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Data for: Attributes of CloudSat identified echo objects

Cite this dataset

Riley Dellaripa, Emily; Mapes, Brian (2023). Data for: Attributes of CloudSat identified echo objects [Dataset]. Dryad.


This data set contains a collection of attributes associated with CloudSat identified echo objects (or contiguous regions of radar/dBZ echo) from15 June 2006 till 17 January 2013. CloudSat is a NASA satellite that carries a 94 GHz (3 mm) nadir pointing cloud profiling radar (CPR). CloudSat makes approximately 14 orbits per day with an equator passing time of 0130 and 1330 local time. Echo objects were identified using CloudSat's 2B-GEOPROF product that includes 2D arrays (alongtrack x vertical) of the radar reflectivity factor and gaseous attenuation correction. Also included in the product is a "cloud mask" with values ranging between 0 and 40 with higher values indicating a greater likelihood of cloud detection.

An EO was defined as a contiguous region of cloud mask greater than or eaqual to 20, consisting of at least three pixels with their edges and not merely their corners touching. Each echo object (EO) is assigned multiple attributes. The geographic attributes include minimum, mean, and maximum latitude and longitude, minimum and maximium location along the CloudSat orbit track, and the underlying surface altitude and land mask data, which allows the EOs to be catagorized as occuring over land, sea, or the coast. The geometric attributes include top, mean, and bottom height, width, and the total number of pixels within the EO. Attributes describing the internal structure of the EO are also available including the number of pixels and cells (i.e., group of pixels) greater than 0 dBZ and -17 dBZ. Finally, the time of day of occurance was also recorded to compare the statistics of EOs ocurring during the daytime versus nighttime. In total, we identified 15,181,193 EOs from 15 June 2006 to 17 January 2013. After 17 April 2011, data were only collected during the day due to a battery failure onboard CloudSat. Each attribute is organized as a 1D array where the size of the array corresponds to the number of EOs. This organization allows subsets of EOs to be easily identified using simple "where" statements when writing code.

The attributes were used to identify cloud types and analyze global cloud climatology according to season, surface type, and region (i.e., Riley 2009; Riley and Mapes 2009). The varability of EOs across the MJO was also analyzed (Riley et al. 2011).



  • Raw files were downloaded from in directory 2B-GEOPROF.R04
  • Processed files are in netcdf format


  • Data were processed and analyzed using IDL. See CloudSat_code_README.txt for details
  • The initial processing was done while I was a graduate student at the Univerisity of Miami working on my masters from 2006-2009
  • Code is available at

Data file description:

  • Once the tar.gz file is unpacked, the EO attributes are provided in the files, where YYYY corresponds to the different years. I transferred the EO attributes from IDL .save files to netcdf files for sharing. A description of each EO attribute is provide in the and if you do an ncdump -h  in a terminal window.

  • The attributes are organized in 1D arrays, where the element of each array corresponds to a unique EO and the total size of the array corresponds to the total number of EOs identified.
  • Data are processed from the start of CloudSat 15 June 2006 till 17 January 2013 for the EO attributes.

  • In total, there are 15,181,193 EOs.

  • There was a battery failure 17 April 2011. CloudSat resumed collecting data 27 October 2011, but only during the day.



National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Science Foundation, Award: 0806553

Jet Propulsion Laboratory