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Memorandum Of Understanding Cover Letter

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GLIMS Memorandum of Understanding

Document date: 2003

Cover Letter

The following is a generic copy of the letter and MOU sent to Regional Centers to formalize collaborative relations with GLIMS. If your regional center does not have an MOU signed by us, please notify Jeff Kargel, and he will produce a letter and MOU consistent with your particular region and interests.

Memorandum of Understanding of the GLIMS Coordination Center with Regional Centers, Stewards, and other Collaborators

I. Definitions

GLIMS (Global Land-Ice Measurements from Space)
This is the entire organization dedicated to use of spacecraft data for the purpose of glacier change monitoring during the 6-year nominal mission of ASTER and the period leading to its launch. This organization includes: (1) the GLIMS Coordination Center (GCC) located at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Flagstaff, Arizona; (2) the GLIMS Data Archive at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado; and (3) the Regional Centers (RCs) and Stewards. It does not include NASA, the Earth Observing System (EOS), the ASTER or AM-1 projects, or any other institutions or individuals not directly concerned with glacier monitoring using ASTER data. Hence, GLIMS is the entire global organization of institutions and individuals engaged in this collaborative activity. Discussions are underway that may result in coordination of Landsat 7 and ASTER glacier observations, so some GLIMS data may be from Landsat-7.
Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and reflection Radiometer, a multispectral imaging system built by Japan for flight on NASA's AM-1 platform.
Terra (formerly AM-1)
The NASA Earth-orbiting platform on which ASTER will fly. First in NASA's Mission to Planet Earth projects. Polar orbiting, 98° inclination, sun-synchronous, 10:30 a.m. local southward equator crossings, 705-km altitude, almost circular orbit; nadir tracks are same as for Landsat 4, 6, and 7 orbit and have a 16-day repeat cycle.
The EROS Data Center, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA. EDC has been designated the EOS Land Distributed Active Archive Center (the Land DAAC), and will receive and distribute ASTER and Landsat data products, including GLIMS images, and will assist in data quality screening, especially cloud assessments.
GLIMS Coordination Center (GCC)
Located at USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona. Principal individuals include Hugh H. Kieffer (Geophysicist and PI of the GLIMS project), Bruce Raup (glaciologist and leader of the technical development of GLIMS), Dave MacKinnon (Mathematician, involved in algorithm development for GLIMS), and Jeff Kargel (Geologist and principal external interface between GCC and Collaborators). In addition, GCC has several part-time technical assistants with expertise in software development and computer/image processing hardware.
GLIMS Database Archive
Located at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, this will be the central repository of derived data products produced by GLIMS RCs and the GCC. Principal individuals at this node of GLIMS include Greg Scharfen, (liaison to GLIMS) and Ron Weaver (Scientific Manager), and Roger Barry.
Regional Center (RC)
These are organizations who have a mutual agreement with the GLIMS project to serve as centers for regional glacier-change analysis and preparation for mission operations and data acquisition planning in a given geographic region. Each Regional Center may include multiple organizations; however, a single institution will host the RC and represent the whole RC. A RC does not need to be located within the RC's geographic region of glacier-change monitoring.
RC Chief
A principal individual identified at each RC to provide the formal liaison with GLIMS.
An individual or an institution who has an agreement with GLIMS and with a RC to take responsibility for monitoring of a smaller area of glaciers within a RC's geographic domain of overall responsibility.
Individuals or institutions (including GCC, RCs, and NSIDC) who have an MOU to collaborate in the mission planning, data analysis, and archival of GLIMS glacier-change data, and Stewards formally working with an RC.
Level 1A data
These are image data and supporting metadata where basic geometric control (geolocation from orbital ephemeris and pointing data) and radiometric calibrations have been instituted without image resampling, but precise geometric control pinned to known ground control points have not been made.
Level 1B data
Derived from Level 1A data, the radiometric corrections have been applied and the images have been resampled to accomplish band-to-band registration and to conform to a cartographic grid.
Browse image
Reduced resolution image intended for cloud assessment and other quality evaluations.
Science Team Acquisition Request. This is the formalized request for imaging observations submitted directly to the ASTER project by an ASTER Science Team member (Hugh Kieffer in the case of GLIMS data requests).
Data acquisition request, a generic observation request submitted to EOS by any user inside or outside the ASTER project.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
This agreement, including the cover letter. It is not legally binding, but serves as a semi-formalized agreement of intention that should reduce misunderstandings and conflicts in the implementation and planning for GLIMS.

