Tips for working with AMSR-E Daily Soil Moisture data

Soil moisture is a key variable in understanding land surface hydrology and in modeling ecosystems, weather, and climate. Among NSIDC’s most popular data sets is the “AMSR-E/Aqua Daily L3 Surface Soil Moisture, Interpretive Parameters, & QC EASE-Grids” (AE_Land3) data set. This data set is distributed in HDF-EOS format and one of the biggest hurdles encountered by many users is simply learning how to display the data. Here are some tips on how to get started.

The HDF Group provides sample code for access and visualization of HDF data into IDL, MATLAB, and NCL. Access to the sample code for AMSR-E HDF data is provided on the HDF Group’s HDF-EOS Comprehensive Examples Web page.

If you are more familiar with GeoTIFF format, you may choose to utilize the HDF-EOS to GeoTIFF (HEG) Tool to convert AMSR-E Daily Soil Moisture HDF data into GeoTIFF format. This tool also allows you to subset the data with spatial or parameter constraints, as well as change the output projection. These HEG Tool services are also available as an option when ordering these data through the Reverb search and order interface. Instructions on how to use these data services in Reverb can be found in this Online Support article.

If you are interested in importing the data into ArcGIS, you can either use the GeoTIFF files generated by the HEG Tool or downloaded from Reverb, or you can perform a few steps to import the native HDF-EOS files into ArcMap. Using the ArcToolbox, you can easily extract a data field from an HDF file and save it in a different raster format that you are more familiar with. Instructions detailing how to do this can be found in this Online Support article.

AMSR-E L3 Daily Soil Moisture plot, 07/01/2002

AMSR-E L3 Daily Soil Moisture plot, 07/01/2002.

Looking for sample code for reading and visualizing NSIDC’s HDF data?

Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) supports a variety of data types and allows for the transfer and manipulation of scientific data across diverse operating systems and computer platforms. It was developed by the HDF Group at the University of Illinois and is the standard data format for all NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) data.

A variety of HDF data are distributed at NSIDC, including data from the AMSR-E, MODIS, and GLAS sensors as well as the NISE data set.

Despite the versatility of HDF, some data users have had difficulty in reading and displaying HDF data and often ask if we have sample code for reading HDF data in programs such as IDL and MATLAB.

Fortunately, the HDF Group provides sample code for access and visualization of HDF data into IDL, MATLAB, and NCL. Access to the sample code for NSIDC HDF data is provided on the HDF Group’s HDF-EOS Comprehensive Examples Web page.

Also note that this information can be found in our Online Support under the AMSR-E, MODIS, GLAS, and NISE forums.

Sample Matlab plot of AMSR-E 12km Sea Ice

Sample plot generated in MATLAB from AMSR-E 12km Sea Ice data (from http://hdfeos.org/zoo/).