AMSR-E Overview

The NSIDC DAAC Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System sensor (AMSR-E) collection includes passive microwave data products related to sea ice concentration, sea ice motion, sea surface temperature, snow depth, snow water equivalent, soil moisture, wind speed, water vapor, precipitation, and other parameters. Types of data include daily, weekly, and monthly Level-1A, Level-2A, Level-2B, and Level-3 data products spanning June 2002 through early October 2011.

The AMSR-E data collection comes from the AMSR-E sensor that flew onboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, observing interactions between snow and ice, and Earth's atmosphere and ocean. The AMSR-E sensor was conceived and planned with an emphasis on understanding Earth’s water cycle: how water changes form and location, whether falling as rain or snow, evaporating from the ocean, or freezing on the sea surface. AMSR-E data help scientists better understand the seasonal evolution of sea ice, recording how it has changed over the life of the sensor. (AMSR-E was one of several sensors operating on the Aqua satellite. The NSIDC DAAC also provides data products from the MODIS sensor flying on Aqua.)

AMSR-E data are also related to two other data collections derived from other AMSR sensors that have flown aboard polar-orbiting satellites making global observations. The other collections include:

  • The NSIDC DAAC AMSR/ADEOS-II data collection includes passive microwave measurements from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer Sensor (AMSR). Observations cover early 2003 through October 24, 2003. This collection includes Level-1A and Level-2A products containing sensor counts and brightness temperature 
  • The NSIDC DAAC AMSR-E/AMSR2 Unified Data (AMSR-U) collection, which incorporates data from AMSR-E and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) sensor. AMSR2 began collecting observations in 2012.

All AMSR sensors were designed to operate in all kinds of weather, in daylight and nighttime conditions. As a result, the AMSR-related data collections at the NSIDC DAAC provide a continual data record of polar observations, uninterrupted by clouds or months of polar darkness, from 2002 to present.

The NSIDC DAAC AMSR-E data collection also includes data products from a series of validation campaigns that confirmed the integrity of AMSR-E data on global water and energy cycles. These validation data sets range in temporal coverage from 2000 through 2005.

AMSR-E validation studies

An extensive validation effort characterized and documented the accuracy and precision of AMSR-E observations and their derived products. Beyond validating AMSR-E observations, these campaigns generated observations and measurements that can be used in research independently of AMSR-E mission data.

Pre-AMSR-E launch validation activities demonstrated the stability of the instrument software, and began to show the validity of the retrieved products with ground-truth data from many locations. Post-launch efforts continued validating products retrieved by the sensor. Validation focused on three areas: cryospheric data, including snow, ice, and sea ice; soil moisture data; and rainfall data.

Snow, ice and sea ice data validation

Multiple types of data collection campaigns validated a variety of AMSR-E cryospheric data products. For example, the NASA Cold Land Processes Field Experiment (CLPX) took place in the central Rocky Mountains of the western United States. The experiment employed a multi-sensor, multi-scale approach to augment our understanding of water and energy flux, storage, and transformation. Data were collected periodically from June 2000 to March 2005 and are now archived in the NSIDC DAAC CLPX collection. Learn more about CLPX.

Other validation campaigns included:

  • Meltpond2000, a sea ice validation campaign for AMSR-E, focused on differentiating melting Arctic ice from surface pack ice, and differentiating between melt ponds and open sea water. The campaign used airborne passive microwave sensors in order to assess the accuracy of AMSR-E's spaceborne measurements. Resulting data describe brightness temperature.
  • AMSRIce03 validated and improved existing sea ice algorithms for the AMSR-E instrument. The campaign took both ground and aircraft measurements in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas of the Arctic Ocean, and in Elson Lagoon off the northern coast of Alaska, USA. Data products developed from the campaign characterize parameters such as sea ice thickness, surface roughness, and snow depth.
  • The West Antarctic Sea Ice Campaign acquired passive microwave measurements of sea ice concentration. Researchers obtained brightness temperatures from Punta Arenas, Chile, and the Bellinghausen and Weddell Seas. The East Antarctic Sea Ice Campaign used aerial cameras and thermal infrared radiometers to assess sea ice concentration. Data from these campaigns are not archived at NSIDC.

Soil moisture and rainfall data validation

Soil Moisture Experiments (SMEX) occurred from 2002 to 2005 in parts of the United States and Brazil. The experiments strived to provide data sets for hydrologic processes, validate spaceborne soil moisture measurements, and evaluate new technologies. AMSR-E validation studies linked to SMEX were specifically designed to evaluate the accuracy of AMSR-E soil moisture data.

Rainfall validation efforts occurred between October 1999 and September 2004 in select locations in the United States, Japan, and the Baltic Sea. The efforts included radar and gauge-based validation of AMSR-E global rain rate products, including instantaneous rain rate, stratiform/convective rain type, daily and monthly rain accumulation, water vapor profiles, and cloud properties.


Brightness temperature, sea ice concentration, sea ice motion, precipitation, snow depth, snow water equivalent, soil moisture, vegetation water content

Geographic coverage


Sensor(s) and satellite(s)

AMSR-E flew onboard NASA's Aqua satellite, which launched on May 2, 2002, and ceased operations on December 4, 2011.

Related collection(s)



NASA video: How AMSR-E works

Explore AMSR-E images