II. Lines and sequence of communication

Communication within GLIMS with the ASTER project for mission planning is the sole responsibility of the GCC (USGS/Flagstaff). (Communication for Landsat glacier observations is under discussion.) RCs will submit their Data Requests to the GCC; the GCC will check data requests for format, formal errors (such as invalid command sequences), and, if necessary, to adjudicate total resource use over the GLIMS project, then forward to the ASTER project the collective GLIMS data request as a set of STARs. This is to optimize efficiency of the use of ASTER and Landsat resources. Outside of the GLIMS structure, individuals and institutions may submit data requests (DARs) to EOS as they wish.

Because of the 16-day repeat opportunity for observations with the Landsat-style orbit, it is important that data quality decisions be made efficiently to allow rescheduling if needed (or cancellation of further acquisition attempts if an area has been imaged satisfactorily). We anticipate that RCs will be notified directly (or through the GCC) of successful data acquisition.

Communications related to the availability of acquired images (notification) and the quality of acquired images (e.g., exact image location and cloud cover) are expected to be between EDC and the appropriate RC; we expect GLIMS data requests will be tagged with the appropriate RC.

Level 1A data will be shipped by physical media from Japan to EDC, and loaded onto the EDC storage system. We hope that there will be a preliminary human-aided assessment of image quality at EDC; if that examination is uncertain, the appropriate RC will be asked promptly to look at the browse image data and make a rescheduling decision.

Mode of delivery of image data from EDC to the GLIMS users (RCs and Stewards) is still uncertain. GLIMS image data and associated metadata will go directly from EDC to the RC. We hope that this will be an automatic delivery, or perhaps EDC or GCC will notify RC when data are available at EDC. These plans are yet to be worked out. Typical current internet data transmission rates are insufficient for data delivery, so we anticipate that data will be delivered on CD-ROMs, 8mm tape or 4mm tape . This issue will be decided at the EOS level, not the GLIMS level, but we (GCC) will keep you posted on developments. Stewards (or anyone) may request data from EDC, but data delivery may be more timely if requests are routed through the RC.

Each RC will submit results of glacier extent and glacier-change analysis to NSIDC. The GCC has agreed with NSIDC to perform a formal error check on these data before they are fully incorporated into the GLIMS database. Hence, NSIDC will notify GCC of newly received data and make those data available to the GCC for QA checks. Inputting of results of glacier-change analysis to NSIDC generally will be done at the level of the RC. However, following QA by GCC, the global glacier-change data archive will be freely accessible to everyone, including of course RCs and Stewards and people outside of GLIMS.

Communication with GCC (USGS/Flagstaff) will be at the level of the RC. The GCC cannot handle the potentially large number of communications with Stewards; hence, communications with Stewards is the responsibility of each RC.

III. Responsibilities

GCC (USGS/Flagstaff)

General coordination of GLIMS activities, including organization of RCs. Development and distribution of free software to be used by RCs and Stewards in glacier change analysis. Co-development with RCs and Stewards of observation plans that account for regional climate variations and ASTER/AM-1 engineering and Mission Operations constraints. Receives Data Acquisition Requests from RCs and modifies them if necessary to ensure that they fall within data acquisition allotments and overall mission constraints given by ASTER Mission Operations to GLIMS. Forwarding of modified Data Acquisition Requests submitted by each RC to ASTER Mission Operations. Analysis and interpretation (with assistance of NSIDC, RCs, and Stewards) of global glacier-change data. Coordination of biennial conference and report of GLIMS researchers. Encourage coordinated studies of climate change and impact on status of world's glaciers and sea level. Currently the GCC is discussing possible coordination of glacier imaging activities with the Landsat-7 science team.


Participation in the design of the GLIMS database, and implementation and maintenance of database, including a directory to GLIMS images. Loading results of GLIMS analysis submitted by RCs. During the QA checking period, data access will be restricted to the submitting RC, the GCC and NSIDC. Following QA, make results publicly accessible in digital form (free of charge to user).


Organization of a GLIMS team responsible for a region of glaciers; may include stewards, whose roles are to be defined by RC. Verification/modification of the GLIMS glacier inventory for the Region (see planning map of glacier distribution on GLIMS website). Development (with input from GCC and Stewards) of an ASTER observation plan that accounts for seasonal climate variables and ASTER and AM-1 engineering/operational constraints. Submission of regional observation plan to GCC. Cloud assessment of images (with assistance from Stewards) on a timely basis and modification of observation plan to ensure receipt of as complete imaging as possible. Analysis of first year's images for ice/firn/snow/rock/vegetation distribution. Starting second year: analysis of multi-temporal image pairs/sets for glacier change (terminus position, flow field, moraine distribution, transient snow line); comparison of results of analysis with other pertinent bodies of data (historic observations, ground monitoring studies, results of glacier change analysis using airborne or other satellite observations, or whatever datasets are available); submission of results to NSIDC. Collaboration with the GCC and NSIDC in writing a final report summarizing results and evaluating their significance for trends in glacier change, global climate change, and implications for sea level. Each RC will coordinate activities by their designated Stewards (if any) who wish to take responsibility for smaller areas down to the size of a single glacier in the RC's region of interest.


