Operational Ice Maps

What it is: Operational Ice Maps support scientific and commercial users on-site with the most up-to-date sea ice information in file formats and sizes that are optimized for low-bandwidth network connections. Upon request, Drift + Noise offers customized ice maps for other file formats and data products.

Order your free trial Ice Maps and get satellite-based sea ice information delivered to you on-site approximately 2 hours after satellite acquisition.

Your Benefits

Upon your request, Operational Ice Maps are produced on the fly based on data from optical, active, and passive microwave satellites at both high and low resolutions. After processing, extracted sea ice information in the desired area of interest is sent via communication satellites directly to you.


Support in-field decisions using state of the art satellite data
Simple data requests
No further processing required
Rapid on-site delivery
Various digital formats
Easy on board visualization
Data delivery via Email or FTP
Small file sizes for low-bandwith connections

8 updates per day: NRT sea-ice concentration

In contrast to other products, our sea-ice concentration maps are based on running composites that are updated for each satellite swath. By doing this, the user can obtain sea-ice concentration data with a delay of less than 2 hours, and a frequency of up to 8 times a day depending on the location.

GIS layers

High resolution SAR data for decision making

The operational ice maps system downloads, processes, and delivers high resolution SAR data from Sentinel-1 satellites in near-real time. Our customers apply SAR data to support on-site decision making by extracting information such as ice drift, ice age, and deformation or position of leads.

Sentinel layers

Automated SAR-based object tracking

Our data processing system can track ships and buoys using Sentinel-1 SAR data. Provide us with self-updating buoy or ship positions and the system will frequently check if new satellite scenes were acquired over your target. If new data is available, images are downloaded, processed, and sent to you in pre-defined formats and file sizes.

Tracking layers

Data Products

Sea-ice concentration

Sea-ice concentration data are obtained from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) of the Global Change Observation Mission 1-Water "SHIZUKU" (GCOM-W1) of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA.

Currently existing sea-ice concentration maps display the sea-ice condition averaged over the past 24 hours (a mean composite). In contrast, the sea-ice concentration maps provided via the Open Data Portal are based on running composites that are updated for each satellite swath. By doing this, features such as leads are resolved much better. In addition, the user can obtain sea-ice concentration data with less than 2 hour's delay, up to 8 times a day depending on the location. Data can be downloaded or sent as maps, geolocated raster files, or binary data files optimized for data transfer to remote locations. Data acquisition time for each grid cell is included in the data product.

Orbit Coverage (Arctic)

Arctic Orbit Coverage

Orbit Coverage (Antarctic)

Antarctic Orbit Coverage

SAR data: Sentinel-1

Sentinel-1 is a space mission from ESA, consisting of a constellation of two satellites, Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B (launch in 2016). The satellite is equipped with a C-band Synthethic Aperture Radar (SAR) antenna, that continuously acquires scenes over Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. The data can be used to extract information about sea ice drift, sea ice type and age, deformation and leads. Scenes are acquired in one of the three modes:

Strip Map Mode: 5 x 5 m spatial resolution, 80 km swath width

Interferometric Wide Swath: 5 x 20 m spatial resolution, 250 km swath width

Extra-Wide Swath Mode: 25 x 100 m spatial resolution, 400 km swath width

Upon a your request, the Data Portal downloads Sentinel-1 data and delivers it to you on-site in various file formats optimized for Iridium transfer via Email or FTP.

SAR data: TerraSAR-X

TerraSAR-X is a space mission carried out under a public-private-partnership between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and EADS Astrium. The payload of TerraSAR-X is a X-band Synthethic Aperture Radar (SAR). Scenes can be acquired in three imaging modes:

SpotLight with a resolution of up to 1 m

StripMap mode with a resolution of up to 3 m

ScanSAR, with a resolution of up to 16 m

Data takes need to be ordered in advance via the data provider. Once data were acquired, scenes can be processed and distributed via the OSSI system.


Further data products will be continously added in future releases.

Example upcoming data products:

Sea-ice edge

Ship & Iceberg detection

Leads in close ice cover

Sea-ice drift

File Formats and Visualization Software

File formats

Open Data Portal products are provided in a GeoTIFF file format. The GeoTIFF format is compatible with various software presently being used for the visualization or analysis on board or in field. Furthermore data can be obtained in a map style as a PNG and in a Hierarchical Data Format (HDF, version 5). KMZ files will be available soon.

Upon request, we support various other file formats (e.g. for charting software). For more information please see our custom made solutions.

Below, we provide a selection of standard open-source and commercial software that may be used for data visualization and analysis.

Data visualization and analysis

Geographical Information Systems

The use of GIS systems for ice management or to operate ships near, through, and beneath sea ice becomes more popular. The GeoTIFF format is supported by most open-source and commercial GIS systems.

For example the ESRI ArcGIS software, the open source solution GRASS GIS or the ION ice management system Narwhal.

Note that most GIS software enables simultaneous visualization of GPS data streams such as waypoints and track logs.

Web-based applications

If no analytical functionality is required, the use of browser based systems such as those provided by Google or Microsoft reduces the cost as there are little or no license fees. A KMZ file format for visualization in Google Earth is planned and will be available soon.

Programming languages

  • Reading and displaying routines for various programming languages such as IDL, Matlab, Fotran and Python will be soon available on the DNPS FTP site.
  • Importing GeoTIFF files into IDL: Link
  • Information on handling GeoTIFF files in Python: Link
  • Reading GeoTIFF files in Matlab: Link
  • A library for handling HDF5 files with IDL, Matlab, Fortran and Python: Link

Customized Ice Maps

Customized Ice Maps provides a number of improvements to the free trial version

Tailored Data Products

Custom file formats upon request (Vector Formats and structured binary data files)

Fully customizable processing chain to higher level data products

  • Automatic high resolution detection of sea ice leads in ice covered areas
  • Dynamic sub-setting (Localized sea-ice information around moving targets)
  • Sea-ice edge detection
  • Sea-ice drift information and deformation
  • Back-tracking of sea-ice floes
  • Ship and Iceberg detection

Support of Real-Time Data Acquisition Systems

2met!® from SCISYS is a multi-mission concept for real-time data acquisition, processing and visualization. The receiving station comes along with a display software for meteorologists and forecasters that can be used to visualize OSSI data products.
Download sample XPIF data file

Compatible Data Products for Charting Software

OpenCPN is a free software project to create a concise chart plotter and navigation software, for use underway or as a planning tool.

MaxSea offers marine navigation software targeting both recreational sailors and professional mariners.

iNavX™ – Marine Navigation App for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.