Nimbus Data Rescue Project


The NSIDC DAAC Nimbus data collection includes satellite images from the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. This collection stems from a data rescue project, which saw NSIDC digitizing black-and-white film images and infrared radiometer data from Nimbus satellites. The NSIDC then assembled composites of visible imagery and of infrared data, showing sea ice conditions from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s. Although Nimbus data products do not provide continuous observations, they do extend the satellite record of sea ice data 14 years before the continuous record started. Nimbus observations can be used to study how sea ice has changed over several decades.

NASA’s Nimbus program included seven satellite missions, starting with Nimbus-1 in 1964. Although the first satellite was intended to test weather satellite technology, it also captured still images through a video camera and through an infrared radiometer. Early Nimbus satellites made observations of sea ice that predate the continuous sea ice satellite record, which starts in October 1978. For decades, the satellites’ film rolls gathered dust in an archive and were unusable to the scientific community. In 2009, the CIRES Innovative Research Program provided a small grant to support an initial recovery and assessment effort. In the early 2010s, the NSIDC DAAC completed the data-rescue project, which was funded by NASA in collaboration with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at NASA Ames Research Park. 

The NSIDC DAAC provides Level-1, Level-2, and Level-3 products from the Nimbus data rescue project.


Visible imagery, infrared imagery, brightness temperature, water vapor, ice edges

Geographic coverage


Data sources

Data products were derived from the IDCS, AVCS, HRIR, and THIR sensors on board the Nimbus 1, Nimbus 2, Nimbus 3, Nimbus 4, Nimbus 5, Nimbus 6, and Nimbus 7 satellites.

Explore Images from Nimbus

Nimbus Data Rescue