Stewards are recognized collaborators and may play major roles in a region, and they may participate in biennial GLIMS workshops and reports. Each Steward may function very much like a RC, except that the lines of communication (including requests for software help, for example) are different (routed through the RC) and the geographic area of responsibility is different (as small as one glacier or a large part of a region). GCC does not have the manpower to interface with more than RCs. Detailed responsibilities are entirely up to the RC and Stewards.

IV. Minimum data analysis and reporting requirements

Each Regional Center, with or without assistance from stewards, is responsible for:

  • Cloud assessment (following preliminary data quality assessments at USGS/EDC)
  • Terrain classification and glacier type classification
  • Glacier change analysis
  • Reporting to NSIDC analysis results in database format

In addition, it is hoped that the RCs and stewards will participate in GLIMS periodic and long-term team publications regarding the global significance of glacier-change results.

Cloud assessment is the most time-urgent RC activity and is needed to ascertain the acceptability of images acquired for GLIMS glacier monitoring or to document that a particular observation is not satisfactory and should be attempted again before the end of the observation season. Cloud assessment may be done using visual inspection of browse images to be provided by EDC within about 10 days of an observation; to enhance the completeness of each summer's imaging in a given region the cloud assessment and recommendation for or against further imaging attempts should be made within about 3 days of delivery of the browse image product. This activity will be of pressing importance throughout the imaging season for your region.

Terrain classification (e.g., glacier ice, snow, water, vegetation, rock) will be done by the regional centers. The output is in the form of polygons (sets of vertices) in coordinates relative to a local reference point and local north. Semi-automated software will be provided by the GLIMS project as soon as it is ready. If a RC has an alternative method of terrain classification they may choose to use their own method. Glacier type classification includes the nature of the terminus regions (e.g., clean ice, debris covered, tidewater, ...) and links to source snowfields or other glaciers and links to glaciers into which this one might flow. Terrain classification is not as time-sensitive as cloud assessment, and it may be done starting with the first year's images throughout the imaging season and the year leading up to the next imaging season. User interaction will be required to validate the classification using visual inspection of images and inputs of ground truth where available.

Glacier change analysis will be conducted by the RCs. Again, the method is unconstrained, although some semi-automated software will be provided by the GLIMS project as soon as it is ready. Change analysis will include new terminus and edge positions (a set of vertices comprising a polygon for each glacier) and sets of vectors representing displacement in the ice. Change analysis may be done starting with the second year's images but may be conducted throughout the imaging season and the year leading up to the following imaging season, when change analysis using that year's images will begin.

Results of terrain classification and glacier change analysis will be reported by each RC to NSIDC. The content and format of this submission must adhere to standards to be set by NSIDC. In general, results should be reported within 12 months following the end of each imaging season.

Each RC Chief and a small number of his/her designated collaborators will be invited to take a role as a co-author of periodic GLIMS status reports. Additionally, each RC Chief will be invited to serve as the lead author (reassigned at their discretion) of chapters on their region in a long-term GLIMS report. The periodic reports will include terrain classification and representative glacier-change results encompassing observations from the initial period (perhaps 18 months) of GLIMS observations, and then of the periods between reports. Long-term reports will be more comprehensive, with final results of the GLIMS project. RCs and their associates are encouraged to publish other papers based on GLIMS data at their discretion.

V. Status of software tools (free software)

The software needed to implement GLIMS monitoring is behind schedule and will be released in stages starting in January 2004, beginning with GLIMSView 1.0, which will emphasize capabilities for basic glacier mapping. RCs are not responsible for reporting of data for which they have not received adequate software for image data analysis. The GCC will be making every effort to deliver the tools needed for your analysis. You will be kept updated on software development and other GLIMS issues.

VI. (Absence of) Restrictions on uses of GLIMS data

We inquired at the ASTER and EOS levels of project management as to the uses of ASTER and other EOS data to be allowed, including possible uses unrelated to GLIMS and potential commercial applications. It is the general EOS policy that they place no restrictions whatsoever on the uses of ASTER data by RCs, their Stewards or other parties. Data are available to all users at the minimal cost of reproduction and distribution. The absence of restrictions on data applications includes uses other than those which GLIMS envisions. In the words of Lisa Shaffer (NASA Headquarters), "All ASTER data are available to any user at no more than the cost of filling the user request with no restrictions. Period."

