Climate Data

Sea Ice Concentration data: Overview, Comparison table and graphs

Sea ice concentration is both an indicator and driver of high-latitude climate change with strong societal and ecological importance. It is a key boundary condition for atmospheric models (including those used in atmospheric reanalyses) and a benchmark for coupled climate models. As such, numerous methods have been developed to estimate sea ice concentration. The most widely used sea ice data sets for climate research are derived from passive microwave instruments, including SMMR, SSMI, SSMIS, AMSR-E and AMSR-2, flying on various satellite platforms. The algorithms applied to the microwave brightness temperatures use different combinations of channels, making different corrections for weather, satellite drift, and other factors. Users of sea ice data should be aware of the different algorithms and their attributes, the different spatial footprints of the satellite instruments and channels, and the methods for combining different source data into long-term data sets. The table and links below provide a starting point for understanding and locating the appropriate data sets. The focus is on long-term data sets rather than near-real-time products.

temporal metadataID:


Earth system components and main variables

Key Figures

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Arctic sea ice extent and area, September 1979-2001 September Arctic sea ice extent (solid lines) and area (dashed lines), 1979-2010, for the NASA Team (red) and Bootstrap (black) algorithms. Source: NSIDC Data Set 0192: Stroeve, J., and W. Meier. 1999, updated 2011. Sea Ice Trends and Climatologies from SMMR and SSM/I-SSMIS, 1979-2010. Boulder, Colorado USA: NSIDC. Digital media. (Figure by D. Schneider, NCAR)
Arctic sea ice comparison of data sets Comparison of September Arctic sea ice concentration climatologies for 2003-2007. For reference, the 15% ice concentration contour of the NT2 AMSR-E data set is plotted as a red line on all of the maps. Bottom right map is for 2007 only. Data are from various sources; see the table on (figure by D. Schneider).

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 07 Nov 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: Sea Ice Concentration data: Overview, Comparison table and graphs." Retrieved from

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.