Get Data

Reverb: NASA search and order tool for subsetting, reprojecting, and reformatting data.

NOTE: Reverb will be decommissioned in the coming months and replaced with Earthdata Search. All links to Reverb will be removed at that time.
GLAS Subsetter: Order geographic and temporal subsets of the data.
Earthdata Search: NASA's newest search and order tool for subsetting, reprojecting, and reformatting data.
Data Set ID:

GLAS/ICESat L2 Global Cloud Heights for Multi-layer Clouds, Version 33

The Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) instrument on the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) provides global measurements of polar ice sheet elevation to discern changes in ice volume (mass balance) over time. Secondary objectives of GLAS are to measure sea ice roughness and thickness, cloud and atmospheric properties, land topography, vegetation canopy heights, ocean surface topography, and surface reflectivity.

GLAS has a 1064 nm laser channel for surface altimetry and dense cloud heights, and a 532 nm lidar channel for the vertical distribution of clouds and aerosols.

Level-2 cloud heights for multi-layer clouds (GLA09) contain cloud layer top and bottom height data at sampling rates of 4 sec, 1 sec, 5 Hz, and 40 Hz.

Each data granule has an associated browse product that users can quickly view to determine the general quality of the data in the granule. Browse products consist of image plots of key parameters and statistics. Data are in scaled integer binary format, big-endian (Unix) byte order, and are available via FTP.

Version Summary:

For information about Version 33, see the NSIDC ICESat Description of Data Releases page.

Geographic Coverage

Spatial Coverage:
  • N: 86, S: -86, E: 180, W: -180

Spatial Resolution:
  • 60 m to 70 m x 60 m to 70 m
Temporal Coverage:
  • 20 February 2003 to 11 October 2009
Temporal Resolution: 1288 minute
  • Clouds > Cloud Height
  • Clouds > Cloud Vertical Distribution
Platform(s) ICESAT
Data Format(s):
  • Binary
Version: V33
Data Contributor(s): H. Zwally, Robert Schutz, Steve Palm, William Hart, Dennis Hlavka, James Spinhirne, Ellsworth Welton

Data Citation

As a condition of using these data, you must cite the use of this data set using the following citation. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Zwally, H. J., R. Schutz, W. Hart, D. Hlavka, S. Palm, J. Spinhirne, and E. Welton. 2011. GLAS/ICESat L2 Global Cloud Heights for Multi-layer Clouds, Version 33. [Indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA. NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center. doi: [Date Accessed].
No technical references available for this data set.


In GLA09 (GLAH09), is there a cloud bottom for every cloud top? How do you match them?

For every top of layer given, there is definitely a bottom of layer given in the same corresponding location in the vector. The tops and bottoms vectors are ordered top-down for each channel (532 nm or 1064 nm) independently. Thus, if Cld_top and Cld_bot are the 10-element arrays that hold the... read more

Since two different algorithms are used in GLA08 (GLAH08) and GLA09 (GLAH09), are the aerosol layers different between the two products?

GLA09 (GLAH09) should not contain elevated aerosol layers, only cloud heights. If the GLA09 (GLAH09) algorithm detects a layer in the data, a cloud/aerosol discrimination routine is called. If the layer is considered cloud, then it is output to GLA09 (GLAH09). If it is... read more

How To

How to convert GLAS Binary elevation data to WGS-84

The data tool NGAT provides the option of including a new variable (i_deltaEllip) whose
value is Surface Elevation (T/P ellipsoid) minus Surface Elevation (WGS84 ellipsoid).

This product variable will be added to the end of your output record if you set
"... read more