Ownership of RC-generated value-added derived data products rests with the creator of these products, which may copyrighted by the RC or other entities. In the interests of full functionality of GLIMS as an international publicly sponsored project, the parties involved in GLIMS agree in principle that RC-generated value-added data are to be offered for publicly accessible archival at the NSIDC, and that NSIDC is to be granted unlimited rights to make these data publicly and freely available. The RC is unrestricted in its rights to disseminate GLIMS image data and RC-generated value-added data products; the absence of restrictions imposed on the RCs includes possible profit-making activities using GLIMS image data and RC-generated value-added data. The absence of restrictions should be clarified and be made legally compelling in an exchange of written, signed documents between the RCs and NSIDC.

VII. Geographic areas of responsibility of the Regional Centers

I, ___________________, ______________, represent (print your name here) (job title) ___________________________________ (primary institutional affiliation) in agreeing that we will host a GLIMS Regional Center. Any additional individuals and institutions (list below) involved in the formation of this Regional Center (including Stewardships) are also represented by me and my institution. 1. _______________, _______________, located in ____________________________, Person's name Institution City State/province Country 2. _______________, _______________, located in ____________________________, Person's name Institution City State/province Country 3. _______________, _______________, located in ____________________________, Person's name Institution City State/province Country (if necessary continue on reverse side of this sheet) Our GLIMS Regional Center will take responsibility (as outlined in Section III, above) for the geographic region of ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

(Please provide information that allows the boundaries of this region of responsibility to be defined exactly using country names, mountain ranges, continents, latitude/longitudes of limits of the region, or any other information that is sufficient to identify the precise boundaries of the region under the responsibility of the Regional Center.)

As Chief of this GLIMS Regional Center, I accept the responsibilities of the Regional Center (section III, above) and understand the lines of communication established for the Regional Centers and Stewards (section II, above). I understand that the role of Regional Center carries some minimum obligations in terms of mission planning, cloud assessment, data analysis, and data reporting. Some of these responsibilities may be delegated to Stewards in my geographic region, but I accept that ultimate responsibility rests with the RC. I also understand that no funding from GLIMS, ASTER, NASA, or USGS is implied by this MOU. The Regional Center can expect to receive ASTER data on a timely basis free or at cost of reproduction, and that all software tools developed by GCC for image analysis will be provided by GCC free to the Regional Centers and Stewards, but that hardware and personnel needed for the analysis will be provided by the Regional Center and Stewards.

VIII. Certifications

We concur with the content of this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), which carries no legal obligations or inferences and is not binding in any way. We intend this MOU to be used to guide the relationships and responsibilities of the parties involved in GLIMS.

___________________________________ Jeffrey S. Kargel Principal Investigator of the GLIMS project ___________________________________ Your signature here Chief of a GLIMS Regional Center for ____________________

Dr. Jeffrey S. Kargel
Department of Hydrology & Water Resources
University of Arizona
1133 E. North Campus Dr. Harshbarger Building
Tucson, AZ, 85721

voice (520)621-5829
fax (520)621-1422

Dear GLIMS collaborator,

As chief of the Coordination Center for GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space, http://www.glims.org), I acknowledge that your research group at your institute, and your GLIMS collaborators worldwide, are integrated into the GLIMS network as a Regional Center (RC) for your region. You are currently designated as the Regional Center Chief. Your RC is responsible for coordination of satellite image analysis of glaciers in your region, including verification of the image acquisition plan for the ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), image classification, extraction of glaciological parameters from satellite data, and validation of remote sensing analysis. You are further responsible for ingest of derived data into the GLIMS glacier data archive at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (Boulder, Colorado, USA), and communication of research highlights in public fora (e.g., GLIMS meetings, glaciological symposia, and print literature). Although involvement in GLIMS working groups is not mandatory for RCs you are welcome to join any of the active GLIMS working groups. As of the date of this cover letter, you may be pleased to note that NASA is providing GLIMS-affiliated researchers (RC Chiefs and stewards in the regional centers) with free access to ASTER imagery.

In view of your valued contributions to GLIMS, the GLIMS Coordination Center (GCC) strongly supports further funding of your future activities of the international initiative integrated in GLIMS.

To clarify any details that may be lacking in this letter, I attach a Memorandum of Understanding between the GCC and Regional Centers. In the hard-copy version of this message, you will find 2 copies of the MOU. One copy is for you to retain and the other to return to me with your signature if you agree to the terms.


Jeffrey S. Kargel

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