Remote Sensors

Overview

Remote sensing instruments are of two primary types—active and passive. Active sensors, provide their own source of energy to illuminate the objects they observe. An active sensor emits radiation in the direction of the target to be investigated. The sensor then detects and measures the radiation that is reflected or backscattered from the target. Passive sensors, on the other hand, detect natural energy (radiation) that is emitted or reflected by the object or scene being observed. Reflected sunlight is the most common source of radiation measured by passive sensors.

Active Sensors

The majority of active sensors operate in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which makes them able to penetrate the atmosphere under most conditions. An active technique views the target from either end of a baseline of known length. The change in apparent view direction (parallax) is related to the absolute distance between the instrument and target.

  • Laser altimeter—An instrument that uses a lidar to measure the height of the platform (spacecraft or aircraft) above the surface. The height of the platform with respect to the mean Earth’s surface is used to determine the topography of the underlying surface.
  • Lidar—A light detection and ranging sensor that uses a laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) radar to transmit a light pulse and a receiver with sensitive detectors to measure the backscattered or reflected light. Distance to the object is determined by recording the time between transmitted and backscattered pulses and by using the speed of light to calculate the distance traveled.
  • Radar—An active radio detection and ranging sensor that provides its own source of electromagnetic energy. An active radar sensor, whether airborne or spaceborne, emits microwave radiation in a series of pulses from an antenna. When the energy reaches the target, some of the energy is reflected back toward the sensor. This backscattered microwave radiation is detected, measured, and timed. The time required for the energy to travel to the target and return back to the sensor determines the distance or range to the target. By recording the range and magnitude of the energy reflected from all targets as the system passes by, a two-dimensional image of the surface can be produced.
  • Ranging Instrument—A device that measures the distance between the instrument and a target object. Radars and altimeters work by determining the time a transmitted pulse (microwaves or light) takes to reflect from a target and return to the instrument. Another technique employs identical microwave instruments on a pair of platforms. Signals are transmitted from each instrument to the other, with the distance between the two determined from the difference between the received signal phase and transmitted (reference) phase. These are examples of active techniques. An active technique views the target from either end of a baseline of known length. The change in apparent view direction (parallax) is related to the absolute distance between the instrument and target.
  • Scatterometer—A high-frequency microwave radar designed specifically to measure backscattered radiation. Over ocean surfaces, measurements of backscattered radiation in the microwave spectral region can be used to derive maps of surface wind speed and direction.
  • Sounder—An instrument that measures vertical distribution of precipitation and other atmospheric characteristics such as temperature, humidity, and cloud composition.

Passive Sensors

Passive sensors include different types of radiometers and spectrometers. Most passive systems used in remote sensing applications operate in the visible, infrared, thermal infrared, and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Passive remote sensors include the following:

  • Accelerometer—An instrument that measures acceleration (change in velocity per unit time). There are two general types of accelerometers. One measures translational accelerations (changes in linear motions in one or more dimensions), and the other measures angular accelerations (changes in rotation rate per unit time).
  • Hyperspectral radiometer—An advanced multispectral sensor that detects hundreds of very narrow spectral bands throughout the visible, near-infrared, and mid-infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This sensor’s very high spectral resolution facilitates fine discrimination between different targets based on their spectral response in each of the narrow bands.
  • Imaging radiometer—A radiometer that has a scanning capability to provide a two-dimensional array of pixels from which an image may be produced. Scanning can be performed mechanically or electronically by using an array of detectors.
  • Radiometer—An instrument that quantitatively measures the intensity of electromagnetic radiation in some bands within the spectrum. Usually, a radiometer is further identified by the portion of the spectrum it covers; for example, visible, infrared, or microwave.
  • Sounder—An instrument that measures vertical distributions of atmospheric parameters such as temperature, pressure, and composition from multispectral information.
  • Spectrometer—A device that is designed to detect, measure, and analyze the spectral content of incident electromagnetic radiation. Conventional imaging spectrometers use gratings or prisms to disperse the radiation for spectral discrimination.
  • Spectroradiometer—A radiometer that measures the intensity of radiation in multiple wavelength bands (i.e., multispectral). Many times the bands are of high-spectral resolution, designed for remotely sensing specific geophysical parameters

The following tables list and describe many of the active and passive sensors whose data are supported by EOSDIS. Some of these sensors may overlap categories. They are listed by current, future, and historic missions.

