Data set ID:

RAMP AMM-1 SAR Image Mosaic of Antarctica, Version 2

In 1997, the Canadian RADARSAT-1 satellite was rotated in orbit so that its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) antenna looked south towards Antarctica. This permitted the first high-resolution mapping of the entire continent of Antarctica. In 18 days, the satellite acquired a complete coverage of radar image swaths as part of the first Antarctic Mapping Mission (AMM-1). Swath images were assembled into an image mosaic depicting the entire continent at 25 m resolution. The mosaic provides a detailed look at ice sheet morphology, rock outcrops, research infrastructure, the coastline, and other features of Antarctica, as well as representing calibrated radar backscatter data, which may provide insight into climate processes affecting the upper few meters of snow cover.

Data are available via FTP, and are offered in a variety of formats. A series of approximately 90 image tiles covers the entire continent at 25 m resolution, and single mosaic images derived from these tiles cover the continent at resolutions ranging from 125 m to 1 km. The single images provide good detail in convenient image formats. The tile products preserve the highest resolution of spatial detail, and retain the quantitative measure of backscatter intensity, but are necessarily large files that require assembly by the user.

Version Summary:

Removed Version 1 data because of a number of image processing problems that were fixed in Version 2 data. Version 2 data benefits from the following error corrections and other updates:

  • RAMS software was modified to address the antenna pattern banding problem, which resulted in blocks with bright centers and dark edges; thus, a radial banding pattern across the Version 1 mosaic. This banding effect is greatly reduced in Version 2, although faint banding caused by drops in sigma-naught with decreasing incidence angle remains.
  • ASF provided corrected noise floor vector data to reduce noise in low-backscatter areas.
  • Ghosting was only a minor problem in the Version 1 mosaic, and was further reduced in Version 2. Ghosting is an effect of side-lobe detection of bright features. When the main antenna lobe is imaging very low-backscatter targets, it is possible that bright targets passing beneath a side-lobe of the antenna will scatter enough energy back toward the antenna to be detected and mapped erroneously at the location the main lobe was viewing. As a result, bright coastal features can appear as ghost images in regions of very dark snow near the South Pole. The problem has been addressed by selection of alternate passes without ghost images.
  • Version 2 of the RAMP DEM was used in processing the Version 2 mosaic. Swath data were reprojected onto the new DEM surface, improving the georegistration of the mosaic.
  • Shadow and layover problems were addressed by covering all mountainous areas with ST7 data, such as RADARSAT-1 data acquired using a different standard beam looking mode. ST7 data are radiometrically much darker then the ST2 data used for most of the mosaic, so their use resulted in a few radiometric artifacts.
  • As with Version 2 of the RAMP DEM, Version 2 of the RAMP mosaic extends farther over the sea ice surrounding Antarctica.
  • The effects of Automatic Gain Control (AGC) used in initial data gathering by the satellite remain in the Version 2 images. In collecting the data, a region of each swath is sampled for intensity so that the gain of the processed data may be set optimally for increased contrast over the surface to be imaged. Within swaths that include abrupt changes in surface type, for example, near the coast or near rock outcrops, this initial sample may include only water or rock outcrop, and thus the gain is set for these surfaces rather than for ice. The section of the swath is processed with gains that are not optimal for the ice sheet mosaic. The affected regions of the ice sheet show up as slightly darker blocks or corners within the mosaic.

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Geographic Coverage

Data Set Tabs

Temporal Coverage:
1997-09-01 to 1997-10-31
Temporal Resolution:
Not specified
Sensor(s): RADAR, SAR
Spatial Resolution:
Not specified
Spatial Coverage:
  • N: -60, S: -90, E: 180, W: -180

  • Glaciers/Ice Sheets > Glaciers
  • Glaciers/Ice Sheets > Ice Sheets
  • Topography > Landforms
  • Radar > Radar Backscatter
  • Radar > Radar Imagery
  • Radar > Radar Reflectivity
  • Radar > Sigma Naught
Data Format(s):
  • Binary
  • Geographic Tagged Image File Format (GeoTIFF) (.geotiff)
Data Contributor(s): Kenneth Jezek, John Curlander, Frank Carsey, Carl Wales, R. Barry

We kindly request that you cite the use of this data set in a publication using the following citation. For more information, see Use and Copyright.

Jezek, K. C., J. C. Curlander, F. Carsey, C. Wales, and R. G. Barry. 2013. RAMP AMM-1 SAR Image Mosaic of Antarctica, Version 2. [indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA. NSIDC: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Questions? Please contact:

NSIDC User Services
Phone: 1 303 492-6199
Fax: 1 303 492-2468
Contact Address:
National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado
City: Boulder
Province or State: CO
Postal Code: 80309-0449
Country: USA