NSIDC DAAC Hands-on Tutorial: Discover, Access, and Harmonize Arctic Remote Sensing Data during the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting

The NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC) will be presenting a hands-on tutorial during the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting, hosted by the ARCUS Arctic Community Meeting Space. This tutorial will demonstrate our data discovery, access, subsetting services, and how to utilize basic open source resources to harmonize and analyze data across different remote sensing products.

Our data services team will be presenting this tutorial as a series of Python-based Jupyter Notebooks, focusing on sea ice height and ice surface temperature data from NASA’s ICESat-2 and MODIS missions, respectively, to characterize Arctic sea ice. No coding experience or computing prerequisites are required, though some familiarity with Python and Jupyter Notebooks is recommended.

Registration for this tutorial will close on Tuesday, December 10th, so please be sure to sign up to ensure a seat: https://forms.gle/48AiCNPdxbzoUDBH7

When: Wednesday, December 11th, 2:00 – 3:30 PST

Hotel Nikko, Room: Monterrey I
222 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102

We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!ICESat-2 Freeboard This composite image is a measurement of Arctic sea ice freeboard taken by ICESat-2’s instrument from data acquired between 1 to 30 November 2018. Freeboard is the difference between the top of ice and the ocean. Pink = higher elevation; blue/white = lower elevation; white circle = no data. Image Credit: NASA GSFC Kel Elkins

ICESat-2 Data Now Available at NSIDC DAAC

The first data sets from NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) are now available from the NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center (NSIDC DAAC). These data sets provide backscatter profiles; geolocated photon data; atmospheric layer characteristics; and geolocated surface elevations for land ice, sea ice, vegetation and land, and inland water.

The ICESat-2 web page provides an overview of the satellite mission and information on specific data sets, including those currently available and ones scheduled for future release.

Data access options for ICESat-2 data include direct download through HTTPS, but more advanced options for searching, customization, and data delivery can also be achieved through the following methods:

OpenAltimetry provides advanced discovery, processing, and visualization for both ICESat and ICESat-2 data.

Earthdata Search provides access to both ICESat and ICESat-2 data, with advanced search and order options. Here users have the option to customize their data, including reformatting; reprojection; and subsetting by spatial coverage, temporal coverage, and parameter.

Data set subscription is an option available for users who require the latest data delivered on a regular basis. As data are ingested at NSIDC DAAC, our subscription service will automatically send a subscriber data files that match their specifications. This can be done through email or through the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP), where NSIDC DAAC will send data directly to an SCP-enabled server. If the email delivery option is selected, users can choose to apply customizations, such as subsetting, reformatting, and reprojection, to their data files.

All access options are available on each ICESat-2 data set landing page in the “Data Downloads” tab.

Data download improvements

The process of accessing data from NSIDC is evolving, and with it, the design and function of data set landing pages.  The first improvements, released on March 6, reorganize the layout of these pages.  The most noticeable change will be the consolidation of data download functionality in a single tab, as illustrated below.

An annotated image of an NSIDC landing page is provided highlighting new features, including a Data Download tab.

An NSIDC landing page with new Data Download tab. Click for a larger image.






For certain data sets, new functionality will be available that allows users to temporally or spatially limit data files before ordering:

An annoted image a the new ordering interface.

An overview of new filter and download options available for some data sets. Click for larger image.








This functionality is currently being tested on the following data sets:

Once testing is complete, these functions will be extended to additional data sets.

For data sets that are currently available via FTP or HTTPS, users will be able to view and click file lists without leaving the landing page:

The FTP file list is shown.

FTP file list. Click for a larger image.






These ongoing improvements are based on research and input from NSIDC data users.  Feedback is welcome, via this link, or landing page Feedback icons.

Applications of SMAP and Evapotranspiration Data: Webinar Series

If you are interested in Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) data, we would like to bring your attention to an upcoming webinar series offered by the NASA Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) Program that is focused on applications of SMAP and evapotranspiration data. This webinar series will help attendees learn about NASA soil moisture and evapotranspiration products and how to access and apply them for water resource management. Over the course of five weeks, attendees will learn how to monitor and manage water resources with techniques learned in training. The series will begin with an introduction to satellite missions and useful data sets. Next, trainers will demonstrate online portals for accessing data. The series will conclude with specific examples of how you can apply the data and modeled data products.

Webinar series details
Applications of Remote Sensing to Soil Moisture and Evapotranspiration
Dates: Thursdays, from September 1 to September 29.
Times: 11:30-12:30 or 18:00-19:00, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Week 1: Introduction to Soil Moisture, Evapotranspiration, and an Overview of the SMAP Satellite Mission
Week 2: Applications of SMAP Data
Week 3: Accessing SMAP Data
Week 4: Landsat-based Evapotranspiration Estimates (METRIC) and Google Earth Engine Evapotranspiration Flux (EEFlux) Portal
Week 5: MODIS-based Evapotranspiration (ALEXI) and Soil Moisture and Evapotranspiration data from GLDAS/NLDAS

For more information and to register, please see:


Surface soil moisture in the Southeastern United States as retrieved from NASA’s SMAP satellite observatory at around 6 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2015. Large parts of South Carolina appear blue, representing areas with saturated soil conditions and possible standing water resulting from heavy localized rains and flooding. Large-scale flooding was experienced all over South Carolina on Oct. 5-6, 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

What happened to the tar-on-the-fly functionality for the “Sea Ice Concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Passive Microwave Data” data set?

