NSIDC Data on Google Earth

The National Snow and Ice Data Center offers some of our data in the form of images. From these, we have created Google Earth™ files that enable you to view them on a virtual globe. Our goal is to help people better understand the cryosphere—where the world is frozen—by making our data more visible and interactive. Featured Data highlights some of our most requested data, as well as our newest Google Earth files.

Featured Data

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

September Sea Ice Extent, 1979-2014

Compare over 30 years of September sea ice minimum extent images from satellites for both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Download: September Sea Ice Extent, 1979-2014 (KMZ, 352 KB, Updated May 2015)

Data Source: Sea Ice Index

Sea Ice on Google Earth

Sea Ice Minimum and Maximum Extents, 1979 to Present

View Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents from 1979 through present for the months March (maximum sea ice extents) and September (minimum sea ice extents).

Download: Sea Ice: Minimum and Maximum Extents (KMZ, 909 KB, Updated May 2015).

Data Source: Sea Ice Index

Note: September is the default month when the file is opened. To see March, click on the March layer in the Google Earth side panel.

Climate Change Tour Image

A Climate Change Tour of Cold Places

A narrated tour of the snowy and icy regions of the world covering sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves, and permafrost.

Download: Climate Change Tour of Cold Places (KML, 32 KB)

Data Source: A Climate Change Tour for a K-12 Audience

Note: This was a collaborative project between NSIDC and the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education.

Also see: Scientists Answer Student's Questions about the Cryosphere

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Wilkins Ice Bridge Collapse, February-April 2009

View a time series of satellite images showing the break up of an ice bridge that was shoring up the Wilkins ice shelf.

Download: Wilkins ice bridge collapse file for Google Earth (KMZ, 547 KB)

Data Source: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)


View More Snow, Ice, Glaciers, Permafrost, and Sea Ice on the Globe

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Glaciers and Climate Change

View glacier photograph pairs showing how some glaciers have changed over time.

Download: Glaciers and climate change file for Google Earth (KML, 48 KB)

Data Source: Glacier Photograph Collection

Sea Ice, Glacier Photo Pairs, Larsen B Iceshelf Collapse images Google Earth

Changes in Glaciers, the Larsen B Ice Shelf, and Arctic Sea Ice Extent

View photographs showing long-term changes in glaciers; watch the disintegration of the Larsen B ice shelf; and view Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents from 1979 through present.

Download: Glaciers, ice shelves, and sea ice file for Google Earth (KML, 8 KB)

Data Sources: Glacier Photograph Collection, Sea Ice Index, and Animation of Larsen B breakup

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Glaciers, Permafrost, and Ground Ice

View photographs of more than 10,000 glaciers, 1880s to present, and permafrost and ground ice types and extents in the Northern Hemisphere.

Download: Glaciers and permafrost file for Google Earth (KML, 6 KB)

Data Source: Glacier Photograph Collection and Circum-Arctic Map of Permafrost and Ground-Ice Conditions

GLIMS ASTER glacier footprints on Google Earth

Glaciers: GLIMS ASTER Glacier Footprints

View approximately 150,000 ASTER browse images over regions of the world where glaciers exist, from 2000-present.

Download: GLIMS ASTER glacier footprints file (KMZ, 4 KB)

Data Sources: GLIMS Glacier Database and Terra ASTER Metadata Inventory, EROS

image of glacier photographs on Google Earth

Greenland Annual Surface Melt, 1979 - 2007

View the extent and frequency of surface melt for the Greenland ice sheet.

Download: Greenland melt file for Google Earth (KMZ, 404 KB)

Data Source: Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Characteristics Derived from Passive Microwave Data

IceTrek iceberg tracks

Icebergs: IceTrek Iceberg Tracks

Explore the life cycle of drifting Antarctic icebergs, and view photos from instruments riding on the bergs.

Download: IceTrek iceberg tracks file (KMZ, 6.7 MB)

Data Source: IceTrek Web site

Larsen B Iceshelf collapse image

Ice Shelves: Breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf

Watch the disintegration of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, as captured in MODIS satellite images.

Download: Larsen B ice shelf file for Google Earth (KMZ, 3 MB)

Data Source: Animation of Larsen B breakup

image of MODIS snow cover data on Google Earth

Global Snow Cover from MODIS

View global, monthly average snow cover by month for 10 years: 2000-2009.


2009 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2008 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2007 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2006 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2005 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)

2004 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2003 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2002 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2001 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)
2000 snow cover (KML, 670 KB)

Data Source: MODIS/Terra Snow Cover Monthly L3 Global 0.05Deg CMG, Version 5

Note: This time series runs from October 2000 to May 2009. The following months are missing: March 2002 and December 2003

ice edge image

Sea Ice: Nordic Seas Ice Edge

View changes in the sea ice edge in the Nordic Seas, from 1967 to 2002, for the months March through August.

Download: Nordic Seas ice edge (KML, 892 KB)

Data Source: March through August Ice Edge Positions in the Nordic Seas, 1750-2002


Locate Cryospheric Field Data Sets on the Globe

AGDC Field Data on Google Earth

Antarctic Glaciological Data Center Field Data

Locate and link to Antarctic images and data sets from the Antarctic Glaciological Data Center (AGDC).

Download: Antarctic data file for Google Earth (KMZ, 11 KB)

Data Source: NSIDC Antarctic Glaciological Data Center

Download Google Earth
See Also

Movie of sea ice extents, 1979-2008, on Google Earth

2008 sea ice extent side-by-side with 1979-2008 climatology (QuickTime, 1.6 MB)

Atlas of the Cryosphere

Related Resources

NSIDC Virtual Globes Help and Documentation

More information on NSIDC Google Earth files.


Questions, comments, or suggestions? Contact us at nsidc@nsidc.org or via the online contact form.