CURRENT MISSIONS
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
Altimeters - Radar and Laser (Lidar)
AirMOSS (EV-1) SAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
AIRSAR AIRSAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
ALOS PALSAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
CALIPSO CALIOP Cloud and Aerosol Lidar
(active sensor)
ASDC Two-wavelength polarization-sensitive lidar that provides high-resolution vertical profiles of aerosols and clouds.
CATS on ISS LiDAR radar
(active sensor)
ASDC
CloudSat CPR radar
(active sensor)
ASDC
ERS-1 RA radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
ERS-2 RA radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
GEOS GEOS ALTIMETER altimeter
(active sensor)
GES DISC
GEOSAT GEOSAT ATIMETER altimeter
(active sensor)
GFO GFO ALTIMETER altimeter
(active sensor)
GPM DPR radar
(active sensor)
GES DISC
HS3 (EV-1) CPL radar
(active sensor)
GHRC
HS3 (EV-1) HIWRAP radar
(active sensor)
GHRC
Jason-1 Poseidon-2 Radar altimeter
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC Measures sea level, wave height, wind speed, and ionospheric correction.
NI-SAR SAR radar
(active sensor)
Operation IceBridge (airborne) Laser Altimeters (4) altimeter
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Operation IceBridge (airborne) Radars(5) radar
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
OSTM POSEIDON-3 ALTIMETER altimeter
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Sentinel-1A SAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
Sentinel-1B SAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
SMAP SAR radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
Space Research Lab. Series SIR-C radar
(active sensor)
Space Research Lab. Series X-SAR radar
(active sensor)
STS SRTM radar
(active sensor)
LP DAAC
TOPEX/ Poseidon ALT-A, -B Radar altimeter
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Dual-frequency altimeter that measures height of the satellite above the sea (satellite range), wind speed, wave height, and ionospheric correction.
TOPEX/Poseidon Poseidon-1 Radar altimeter
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Single-frequency altimeter that measures height of the satellite above the sea (satellite range), wind speed, and wave height.
TOPEX/Poseidon SSALT altimeter
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Hyperspectral Instruments back to top
ADEOS I TOMS IV spectrometer
(passive sensor)
Aircraft AVIRIS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC Has 224 contiguous channels, approximately 10 nm wide. Measurements are used to derive water vapor, ocean color, vegetation classification, mineral mapping, and snow and ice cover (BOREAS Project).
ALOS PRISM spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASF DAAC
CARVE (EV-1) L-band radiometer/radar, nadir-viewing spectrometer spectrometer
(active sensor)
ORNL DAAC
airborne remote sensing payload.
DSCOVR Electron Spectrometer spectrometer
(passive sensor)
CDDIS
DSCOVR PHA spectrometer
(passive sensor)
CDDIS
Earth Probe TOMS III spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ERBS SAGE II sun photometer/solar occultation
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Meteor 3M-1 TOMS II spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Meteor-3M SAGE III spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
NASA ER-2 (Airborne) MODIS spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Nimbus-7 SBUV TOMS I spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
OCO-2 high-resolution grating spectrometer spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
S-NPP CrIS spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
S-NPP OMPS spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
SORCE SIM spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
SORCE SOLSTICE Spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Measures the solar spectral irradiance of the total solar disk in the ultraviolet wavelengths from 115 to 430 nm.
Space Lab. Series ATLAS-1 spectrometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Space Lab. Series ATLAS-2 spectrometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Space Lab. Series ATLAS-3 spectrometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
UARS CLAES spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
UARS HALOE solar occultation
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
UARS PEM spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
UARS SOLSTICE I spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
UARS SUSIM spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Imaging Radar back to top
GOES IMAGER imager
(active sensor)
GES DISC
Nimbus-7 SAM II photometer
(active sensor)
GES DISC
Operation IceBridge (airborne) Mapping(3) imager
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
DSCOVR EPIC imaging camera
(active sensor)
ASDC
ERS-1 SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
Provides high-resolution surface imagery at 7 to 240 m.
ERS-2 SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Multiple polarizations are utilized by some SAR instruments.
JERS-1 SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
ORNL DAAC
PALSAR SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
RADARSAT-1 SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
UARS HRDI imager
(active sensor)
GES DISC
UAVSAR SAR Synthetic aperature radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
Multispectral Instruments back to top
ADEOS I OCTS optical radiometer
(passive sensor)
OB.DAAC
ADEOS II AMSR scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
ALOS AVNIR-2 radiometer
(passive sensor)
Aqua AMSR-E Multichannel microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Measures precipitation, oceanic water vapor, cloud water, near-surface wind speed, sea and land surface temperature, soil moisture, snow cover, and sea ice. Provides spatial resolutions of 5.4 km, 12 km, 21 km, 25 km, 38 km, 56 km, and 0.25 deg resolution.
