDC Research Projects

A team of NSIDC researchers, led by Richard Armstrong, will receive funding from NASA for a benchmark project to monitor glaciers on a global scale. The project, Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS), will combine satellite imagery, historical records, and field measurements from research facilities around the world into an online database, giving scientists a never-before-seen global picture of glacier conditions that could be key in monitoring climate change.

The researchers will combine high-resolution data from NASA's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) with other satellite imagery, new digital inventories of glaciers in the former Soviet Union and China, and historical data sets collected from both of those countries and from other regions around the world. They will collect historical records from field surveys and aerial photography, topographic maps, glacier inventories, mass balance, runoff, and meteorological parameters. Two regions, one in central Asia and one in southern Alaska, have been selected for validation of the combined data.

Glaciologists located at research facilities around the world are partnering with the NSIDC research team in analyzing satellite imagery to create a new baseline of current glacier conditions that will be compared to historical measurements. For project details, visit the NSIDC GLIMS Web site.

Another NASA award was granted to Julienne Stroeve for a project entitled "Application and Enhancement of the Scatterometer Climate Record Pathfinder: Including Combined Active and Passive Data." The project will produce a suite of sea ice products using a combination of active radar data from scatterometers and passive microwave observations from radiometers. Stroeve is co-investigator on the project, with researchers at Brigham Young University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. David Long of BYU is the lead investigator. The fusion of these data holds great promise in climate and climate change studies in the polar regions.

The third award went to Thomas H. Painter, research scientist at NSIDC and co-investigator with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for the project Multi-Resolution Snow Products for the Hydrologic Sciences. The project led by Jeff Dozier, will develop a new set of sensor-fusion products – snow-covered area, albedo, and snow water equivalence – that fuse optical (MODIS and AVHRR) and microwave (SSM/I, AMSR-E, and AMSR) data by incorporating spatial heterogeneity into the analysis. Data product creation and distribution will be provided through the technology suite Earth System Science Server (S3), an environment for managing the creation, maintenance, and dissemination of Earth science data products.


Visiting Scientists at NSIDC

NSIDC is pleased to welcome two visiting scientists. CIRES Visiting Fellow Ann Henderson-Sellers is working on the use of stable and radioactive isotopes as probes and tracers of environmental systems and processes. Kendal McGuffie, NSIDC Visiting Scientist, is developing the third edition of “A Climate Modeling Primer” with accompanying modeling software.


“Earth Observatory” Wins Webby Award

EO home page




The DAAC Alliance outreach effort, based at NSIDC, includes the production of the DAAC Alliance Annual, which contains articles on the use of NASA DAAC data. A list of stories written by NSIDC staff is available on the DAAC Alliance Annual Feature Articles page.These articles are also published on NASA's Earth Observatory web site. For the second year in a row, the Earth Observatory was nominated for a Webby Award (the Internet's version of the Oscars), and for the second year in a row, the Earth Observatory won the People's Voice Award. This year, the site also won the official Webby, awarded by a panel of expert judges.