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About our Programs

About our Programs

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has a long history of managing and storing data for government agencies and organizations. In 1976, the U.S. Geological Survey transferred responsibility for the World Data Center (WDC) for Glaciology, which was created to archive all available glaciological information, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Data and Information Service. NOAA moved the center to the University of Colorado Boulder, and in 1982, created NSIDC to expand the WDC holdings and archive data from other NOAA programs. In the 1980s and 1990s, the data management portfolio at NSIDC grew as further funding and work came in from NASA and the National Science Foundation(NSF). It continues to grow today. 

A trusted data archive center

NSIDC’s data management programs focus on preserving, documenting and providing access to cryospheric data and related geophysical data. NSIDC operates three core data management programs: the NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC), the NOAA program at NSIDC (NOAA@NSIDC), and Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA). Within these programs, NSIDC stores and manages:

  • Cryosphere-related data from Earth-observing satellite missions, airborne surveys, field observations, weather stations, historical records, and data rescue projects
  • Data produced by NSIDC scientists and other researchers in the cryospheric sciences
  • Indigenous Knowledge and observations from Arctic regions that are documented and shared in an ethical manner to support community goals for data sharing, use and preservation

NSIDC also works with data producers and users to create and publish tools and resources that make the data more accessible to a wide user base. NSIDC is a CoreTrustSeal-certified Regular Member of the World Data System (WDS), signifying that NSIDC provides reliable, high-quality data services. CoreTrustSeal is an international, community-based, non-governmental and non-profit organization that identifies sustainable and trustworthy data infrastructures through a rigorous certification process.

Core data management programs

NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC)

NSIDC has managed the NSIDC DAAC, one of twelve Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) in NASA's Earth Science Data and Information System Project (ESDIS), since 1993. The ESDIS project aims to maximize the scientific return from NASA's missions and experiments for research and applied scientists, decision makers, and society at large. 

Within this program, NSIDC archives and distributes cryospheric and related geophysical data from NASA Earth-observing satellite missions, airborne campaigns and field observations, and provides: 

  • Hundreds of free and open NASA Earth science data sets
  • Detailed data documentation
  • Data tools, resources, and tutorials
  • Robust data user support services

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program at NSIDC (NOAA@NSIDC)

The NOAA@NSIDC program, which began in 1996, offers free and open-access data about the cryosphere, including data sets on current and historical sea ice conditions, decades-long records of snow extent, historic glacier photographs, and declassified Cold War submarine observations of the Arctic. Data come from varied sources, including satellites, in situ observations, weather services, historical records, and rescued data. 

Example of data types and products that NOAA@NSIDC manages include: 

  • Data from operational communities such as the U.S. National Ice Center, NOAA National Weather Service, and U.S. Navy
  • Rescued historical data—sea ice, lake ice, icebergs, glacier, and weather observations, some records dating back to the nineteenth century or even further into the past
  • Compilations and atlases from individual scientists, research programs, and international groups, like the Glacier Photograph Collection
  • Cryospheric data sets like the Sea Ice Index that are not only valuable to scientists but easy to use and understand by the public and the press

Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA)

The ELOKA program at NSIDC, which began in 2007, fosters collaboration between resident Arctic experts, Indigenous communities, and visiting researchers to create online products that facilitate the collection, preservation, exchange, and use of local observations and Indigenous Knowledge of the Arctic. ELOKA collaborates with Arctic community and Indigenous organizations, schools, and researchers to create customized data management products. By doing so, ELOKA provides open and tailored data access, data stewardship for Indigenous communities, and services ranging from advising on data sharing ethics and protocols to handling different data types. The data management and user support that ELOKA provides to Indigenous communities focuses on ensuring their data and knowledge are managed, visualized, and shared in an ethical manner to work toward information and data sovereignty for Arctic residents. ELOKA is funded by NSF.

Example of data types and products that ELOKA manages include: 

  • Interactive digital atlases showcasing community-based observations of social and environmental change and related geospatial data, such as trail locations, place names, land-use demarcations, or local climate information
  • Customized websites containing cultural, historical, and/or environmental information significant to partner communities, often in the form of written interview transcripts, audio or video files, photographs, artwork, illustrations, and maps
  • Data sets of environmental and wildlife observations collected by Indigenous experts
  • Access to local weather station data, including temperature, snow thickness, and wind data

Past data management programs

The Antarctic Glaciological Data Center

From 1999 to 2018, NSIDC managed NSF’s Office of Polar Program’s Antarctic Glaciology Data Center (AGDC). Early in the data management program, AGDC supported major ice coring efforts under the Siple Dome project, the International TransAntarctic Scientific Expedition program, and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) initiative. Later in the program, the focus shifted to acquiring all field research data under the NSF U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) Antarctic Glaciology program and to including other data collections, such as the Antarctic Ice Temperature Data, Antarctic Ice Velocity Data, Mosaic of Antarctica, and Ice Shelf Satellite Imagery.

In 2016, NSIDC partnered with the United States Antarctic Program - Data Center (USAP-DC) at Columbia University to consolidate NSF glaciology data into a central USAP Project Catalog and a Data Repository for research datasets derived from these projects. From 2016 to 2018, the AGDC data sets were transferred to USAP-DC. All AGDC data previously archived with NSIDC are now available via the USAP-DC. 

The Frozen Ground Data Center

From 2000 to 2004, NSIDC collaborated with the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) to serve as a central node of the International Permafrost Association’s Global Geocryological Data (GGD), an internationally distributed system linking investigators and data centers around the world. During this time, NSIDC developed and managed the Frozen Ground Data Center (FGDC), which collected and distributed data and metadata describing permafrost and frozen-ground-related data. Although the official FGDC program ended in 2004, the data remain available in the NSIDC data catalog at a basic level of service.