These research-and-development (R&D) satellites paved the way for today's – and tomorrow's – observations of our ocean, aerosols, and clouds.
From R&D to Climate Studies
Over two decades later, in 2005, NASA's Earth-observing fleet had grown in size and scope. Dedicated ocean satellites observed color (SeaWiFS), sea level (TOPEX, Jason-1) and winds (QuikSCAT). Continuing measurements that began with Nimbus-7, atmospheric ozone was being monitored by Aura and the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer - Earth Probe (TOMS-EP) satellite. Aerosol and cloud research was fueled by imager data from the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Earth Observing System Aqua and Terra satellites, along with Terra's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).
Climate Data Continuity
Comparing NASA's 2005 and current fleet of Earth satellites tells the story of persistence and change. Veteran sensors have been joined by newer active-sensor orbiters such as CloudSat and CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations), which are used to study the effects of clouds and aerosols on climate and weather. The MODIS imager was the pathfinder sensor for the new Visible/Infrared Imager and Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi-NPP that will also fly on future NOAA operational polar orbiting satellites.
Significant to understanding climate, MODIS instruments on Terra and Aqua have provided over 15 years of data on aerosol and cloud properties while extending ocean color records beyond 2 decades. Efforts have begun to extend NASA records into the VIIRS era.
What's the connection?
Let's begin to answer this complicated question with one example of a sequence of events...