Data Sources


The data in MY NASA DATA come from several different sources: satellite instruments, satellites, and research programs. Because the data are from the satellite era, the earliest date from 1979. (The first artificial satellite was launched in 1957, but it took some time for standard data products to be developed. Many early satellites used film, which had to be returned to the ground and developed into pictures. We do not have access to these.) Some products are available for quite recent times, but many lag behind by several years due to the intense work required to process them. The data sources are explained below.



Move your mouse over the grey data source headers to view more information about it. Click on the name of the data source to view the definition in the science glossary.


The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)
AIRS: The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) is one of the 6 instruments on the Aqua spacecraft. AIRS collects data on weather, climate, atmospheric composition (such as carbon dioxide and air quality.

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The Aqua Satellite and its instruments
Aqua: The Aqua satellite, second in NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), carries 6 instruments in Earth orbit, including the CERES instrument, whose products incorporate data from the MODIS imager and the AIRS instrument. The other instruments are a sounder, which looks at the profile of the atmosphere from the ground up, and a microwave radiometer. Aqua was launched in May 2002, and is part of the A-train.

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The Aqua Satellite and its instruments
Aura: The Aura spacecraft, third in NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), is also part of the A-train, and carries 4 instruments that focus on the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere, including the Ozone Monitoring Instrument ( OMI ) and the tropospheric Emission Spectrometer ( TES ). OMI takes profiles of ozone, aerosols and other air quality parameters, while the primary objective of TES is to make global, three-dimensional measurements of ozone and other chemical species involved in its formation and destruction. Aura was launched in July 2004.

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The NOAA Polar Orbiting Satellite and its instruments
AVHRR: The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) is the primary instrument – an imager – on the NOAA polar orbiting weather satellites. It provides visible and infrared pictures that can monitor clouds and weather fronts. Polar orbiting weather satellites typically see an area once during the day and once at night. This information may be used in TV weather reports; but, more often, the TV weather reports use information from instruments on the geostationary weather satellites, as these stay over one spot and can provide images as often as every 15 minutes. The first AVHRR instrument was launched in 1978.

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CALIPSO : The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite provides new insight into the role that clouds and atmospheric aerosols (airborne particles) play in regulating Earth’s weather, climate, and air quality. CALIPSO combines an active lidar instrument (a laser beam that sends short pulses down into Earth’s atmosphere) with passive infrared and visible imagers to probe the vertical structure and properties of thin clouds and aerosols over the globe. CALIPSO was launched on April 28, 2006, and is a member of the A-train.

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The CERES instrument in final assembly
CERES: The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument provides very high quality measurements of the Earth’s Radiation Budget, including both longwave (Earth-emitted) and shortwave (Earth-reflected) radiation. There are 6 CERES instruments currently in Earth orbit, although not all are functional. The first was launched on the trMM spacecraft on Thanksgiving Day, 1997, from Japan (on a Japanese rocket). It began experiencing electrical problems in Aug/Sep. 1998 and was turned off. It was turned on again when the Terra spacecraft was launched, and provided one more month of data in March 2000 before failing completely. Two CERES instruments are on Terra, launched in December 1999. An additional two are on Aqua, launched in May 2002. The most recent instrument was launched in October 2011 as one of the 5 instruments on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. CERES is an improved follow-on to the ERBE instrument.

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CERES EBAF: The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) Energy Balanced and Filled (EBAF) dataset is a CERES climatology based on the first ten years of Terra data. CERES EBAF is produced by applying a mathematical algorithm to all-sky and clear-sky shortwave and longwave Top of the Atmosphere (TOA) energy flux data. The algorithm is used to adjust shortwave and longwave TOA flux data within set limits based on careful assessment of their range of measurement uncertainty in order to remove the inconsistency between average global net TOA flux and heat storage in the Earth–atmosphere system. This process brings in a variety of independent measurements of Earth system parameters. CERES and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) measurements are also used to produce a new clear-sky TOA flux climatology that provides TOA fluxes in each region every month (i.e., calculating values even for regions where data aren’t available).

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CMAP : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Climate Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) is a mathematical analysis technique which produces data such as monthly averaged precipitation-rate values. CMAP values are obtained from five kinds of satellite estimates merged with rain-gauge observations.


CPC: The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service, provides predictions of climate variability, real-time monitoring of climate and the required databases, and assessments of the origins of major climate anomalies.

