LVIS: NASA Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor Facility


The NSIDC DAAC LVIS collection includes airborne remote sensing data from the NASA Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor (LVIS) Facility. LVIS is an airborne, wide-swath imaging laser altimeter system that is flown over target areas to collect data on surface topography and three-dimensional structure. Collection periods for NSIDC DAAC LVIS data products range from 2007 to present. These data products come from missions over polar regions, and in parts of North America, Central America, and Africa. Examples include the following:

  • The AfriSAR campaign collected canopy top and ground elevation data from selected sites in Gabon in February and March 2016.
  • The ABoVE campaign collected data from selected sites in northern Canada and Alaska as part of NASA's Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment in June and July 2017.

The NSIDC DAAC LVIS collection includes Level-0, Level-1A, Level-1B, and Level-2A products encompassing:

  • Terrain elevation: surface height data collected by airborne lidar scanning laser altimeters
  • Sensor counts: raw observations to which data users can apply their own corrections
  • Visible imagery: geotagged images acquired by mapping cameras

The LVIS wide-swath imaging laser altimeter samples the targeted surface completely and evenly. Gathering data on elevation and structure, LVIS produces topographic maps accurate to within one-tenth of a meter. These data can be applied to research on:

  • Surface topography of oceans, land surfaces, glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice
  • Vegetation height and structure
  • Surface heights of human-made features

LVIS observations can be combined with other data and model results to address questions about biodiversity, and about Earth’s carbon and water cycles.

From 2009 through 2017, LVIS participated in many Operation IceBridge flights in both the Arctic and Antarctic. In 2017, LVIS began operating as a NASA Facility to provide low-cost data to a whole new set of NASA investigators.  LVIS has been flown every year since then in multiple campaigns. The data are now gathered into Facility and Optical data products rather than by campaign name (LVISF1B, LVISF2, OLVIS1A). The products can be filtered using temporal, spatial, and/or campaign name to find specific data.

LVIS was developed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with support from NASA Headquarters to facilitate access to large-area lidar coverage.


Sensor counts, visible imagery, surface elevation, terrain elevation

Geographic coverage

Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Africa, North, South and Central America

Related collection(s)



Explore images from LVIS