NDVI: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index-3rd generation: NASA/GFSC GIMMS

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index-3rd generation (NDVI) using the Global Inventory Monitoring and Modeling System (GIMMS):  Vegetation indices are radiometric measures of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by chlorophyll in the green leaves of vegetation canopies and are therefore good surrogate measures of the physiologically functioning surface greenness level of a region. For 30 years, Compton J. Tucker  created the NDVI time series within the framework of the Global Inventory Monitoring and Modeling System (GIMMS) project. He carefully assemblied it from different AVHRR sensors and accounting for various deleterious effects, such as calibration loss, orbital drift, volcanic eruptions, etc.  The latest version of the GIMMS NDVI data set spans the period July 1981 to December 2015 and is termed NDVI3g (third generation GIMMS NDVI from AVHRR sensors). 

The USGS Remote sensing phenology states: "NDVI values range from +1.0 to -1.0. Areas of barren rock, sand, or snow usually show very low NDVI values (for example, 0.1 or less). Sparse vegetation such as shrubs and grasslands or senescing crops may result in moderate NDVI values (approximately 0.2 to 0.5). High NDVI values (approximately 0.6 to 0.9) correspond to dense vegetation such as that found in temperate and tropical forests or crops at their peak growth stage."





Key Strengths:

  • Very high resolution (1/12 degree).
  • While not a CDR, this data set has undergone careful evolution.
  • Each data file contains a convenient half-month composite.

Key Limitations:

  • The netCDF-4 file does not adhere to any file convention (eg: CF)

Years of Record

1981/07 to 2015/12
temporal metadataID:





Spatial Resolution

1/12 degree: , lat-2160, lon-4320

Ocean or Land


Missing Data Flag

missing data present

Vertical Levels

Input Data


Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes



NASA/GSFC GIMMS: NDVI-3g: July 1, 1981 NASA/GSFC GIMMS: NDVI-3g: July 1, 1981

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 15 Mar 2018. "The Climate Data Guide: NDVI: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index-3rd generation: NASA/GFSC GIMMS." Retrieved from https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/ndvi-normalized-difference-vegetation-index-3rd-generation-nasagfsc-gimms.

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.