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Satellite Views of Hurricane Isabel

Artist rendition of Aqua-AIRS spacecraft. Artist rendition of Terra-MODIS spacecraft.
Artist rendition of TRMM spacecraft. Artist rendition of SeaStar-SeaWiFS spacecraft.



The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument suite is designed to measure the Earth’s atmospheric water vapor and temperature profiles on a global scale. It comprise a space-based hyperspectral infrared instrument (AIRS) and two multichannel microwave instruments, the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) and the Humidity Sounder for Brazil (HSB). The AIRS instrument suite is one of several instruments onboard the Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua spacecraft launched May 4, 2002.


The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)) is the key instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites. It is an optical scanner that views the Earth in 36 channels with spatial resolution ranging from 250 meters to 1 kilometer. MODIS yields unique amounts and quality of data on the three spheres that human life depend on: Land, Oceans, and Atmosphere.


The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) is a research satellite designed to help our understanding of the water cycle in the current climate system. TRMM has provided the first spaceborne rain radar and microwave radiometric data that will measure the thirds of the total rainfall on Earth and are responsible for driving our weather and climate system. TRMM will contribute to a better understanding of where and how much the winds blow, where the clouds form and rain occurs, where floods and droughts will occur, and how the winds drive the ocean currents. TRMM will do this not just by providing rainfall data but, more importantly, by providing information on heat released into the atmosphere as part of the process that leads to rain.


The Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) onboard the SeaStar spacecraft is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth Enterprise. Using the unique perspective available from space, NASA is observing, monitoring and assessing large-scale environmental processes, such as the oceans' productivity, focusing on climate change. In line with Mission to Planet Earth's commercial strategy, government-industry partnerships such as SeaStar provide NASA with needed data and may lead to practical commercial data use such as the development of fishing maps and estimation of crop yields for farmers and commodities markets. SeaWiFS can view the world's oceans every two days. Since oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface, SeaWiFS will provide information on a large part of the global biosphere. SeaWiFS also will provide important information for fisheries and coastal zone management. SeaWiFS data, which also are useful for viewing plants on land, can be combined with plant productivity data from other satellites, such as Landsat and other operational weather satellites, to measure the role of the biosphere in the total global carbon exchange.

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Last updated: May 27, 2010 04:50 PM ET