Aqua AMSR-E Multichannel microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Measures precipitation, oceanic water vapor, cloud water, near-surface wind speed, sea and land surface temperature, soil moisture, snow cover, and sea ice. Provides spatial resolutions of 5.4 km, 12 km, 21 km, 25 km, 38 km, 56 km, and 0.25 deg resolution.
Aqua CERES Broadband scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Aqua MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Aquarius (SAC)-D Aquarius radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
CALIPSO IIR Imaging Infrared Radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Nadir-viewing, non-scanning imager having a 64 km swath with a pixel size of 1 km. Provides measurements at three channels in the thermal infrared window region at 8.7 mm, 10.5 mm, and 12.0 mm.
DISCOVER-AQ (EV-1) AIRCRAFT INSTRUMENTS, GROUND INSTRUMENTS, OZONESONDE (passive sensor) GHRC
DMSP SSM/I Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
DMSP SSM/I Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
DMSP SSM/I Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
DMSP SSM/I Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
Has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
DMSP SSM/I Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
DSCOVR NISTAR radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
ER-2 AMPR Microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Cross-track scanning total power microwave radiometer with four channels centered at 10.7, 19.35, 37.1 and 85.5 GHz. (FIRE ACE, Teflun-B, TRMM-LBA, CAMEX-4. TCSP, TC4 projects).
ERBS ERBE-NS radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
ERS-1 AMI-WIND microwave
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
ERS-2 AMI-WIND microwave
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
GCOM AMSR2 scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
CDDIS, NSIDC DAAC
GHRSST radiometer
(passive sensor)
GMS VISSR radiometer
(passive sensor)
GOES AVHRR radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
GPM GMI microwave imager
(active sensor)
GES DISC
HS3 (EV-1) HAMSR radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
HS3 (EV-1) HIRAD radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Jason-1 JMR radiometer
(passive sensor)
CDDIS
Landsat 7 ETM+ radiometer
(passive sensor)
LP DAAC
NASA ER-2 aircraft MAS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Has 50 spectral bands. Provides spatial resolution of 50 m at typical flight altitudes.
NASA ER-2 aircraft MAS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Has 50 spectral bands. Provides spatial resolution of 50 m at typical flight altitudes.
NASA ER-2 aircraft MAS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has 50 spectral bands. Provides spatial resolution of 50 m at typical flight altitudes.
NASA ER-2 aircraft MAS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Has 50 spectral bands. Provides spatial resolution of 50 m at typical flight altitudes.
Nimbus-7 CZCS radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Nimbus-7 ERBE radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Nimbus-7 LIMS radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Nimbus-7 SMMR Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Ten channels. Measured sea surface temperatures, ocean near-surface winds, water vapor and cloud liquid water content, sea ice extent, sea ice concentration, snow cover, snow moisture, rainfall rates, and differential of ice types.
Nimbus-7 SMMR Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Ten channels. Measured sea surface temperatures, ocean near-surface winds, water vapor and cloud liquid water content, sea ice extent, sea ice concentration, snow cover, snow moisture, rainfall rates, and differential of ice types.
Nimbus-7 SMMR Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Ten channels. Measured sea surface temperatures, ocean near-surface winds, water vapor and cloud liquid water content, sea ice extent, sea ice concentration, snow cover, snow moisture, rainfall rates, and differential of ice types.
Nimbus-7 SMMR Multispectral microwave radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
Ten channels. Measured sea surface temperatures, ocean near-surface winds, water vapor and cloud liquid water content, sea ice extent, sea ice concentration, snow cover, snow moisture, rainfall rates, and differential of ice types.
NOAA POES AVHRR Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Has four or six bands, depending on platform. Telemetried resolutions are 1.1 km (HRPT data) and 4 km (Pathfinder V5 and GAC data). 5km, 25 km spatial resolution.
NOAA POES AVHRR Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Has four or six bands, depending on platform. Telemetried resolutions are 1.1 km (HRPT data) and 4 km (Pathfinder V5 and GAC data). 5km, 25 km spatial resolution.
NOAA POES AVHRR Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Has four or six bands, depending on platform. Telemetried resolutions are 1.1 km (HRPT data) and 4 km (Pathfinder V5 and GAC data). 5km, 25 km spatial resolution.
