The GIBBS website.

The Global ISCCP B1 Browse System (or simply GIBBS), is a branch of the NCDC. It focuses on "progressing toward producing a new satellite resource for climate science."

The website has archived more than 764,620 browsable satellite images as of April 2007. Because the data comes from geostationary satellites orbiting at an equatorial level, the images are nearly global. There are multiple satellites for multiple viewpoints, including GOES (which focuses on the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific) and Meteosat (which focuses on the Europe, Africa, and Western Asia), as well as other satellites. Images are viewable per every three hours (eight images a day per satellite).

The archive goes back to June 27, 1974.

The Images

GIBBS images consist of Visible, Infrared, and Water Vapor images. The resolution is 10km at the equator. The images all consist of orange lines to mark the edge of the coastline and a time stamp to the top left of each image.


Visible images are simply images of the visible Earth. They usually give a very clear picture, but only when that side of the globe is partially or fully sunlit. If it isn't, visible images are useless.


Infared Satellite GIBBS Image

An infrared GIBBS image.

Infrared images, which may be the most useful, use infrared waves to make clouds visible no matter what time of day it is .Infrared also allows one to distinguish the difference between high and low clouds. Lower clouds are darker, and higher clouds are brighter.

Water Vapor

Water Vapor images give an image of the water vapor in the air. These are useful because one is able to distinguish the differences moist and dry air.


GIBBS is arguably one of the most user-friendly satellite archives on the web. All one has to do to view any image is the following:

  1. Choose the desired year.
  2. Choose the desired month/day.
  3. Choose the desired satellite, time of day (in UTC), and image type (Visible, Infrared, or Water Vapor).

A large thumbnail of the desired image will appear. When it's clicked, the full image will be shown.

Tropical Cyclones


Gibbs image of Hurricane Ophelia

GIBBS can be an excellent resource for tropical cyclone imagery, mainly because of the simplicity of finding an image of almost any tropical cyclone since the 1980's at almost any point in its lifetime. This is especially useful for older tropical cyclones, tropical depressions, and tropical cyclones discovered in post season analysis, many of which have no other, or very little other available satellite imagery.

Common Errors

Like all other satellite archives, errors are present in GIBBS images. However, they usually aren't very damaging to the image. The NCDC has noted this and explained that some errors cannot be fixed. These errors include, but aren't limited to partial images, reversed images, and distorted coastlines.

Partial Images

Sometimes, GOES Satellite images may include partial images. This means, simply, that the image is not a full globe. This error usually applies to parts of the Southern Hemisphere, but it can occur anywhere in the image.

Reversed Images

These errors aren't very common. They have been detected in some the infrared images of September 1993 and November 1994. The image is just a negative of itself, and can be fixed easily with any common image editing program (such as Microsoft Paint).

Distorted Coastlines

Florida error

A distorted coastline.

Distorted coastlines may cause greater problems with the images than either of the two mentioned above. This is because the coastline itself usually isn't visible in infrared images, and with a misleading orange coastline mark, it would appear that a storm is not where it is supposed to be.

See Also