CU-Boulder Awarded $32 Million Contract From NASA To Manage Snow And Ice Data System

Published: May 30, 2008

The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded a five-year, $32 million contract from NASA to manage and operate a sophisticated data system charting global phenomena like sea ice, ice shelves, ice sheets, glaciers and snow cover.

The five-year contract means CU-Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center will manage the Distributed Active Archive Center, or DAAC, for NASA through at least 2013. The DAAC -- the largest data management and research activity at the NSIDC -- has been operated at the CU-Boulder center for NASA since 1993.

Employees at DAAC process, archive, validate and distribute snow and ice data products generated from a variety of Earth-orbiting satellites and research ground stations. NSIDC maintains data on a wide variety of phenomena in cold regions of the planet, including snow cover, glaciers, avalanches, ice sheets, freshwater ice, sea ice, ground ice, permafrost, atmospheric ice and ice cores.

Researchers at NSIDC use the DAAC data to study ongoing declines in sea ice, glaciers and ice caps, including events like record extent lows of Arctic sea ice and ice-shelf breakups. When Antarctica's Wilkins Ice Shelf began to rapidly disintegrate in March 2008, NSIDC scientists first spotted the events using DAAC satellite data.

"We're seeing unprecedented changes in the ice cover of the Earth," said CU-Boulder researcher Ted Scambos, lead scientist at NSIDC. "These changes are happening so fast, and are so widespread, that the only way to monitor them and understand them is with satellite data.

"NSIDC's NASA data archive at the DAAC provides scientists all over the world with ready access to this data, past, present and future, into the next decade," said Scambos. "That's how you study climate change -- with long-term data sets."

NSIDC is a major source of data and information for journalists and the public regarding snow and ice research. As Arctic sea ice approached its all-time record low extent in September 2007, NSIDC posted satellite imagery and ongoing scientific analysis of sea ice conditions on the Internet. NSIDC staff responded to a deluge of requests from reporters worldwide for images, interviews and information, helping the public obtain accurate data and scientific information regarding the declining sea ice and the role of global climate change.

The NSIDC activity supports NASA's mission to understand the Earth and its response to natural and human-induced change using the NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System. To date, the DAAC team has distributed more than 125 terabytes of data to researchers and other users. DAAC holdings are six times the volume of the digital collections at the Library of Congress.

NSIDC is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The center supports research into Earth's frozen regions, offering more than 500 products, primarily data and information from Earth observation satellites to researchers, commercial users, educators, and others worldwide.

For more information on NSIDC visit the Web at For information on the DAAC, visit the Web at For information on NASA's Earth System Science and Data Services, visit the Web at