NOAA POES AVHRR Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
Has four or six bands, depending on platform. Telemetried resolutions are 1.1 km (HRPT data) and 4 km (Pathfinder V5 and GAC data). 5km, 25 km spatial resolution.
S-NPP CERES Broadband scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Operation IceBridge (airborne) Gravimeter gravimeter
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Operation IceBridge (airborne) Magnetometer magnetometer
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
OrbView-2 SeaWiFS optical scanner
(passive sensor)
OB.DAAC
OSTM ADVANCED MICROWAVE RADIOMETER radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
SEASAT SMMR radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
SMAP radiometer, SAR radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASF DAAC, NSIDC DAAC
S-NPP CERES radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
S-NPP VIIRS radiometer
(passive sensor)
LP DAAC, NSIDC DAAC
SORCE XPS photometer
(active sensor)
GES DISC
Terra ASTER Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
LP DAAC
Measures surface radiance, reflectance, emissivity, and temperature. Provides spatial resolutions of 15 m, 30 m, and 90 m.
Terra ASTER Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures surface radiance, reflectance, emissivity, and temperature. Provides spatial resolutions of 15 m, 30 m, and 90 m.
Terra CERES Broadband scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Terra MISR Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Obtains precisely calibrated images in four spectral bands, at nine different angles, to provide aerosol, cloud, and land surface data. Provides spatial resolution of 250 m to 1.1 km.
Terra MISR Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Obtains precisely calibrated images in four spectral bands, at nine different angles, to provide aerosol, cloud, and land surface data. Provides spatial resolution of 250 m to 1.1 km.
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
LP DAAC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
LAADS Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
OB.DAAC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Terra MODIS Imaging spectroradiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
TOPEX/Poseidon TMR radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
TRMM CERES Broadband scanning radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
TRMM TMI Multispectral Microwave Radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
TMI measures the intensity of radiation at five separate frequencies: 10.7, 19.4, 21.3, 37, 85.5 GHz. TMI measures microwave brightness temperatures, water vapor, cloud water, and rainfall intensity.
TRMM TMI Multispectral Microwave Radiometer
(passive sensor)
GHRC
TMI measures the intensity of radiation at five separate frequencies: 10.7, 19.4, 21.3, 37, 85.5 GHz. TMI measures microwave brightness temperatures, water vapor, cloud water, and rainfall intensity.
TRMM VIRS radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Polarimetric Instruments back to top
Aircraft POLDER Polarimeter
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures the polarization and the directional and spectral characteristics of the solar light reflected by aerosols, clouds, and the Earth’s surface (BOREAS Project).
Aircraft PSR Microwave polarimeter
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Measures wind speed and direction (CAMEX-3 Project).
Ranging Instruments back to top
GRACE ACC Accelerometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
The Onera SuperSTAR Accelerometer measures the non-gravitational forces acting on the GRACE satellites.
GRACE KBR Ranging Instrument
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
The dual-frequency KBR instrument measures the range between the GRACE satellites to extremely high precision.
Scatterometers back to top
ADEOS II SeaWinds scatterometer
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
ADEOS-I NSCAT Radar scatterometer
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Dual Fan-Beam Ku Band that measures ocean vector winds at a nominal grid resolution of 25 km.
QuikSCATADEOS-II SeaWinds Radar scatterometer
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Dual Pencil-Beam Ku Band that measures ocean vector winds at a nominal grid resolution of 25 km.
Seasat SASS Radar scatterometer
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Dual Fan-Beam Ku Band that measures ocean vector winds at a nominal grid resolution of 25 km.
Single Channel/Total Power Radiometers and Imagers back to top
ACRIMSAT ACRIM III Total power radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Measures total solar irradiance.
CALIPSO WFC Wide Field Camera
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Fixed, nadir-viewing imager with a single spectral channel covering the 620-270 nm region.
SORCE TIM Total power radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Measures total solar irradiance.
TRMM LIS Imager
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Detects intracloud and cloud-to-ground lightning, day and night.
UARS ACRIM II Total power radiometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Measures total solar irradiance.
Sounding Instruments back to top
Aqua AIRS Sounder
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Measures air temperature, humidity, clouds, and surface temperature. Provides spatial resolution of ~13.5 km in the IR channels and ~2.3 km in the visible. Swath retrieval products are at 50 km resolution.
Aqua AMSU Sounder
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Has 15 channels. Measure temperature profiles in the upper atmosphere. Has a cloud filtering capability for tropospheric temperature observations. Provides spatial resolution of 40 km at nadir.
