The NSIDC DAAC Nimbus data rescue project data collection includes satellite images from the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

NASA’s Nimbus program included seven satellite missions, starting with Nimbus-1 launched in 1964. Although the first satellite was intended to test weather satellite technology, it also captured still images through a video camera, and through infrared radiometer data.

Early Nimbus satellites made observations of sea ice that predate the continuous sea ice satellite record, which dates back to October 1978. However, Nimbus data seemed largely lost to science because the satellites’ film rolls gathered dust for decades. 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 began a data-rescue operation funded by NASA, in collaboration with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at NASA Ames Research Park.

NSIDC digitized the black-and-white film images, as well as the infrared radiometer data. 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.

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