QandAThis data set resides on an FTP server that was upgraded from WU-FTP to Pure-FTP in November 2015. Unfortunately, Pure-FTP does not support the tar-on-the-fly functionality that was offered by WU-FTP. We are still working to implement the necessary changes to documentation across our Web and FTP site.

Some alternative methods for downloading data in bulk include:

  • Using a web browser add-on, such as DownThemAll! for Firefox
  • Using an FTP client, such as Cyberduck
  • Using the command, “mget *” in a command line interface to copy all files from a specific directory to your host

Note that while this question refers to a specific data set, this upgrade affects all data sets on the sidads.colorado.edu FTP server.

Zoom In: Geolocating IceBridge Data

In 2009, NASA initiated Operation IceBridge, flying airborne missions to pinch hit for the ICESat satellites’ expected gap from 2009 to 2016. The airborne platform and the broad suite of instrumentation allow for the collection of high resolution snow and ice data from targeted areas of scientific interest. The downside is that the total area covered is not nearly as vast as what a satellite typically covers.

The resources listed below allow you to zoom in on the specific areas of the Earth where IceBridge data were collected. Many of these resources also provide a handy way to access the IceBridge data of your choice.

IceBridge Data Portal

IceBridge Data Portal

IceBridge Data Portal

* See flight lines plotted against imagery, DEM or ice velocity layers

* Zoom to your area of interest to find and download data from flights that intersect your target area

ATM Flight Lines in Google Earth

ATM Flight Lines in Google Earth

KML flight lines provided by the ATM instrument team

* Download simplified flight lines and view them in Google Earth or your favorite Earth browser

* Note: While these represent the majority of IceBridge flights, they will not include campaigns flown without the ATM instrument

Earthdata Search

The new Earthdata Search


NASA Reverb or the new Earthdata Search tool

* See the locations of flight segments associated with each data file on a map

* Search for and download just the data files that meet your criteria

* Note: Many but not all IceBridge data sets are available for visualization and download with these tools

IRMCR2 Data Table View

IRMCR2 Data Table View

Geolocation coordinates in the data files

* Those who have already selected and downloaded data files may start analyzing the individual measurements based on the Latitude and Longitude coordinates contained therein

* To the right is an example of a data table taken from the IceBridge MCoRDS L2 Ice Thickness data set


Examples of L0 IceBridge data sets in the NSIDC data search tool

Examples of L0 IceBridge data sets in the NSIDC data search tool

Instrument position data

* Some researchers may need instrument position information, which may include altitude, velocity, roll, and pitch in addition to coordinates

* Separate data sets with this information are available for the DMS Camera and the LVIS Instrument

* For some other instruments, this information is included within the Level 0 data set for the instrument. To easily browse the holdings of IceBridge data sets, see the NSIDC Data Search tool

Flight lines over Greenland

Flight lines over Greenland. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

How can I avoid having to download files one by one from your FTP site?

QandAIn most Web browsers, you can use the tar-on-the-fly capability by simply appending a .tar extension to the directory name in the FTP address.

For example, to download all of the northern hemisphere files from the following FTP site, append .tar at the appropriate directory level:  ….DATASETS/nsidc0051_gsfc_nasateam_seaice/final-gsfc/north.tar

You can append a .tar anywhere in the file directory structure such as: ….DATASETS/nsidc0051_gsfc_nasateam_seaice/final-gsfc.tar

The previous example would be a much larger file however, as it would include both northern and southern hemisphere data. The browser should prompt for where to save the tar file.

Search and discover NSIDC data sets with our new search tool

How do I differentiate between sea ice data sets? Which ones have file formats that are easy for me to use? How many ice velocity data sets are offered at NSIDC? What are my options for downloading the data? NSIDC has been busily working to develop a Web tool to answer these questions and more. The new Scientific Data Search aims to help you discover the data sets most useful to you.

Scientific Data Search interface

This new tool replaces the previous NSIDC data set search tool. It is recommended for those who would like to explore the breadth of NSIDC’s data holdings.

Using the search tool’s interface, you can find which data sets contain a particular data parameter, such as snow cover, or which data sets were submitted by a specific Principal Investigator. Map and calendar controls also allow you to see which data sets intersect with your custom spatial area or temporal range.

The listing of results is designed to allow for quick scanning. Attributes are clearly displayed to facilitate selection. You can read more about a data set in your results list by clicking on the title, or you can click the ‘Get Data’ button if you are ready to download the data.

The ‘Get Data’ button expands to show you all the various alternatives for downloading or visualizing the data. Those of you who are familiar with the data offerings may appreciate the direct link to the data download directory. Those who are looking for ways to subset the data will find direct access to tools such as Earthdata Search.

Future enhancements to the search tool will allow for results to be narrowed by custom inputs and will allow for better comparison between similar data sets.

Please give the Scientific Data Search a try. We welcome your comments at nsidc@nsidc.org.

Scientific Data Search listing of results