Aqua AMSU Sounder
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Has 15 channels. Measures temperature profiles in the upper atmosphere. Has a cloud filtering capability for tropospheric temperature observations. Provides spatial resolution of 40 km at nadir.
Aqua HSB Sounder
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Aura HIRDLS Sounder
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Measures infrared emissions at the Earth’s limb in 21 channels to obtain profiles of temperature, ozone, CFCs, various other gases affecting ozone chemistry, and aerosols at 1 km vertical resolution. In addition, HIRDLS measures the location of polar stratospheric clouds.
Aura MLS Sounder
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Five broad band radiometers and 28 spectrometers measure microwave thermal emission from the limb of Earth’s atmosphere to derive profiles of ozone, SO2, N2O, OH and other atmospheric gases, temperature, pressure, and cloud ice.
Aura OMI Multispectral radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Has 740 wavelength bands in visible and ultraviolet. Measures total ozone and profiles of ozone, N2O, SO2, and several other chemical species.
Aura TES Imaging Spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
High-resolution imaging infrared Fourier-transform spectrometer that operates in both nadir and limb-sounding modes. Provides profile measurements of ozone, water vapor, carbon monoxide, methane, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid carbon dioxide, and ammonia.
DC-8 HAMSR Sounder
(passive sensor)
GHRC
Measures vertical profiles of temperature, water vapor, from the surface to 100mb in 2-4 km layers. (CAMEX-4, NAMMA projects).
DC-8 LASE Lidar
(active sensor)
GHRC
Measures water vapor, aerosols, and clouds throughout the troposphere (CAMEX-4, TCSP, NAMMA projects).
ER-2 CLS Lidar
(active sensor)
ASDC
Determines vertical cloud structure. (FIRE Project).
Ground VIL Lidar
(active sensor)
ASDC
Determines vertical cloud structure (FIFE, FIRE and BOREAS Projects).
Ground VIL Lidar
(active sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Determines vertical cloud structure (FIFE, FIRE and BOREAS Projects).
HS3 (EV-1) ADELE Sounder
(active sensor)
GHRC
HS3 (EV-1) AVAPS Sounder
(active sensor)
GHRC
HS3 (EV-1) S-HIS Interferometer/Sounder
(active sensor)
GHRC
NOAA POES MSU Sounder
(active sensor)
NCDC (NOAA)
NOAA POES TOVS Sounder
(active sensor)
NCDC (NOAA)
S-NPP ATMS Sounder
(active sensor)
GES DISC
S-NPP OMPS_Limb Sounder
(active sensor)
GES DISC
SWOT KaRIn Interferometer
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Terra MOPITT Sounder
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Measures carbon monoxide and methane in the troposphere. Is able to collect data under cloud-free conditions. Provides horizontal resolution of ~22 km and vertical resolution of ~4 km.
Terra MOPITT Sounder
(passive sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures carbon monoxide and methane in the troposphere. Is able to collect data under cloud-free conditions. Provides horizontal resolution of ~22 km and vertical resolution of ~4 km.
TIROS-N TOVS Sounder
(active sensor)
GES DISC
TRMM PR Phased-array radar
(active sensor)
GES DISC
Measures 3-D distribution of rain and ice. Provides horizontal resolution of 250 m and vertical resolution of 5 km.
TRMM PR Phased-array radar
(active sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures 3-D distribution of rain and ice. Provides horizontal resolution of 250 m and vertical resolution of 5 km.
UARS ISAMS Sounder
(active sensor)
GES DISC
UARS MLS Sounder
(active sensor)
GES DISC
UARS WINDII Interferometer
(active sensor)
GES DISC
FUTURE MISSIONS back
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
CLARREO IR Spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
CLARREO RO Radio occultation
(active sensor)
ASDC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
CLARREO RS Imaging spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
CYGNSS DDMI Scatterometer
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Measure Ocean surface wind speed in all precipitating conditions, including those experienced in the tropical Cyclone (TC) eyewall. Measure ocean surface wind speed in the TC iner core with sufficient frequency to resolve genesis and rapid intensification processes. This study will focus to understand the coupling between ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation, and convective dynamics in the inner core of a TC.
ECOSTRESS ECOSTRESS Radiometer
(passive sensor)
LP DAAC
• Identify critical thresholds of water use and water stress in key climate sensitive biomes;
• Detect the timing, location, and predictive factors leading to plant water uptake decline and/or cessation over the diurnal cycle; and,
• Measure agricultural water consumptive use over the contiguous United States (CONUS) at spatiotemporal scales applicable to improve drought estimation accuracy.