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The ERBS spacecraft carrying the ERBE instrument
ERBE/ERBS: The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment/Spacecraft (ERBE/ERBS) includes two Earth Radiation Budget instruments: one scanning, and one non-scanning. Both measured shortwave and longwave radiation. ERBE/ERBS was launched from the Space Shuttle in 1984, and is the predecessor of the CERES instrument. The ERBS spacecraft was decommissioned by NASA on October 14, 2005, after 21 years and nine days in space, marking the end of the ERBE instrument era.


SeaWiFS Project
ERBSSCAN: The Earth Radiation Budget Spacecraft (ERBSSCAN) is attached to the spacecraft on an assembly that is designed to move. The field of view, which is a set of three co-planar detectors (longwave, shortwave, and total energy), of the ERBS scanning instrument sweeps back and forth across the Earth under the satellite’s path, providing coverage between 67.5 degrees north and south latitude.

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SeaWiFS Project
ERBENONSCAN: The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) instrument is fixed with respect to the spacecraft. ERBE‘s non-scanning instrument contains 5 detectors that measure radiation reflected and emitted by the Earth-atmosphere system: one which measures the total energy from the Sun, two which measure the shortwave and total energy from the entire Earth disk, and two of which measure the shortwave and total energy from a medium resolution area beneath the satellite. It gives a broad field of view fixed around a point directly below the satellite, providing coverage between 60 degrees north and south latitude.

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Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP)
GPCP: The Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) is an international activity of the Global Energy and Water Experiment ( GEWEx), part of the World Climate Research Program, to provide long-term estimates of global precipitation. The bulk of the data used in the product are based on data from an international constellation of precipitation-related satellites. Where possible, mostly in land areas, analyses of rain gauge data are combined with the satellite data.

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The GRACE instruments
GRACE: The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites, launched March 2002, are making detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field to conduct investigations about Earth’s water reservoirs. is observing changes due to surface and deep currents in the ocean, runoff and ground water storage on land masses, exchanges between ice sheets or glaciers and the oceans, and variations of mass within the Earth.

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The ISCCP logo
ISCCP: The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) is a long-running research program that analyzes polar and geostationary weather satellite data to provide consistent information about clouds. Data are collected from the suite of weather satellites operated by several nations and are processed by several groups in government agencies, laboratories, and universities. The ISCCP program began in 1982 and continues today.

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Gulf Stream SST
MCSST: The Multi-Channel Sea Surface Temperature (MCSST) product is derived from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) – Polar Orbiting Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) using an algorithm developed by the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO). The MCSST data provide vital water surface temperature information in near real-time for a variety of applications such as offshore fishing operations, hurricane monitoring, El Nino and other climate studies.

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The MISR scan pattern from the Terra spacecraft
MISR: The Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) is an instrument on the Terra spacecraft, launched in 1999. This is a unique instrument with cameras (imagers) at nine angles looking forward, straight down, and backward from the satellite. The different views define certain features of the Earth system, such as smoke plumes and dust and thin clouds, and also provide some information about the altitude of the cloud top.

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The MOPITT scan pattern made from the Terra spacecraft data
MOPITT : The Measurements of Pollution in The troposphere (MOPITT) is an instrument on the Terra spacecraft, launched in 1999. The instrument was constructed in Canada and funded by the Canadian Space Agency. It measures how air pollution is distributed around the Earth. In particular it measures the concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO).

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NOAA NOMADS : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Operational Model Archive and Distribution System (NOMADS), a Web-based service, provides remote access to high volume numerical weather prediction and global climate models and data, including data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), along with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The NOMADS service enables sharing model results and is a major collaborative effort between many government agencies and academic institutions.

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NAVOCEANO : The U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), located at the NASA Stennis Space Center, in Hancock County, Mississippi, uses a variety of platforms including ships, aircraft, satellites, and buoys to collect data about the world’s oceans. Currently, it has technical command of six multipurpose oceanographic survey ships conducting hydrographic, acoustic, oceanographic, bathymetric, and gravity surveys. NAVOCEANO also processes data from sources such as the NOAA Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) system.

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NCDC : The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is the world’s largest active archive of climate data. The NCDC maintains and provides access to a resource of global climate and weather related data and information, and assesses and monitors climate variation.

