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Useful datasets for satellite data processing

The mapping of global parameters such as SST, albedo, terrain types, surface elevation, emissivity…have been widely produced from polar satellites, serving as important input parameters for users who are processing data.
This page provides a list of parameters together with data volumes and formats, links to documentation and sites from where you can download/request the datasets.
§ Land surface types and emissivity models
§ Land surface LST/emissivities,
§ SST and albedo, snow cover
§ elevation and type atlas
§ Global atmospheric circulation statistics/analysis

Land surface types and emissivity models

Emissivity models developed by Snyder et al (1998) have been applied to 14 emissivity classes by combining different land cover classes extracted from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) to generate a range of emissivity spectra for each class. This range is generated by varying the many factors which affect the emissivity for example the viewing angle, water content, vegetation density, growth state…This allow to estimate the mean, maximum and minimum surface emissivities at each wavelength for each of the 14 classes.
Snyder et al (1998) ‘Classification-based emissivity for land surface temperature measurement from space’ Int. J. Remote Sensing, 1998, vol 19, no14

Land cover characterization
The Global Land Cover Characterization (GLCC) is a series of global land cover classification datasets that are based on the classification of 1-km AVHRR 10-day NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index ) composites. The AVHRR source imagery dates from April 1992 through March 1993. Ancillary data sources included digital elevation data, ecoregions interpretation, and country- or regional-level vegetation and land cover maps. It allows to separate land and water surfaces with a good accuracy.

A land classification using MODIS following the IGBP classification scheme is available at It is a global static dataset stored on an equal-angle rectangular grid at 1-minute resolution. Data are stored in HDF format and the size is about 1.1GB. The dataset is generated from the official MODIS land ecosystem classification dataset, MOD12Q1 October 15, 2000.

Land surface emissivities
Different emissivity atlas are available through the web.
The ASTER spectral library which is a compilation of almost 2000 spectra of natural and man made materials, includes data from three other spectral libraries: the Johns Hopkins University spectral library made by Salisbury and D’Aria (2004), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory spectral library, and the United States Geological Survey spectral library.
The ASTER library is available on CD-ROM at no charge. The Johns Hopkins University spectral library includes emissivity spectra of about 80 samples of soils, rocks, different vegetation types and snow/ice within the 2-14 um spectral range at about 2cm-1 resolution;

The MODIS UCSB (University of California) Emissivity Library is a collection of Emissivity laboratory measurements of natural (water, ice, snow, soil, minerals and vegetation) and manmade materials, from about 3um to 15um. Data are directly accessible on line for the desired material.

Monthly and routine MODIS land surface LST/emissivities at a 0.05degree resolution, in HDF format, size of about 625 MB, are distributed by:

P. Francis (2003) has developed an IR land surface emissivity atlas for NWP applications. See the documentation:

University of Wisconsin-Madison IR Land Surface Emissivity database:

SST and albedo

Monthly and pentade global SST climatologies with a resolution of 9 km are available at:
Size is about 188MB each file in compressed form. Software to read the data is also available on the site.

Also routine SST products from AVHRR, MODIS,ATSR and GOES instruments are also available in HDF format on the same site . See
Different temporal and spatial resolution are offered.

Daily, eight-day and monthly albedo and NDVI climatologies are generated from MODIS observations at a 1 minute resolution, HDF format. See:


Daily operational snow cover analysis is provided by NESDIS at:\

Elevation and type atlas

A global digital elevation model 30 arc (approximately 1 kilometer) topography database , available at no charge via ftp, is divided in 33 subsets to facilitate the distribution, each of them with a size of about 50MB.

Coastlines can be extracted at different resolution (0.2, 1, 5, 25 km) using the GMT (Generic Mapping Tools) software developed by scientists at University of Hawaii and NOAA, available at:

Also two datasets for the surface type (flag sea/land) and for the surface elevation at a 1/6*1/6 degrees resolution are part of the IAPP or AAPP ATOVS pre-processing packages. See:

Global atmospheric circulation statistics/analysis

Global monthly AVHRR climatology over land from 5 years of GAC data at. 0.15 degree resolution. Climatologies include TOA, surface reflectances, NDVI, T4, T5, PWI at:

Global atmospheric circulation statistics/analysis from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory based on 15 years of weather station, ship, and buoy data at a 5*2.5degrees resolution