Published August 23, 2021 | Version 1.0
Dataset Open

The Sentinel-1 Global Backscatter Model (S1GBM) - Mapping Earth's Land Surface with C-Band Microwaves

  • 1. ROR icon TU Wien
  • 2. Earth Observation Data Centre for Water Resources Monitoring, Vienna, Austria
  • 3. Spire Global, Luxembourg
  • 4. ROR icon European Space Agency
  • 5. Airbus Defense and Space, Leiden, The Netherlands
  • 6. European Space Agency, Noordwijk, The Netherlands


This dataset was generated by the Remote Sensing Group of the TU Wien Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation (, within a dedicated project by the European Space Agency (ESA). Rights are reserved with ESA. Open use is granted under the CC BY 4.0 license.

With this dataset publication, we open up a new perspective on Earth's land surface, providing a normalised microwave backscatter map from spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations. The Sentinel-1 Global Backscatter Model (S1GBM) describes Earth for the period 2016-17 by the mean C-band radar cross section in VV- and VH-polarization at a 10 m sampling, giving a high-quality impression on surface- structures and -patterns.

At TU Wien, we processed 0.5 million Sentinel-1 scenes totaling 1.1 PB and performed semi-automatic quality curation and backscatter harmonisation related to orbit geometry effects. The overall mosaic quality excels (the few) existing datasets, with minimised imprinting from orbit discontinuities and successful angle normalisation in large parts of the world. Supporting the designand verification of upcoming radar sensors, the obtained S1GBM data potentially also serve land cover classification and determination of vegetation and soil states, as well as water body mapping.

We invite developers from the broader user community to exploit this novel data resource and to integrate S1GBM parameters in models for various variables of land cover, soil composition, or vegetation structure.

Please be referred to our peer-reviewed article at Nature Scientific Data for details, generation methods, and an in-depth dataset analysis. In this publication, we demonstrate – as an example of the S1GBM's potential use – the mapping of permanent water bodies and evaluate the results against the Global Surface Water (GSW) benchmark.

Dataset Record

The VV and VH mosaics are sampled at 10 m pixel spacing, georeferenced to the Equi7Grid and divided into six continental zones (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America), which are further divided into square tiles of 100 km extent ("T1"-tiles). With this setup, the S1GBM consists of 16071 tiles over six continents, for VV and VH each, totaling to a compressed data volume of 2.67 TB.

The tiles' file-format is a LZW-compressed GeoTIFF holding 16-bit integer values, with tagged metadata on encoding and georeference. Compatibility with common geographic information systems as QGIS or ArcGIS, and geodata libraries as GDAL is given.

In this repository, we provide each mosaic as tiles that are organised in a folder structure per continent. With this, twelve zipped dataset-collections per continent are available for download.

Web-Based Data Viewer

In addition to this data provision here, there is a web-based data viewer set up at the facilities of the Earth Observation Data Centre (EODC) under It offers an intuitive pan-and-zoom exploration of the full S1GBM VV and VH mosaics. It has been designed to quickly browse the S1GBM, providing an easy and direct visual impression of the mosaics.

Code Availability

We encourage users to use the open-source Python package yeoda, a datacube storage access layer that offers functions to read, write, search, filter, split and load data from the S1GBM datacube. The yeoda package is openly accessible on GitHub at

Furthermore, for the usage of the Equi7Grid we provide data and tools via the python package available on GitHub at More details on the grid reference can be found in


This study was partly funded by the project "Development of a Global Sentinel-1 Land Surface Backscatter Model", ESA Contract No. 4000122681/17/NL/MP for the European Union Copernicus Programme. The computational results presented have been achieved using the Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC). We further would like to thank our colleagues at TU Wien and EODC for supporting us on technical tasks to cope with such a large and complex data set. Last but not least, we appreciate the kind assistance and swift support of the colleagues from the TU Wien Center for Research Data Management.


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Additional details

December 11, 2020
November 22, 2023