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SeaWiFS Project
OMI : The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), flying aboard NASA’s Aura satellite, collects data for total ozone and other atmospheric parameters related to ozone chemistry and climate (profiles of ozone, aerosols and other air quality parameters). ONI is a contribution of the Netherlands’s Agency for Aerospace Programs (NIVR) in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).

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SeaWiFS Project
SARB: The Surface and Atmospheric Radiation Budget (SARB) working group, part of NASA Langley Research Center’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) mission, provides surface scene-type information over the entire globe for use in CERES data processing. Eighteen surface types are used to identify surface properties of a given region. Seventeen scene-types are defined by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) as supplied by the United States Geographical Survey (USGS). An 18th scene type (TUNDRA) is added to distinguish the rocky/barren scene of far northern and southern latitudes vs. that of other deserts. These scene types are used to define a geographic region’s surface properties (spectral emissivity and albedo) that are appropriate for use in a radiative transfer model. The model used by the SARB group, originally developed by scientists Qiang Fu and Kuo Nan Liou, calculates the longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes from the surface of the Earth to the top of the atmosphere.

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SeaWiFS Project
SeaWiFS : The Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor Project (SeaWiFS) provides quantitative data on global ocean bio-optical properties. Subtle changes in ocean color represent various types and quantities of marine phytoplankton. It is thought that marine plants remove carbon from the atmosphere at a rate equivalent to terrestrial plants, but knowledge of inter-annual variability is needed. SeaWiFS began collecting data in 1997, and the mission ended in December 2010.

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Surface Radiation Budget Project
SRB : The Surface Radiation Budget (SRB) research program uses satellite data and models to infer the Radiation Budget at the surface of the Earth. The latest version of the SRB processing provides more than 20 years of historical data on this important Earth System topic.

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NASA POWER Project Logo
SSE : The Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) project is a web application initiated through NASA to provide web-based access to parameters specifically tailored to assist in the design of solar and wind powered renewable energy systems. The goal of the SSE project is to make NASA’s satellite data more readily accessible to the renewable energy community. The set of parameters and web-based archive developed under the SSE project are called the Renewable Energy Archive. The current version of the archive contains approximate 200 multi-year averages (July 1983-June 2005) of solar parameters principally derived from satellite observations and meteorology data. The SSE data parameters are on a global one-degree latitude by one-degree longitude grid.

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The Terra spacecraft
Terra : The Terra Spacecraft, the flagship of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), carries 5 instruments in Earth orbit: CERES, MISR, MOPITT, the MODIS imager (whose data are included in CERES data products), and ASTER, a high-resolution imager which provides detailed views (15m to 90 m resolution) for about 8 minutes of the ~90 minute orbit. ASTER is used primarily for detailed land process studies.


The Aura spacecraft with instruments
TES : The tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES), one of the instruments on the Aura satellite, is a high-resolution infrared-imaging spectrometer. TES generates three-dimensional profiles, on a global scale, of virtually all infrared-active species from Earth’s surface to the lower stratosphere.

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The TOPEX/Poseidon spacecraft
TOPEX/Poseidon: The Topography Experiment Poseidon (TOPEX/Poseidon) was a joint satellite mission between NASA and CNES, the French space agency, to map sea surface topography . Launched in 1992, TOPEX/Poseidon helped revolutionize oceanography by proving the value of satellite ocean observations. For the first time, the seasonal cycle and other temporal variabilities of the ocean were determined globally with high accuracy. The mission’s most important achievement was to determine the patterns of ocean circulation – how heat stored in the ocean moves from one place to another. Since the ocean holds most of the Earth’s heat from the Sun, ocean circulation is a driving force of climate. The satellite stopped taking data in 2006.


A sample TOR data image
TOR : tropospheric Ozone Residual (TOR) is a research technique that uses satellite data along with models to infer how much ozone is found in the Earth’s troposphere. Most ozone is in the Earth’s stratosphere, where it has the beneficial effect of protecting us from the Sun’s harmful UV rays. In the troposphere, ozone is a pollutant that has negative effects on plants, and human health.

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A schematic of the trMM spacecraft showing its instruments
trMM : The tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (trMM) spacecraft was launched from Japan on Thanksgiving Day, 1997. It carries one CERES instrument, which stopped working in March 2000. Other instruments, such as the Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) imager and the Precipitation Radar, continue to function and provide very important information for studying hurricanes.

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