Advanced discovery, processing, and visualization services for ICESat and ICESat-2 altimeter data


Current approaches for the discovery and distribution of airborne and satellite remote sensing data are targeted primarily toward raster and/or point cloud datasets. These data are typically distributed on the web via a map-based GUI, with background optical imagery or shaded topography providing the spatial context for the data. Remote sensing measurements from profiling instruments such as laser/radar altimeters and atmospheric sounders present a different challenge. These observations are densely sampled along ground tracks that can be separated by kilometers or more and are largely independent of each other spatially. Profiling data are also information-rich, and often include vector (rather than scalar) measurements and many auxiliary parameters.

There are currently no open data access systems designed to address two critical user requirements for profiling data: 1) the ability to visualize vector data and auxiliary parameters along one or more individual tracks on a web-based map interface, and 2) simultaneous visualization of repeated tracks at the same location over time. NASA’s ICESat and upcoming ICESat-2 missions use profiling laser altimeters to measure changes in the topography of Earth’s ice sheets, vegetation canopy structure, and clouds and aerosols. The unique data from these missions require a new paradigm for data access, to serve the needs of a diverse scientific community and to increase the accessibility and utility of these data for new users.

OpenAltimetry is a cyberinfrastructure platform for ICESat and ICESat-2 data discovery, access, and visualization. This platform will leverage and build upon the service-oriented architecture behind the OpenTopography system that already provides integrated access and processing capabilities for high resolution topography data. The proposed work will also leverage development performed as part of the NASA Lidar Access System project, a collaboration between UNAVCO, OpenTopography, the Goddard Space Flight Center, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) that prototyped an ICESat data discovery interface and improved GLAS data products.