GEDI-ISS LiDAR Radar
(active sensor)
LP DAAC To address these core questions;
• Quantify the distribution of above-ground carbon at fine spatial resolution;
• Quantify changes in carbon resulting from disturbance and subsequent recovery;
• Quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of forest structure and its relationship to habitat quality and biodiversity
• Quantify the sequestration potential of forests through time under changing land use and climate
GRACE FO K-Band Ranging (KBR) Instrument Assembly. Microwave
(active sensor)
PO.DAAC
Provide high-temporal-resolution gravity field measurements for the purpose of tracking large-scale water movement. GRACE-FO is the follow-on mission to GRACE, launched in 2002
ICESat-2 ATLAS Altimeter
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change, as well as ice-sheet linkages to climate conditions.
Quantifying regional patterns of ice-sheet changes to assess what drives those changes, and to improve predictive ice-sheet models.
ISS-LIS Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) Imager
(active sensor)
CDDIS
One of the main objectives is to study the global distribution of lightning and its relationship to storm microphysics and dynamics, its dependence on regional climatic environments and their changes, its relationship to precipitation and cloud type, and the incorporation of these relationships into diagnostic and predictive models of global precipitation,the general circulation and the hydrological cycle.
OCO-3 high-resolution grating spectrometer Spectrometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC
Collect the space-based measurements needed to quantify variations in the column averaged atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) dry air mole fraction, XCO2, with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to improve our understanding of surface CO2 sources and sinks (fluxes) on regional scales (≥1000 km)
PACE ocean color instrument Polarimeter
(passive sensor)
OB.DAAC
• Make essential global ocean color measurements
• Understand the carbon cycle
• Provide extended data records on clouds and aerosols
SAGE-III (ISS) SAGE-III Sun photometer/solar occultation
(passive sensor)
ASDC
Provide global, long-term measurements of key components of the Earth's atmosphere. The most important of these are the vertical distribution of aerosols and ozone from the upper troposphere through the stratosphere. In addition, SAGE-III also provides unique measurements of temperature in the stratosphere and mesosphere and profiles of trace gases such as water vapor and nitrogen dioxide that play significant roles in atmospheric radiative and chemical processes.
SAOCOM SARR Radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC One of the major objectives is to develop soil moisture map products for giving support to agricultural, hydrological, health applications, and emergencies in general.
Sentinel-3A SAR Radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
The goal of the SENTINEL program is to replace the current older Earth observation missions which have reached retirement, such as the ERS mission, or are currently nearing the end of their operational life span. This will ensure a continuity of data so that there are no gaps in ongoing studies.
Sentinel-3B SAR Radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
The goal of the SENTINEL program is to replace the current older Earth observation missions which have reached retirement, such as the ERS mission, or are currently nearing the end of their operational life span. This will ensure a continuity of data so that there are no gaps in ongoing studies.
Sentinel-5p SAR Radar
(active sensor)
ASF DAAC
Atmospheric composition, cloud and aerosol for air quality and climate applications.
SWOT AMR Radiometer
(passive sensor)
PO.DAAC
• Provide sea surface heights (SSH) and terrestrial water heights over a 120 km wide swath with a +/-10 km gap at the nadir track.
• Over the deep oceans, provide SSH within each swath with a posting every 2 km x 2 km, and a precision not to exceed 0.8 cm when averaged over the area.
• Over land, download the raw data for ground processing and produce a water mask able to resolve 100 meter wide rivers and lakes of 250 meter2 in size, wetlands, or reservoirs. Associated with this mask will be water level elevations with an accuracy of 10 cm and a slope accuracy of 1 cm/1 km.
• Cover at least 90 percent of the globe. Gaps are not to exceed 10 percent of Earth's surface.
TEMPO tbd Spectrometer
(passive sensor)
ASDC
To answer several science questions: What are the temporal and spatial variations of emissions of gases and aerosols important for air quality and climate? How do physical, chemical, and dynamical processes determine tropospheric composition and air quality over spatial scales ranging from urban to continental, and temporally from diurnal to seasonal? How does air pollution drive climate forcing, and how does climate change affect air quality on a continental scale? How can observations from space improve air quality forecasts and assessments for societal benefit? How does intercontinental pollution transport affect air quality? How do episodic events (e.g., wild fires, dust outbreaks, and volcanic eruptions) affect atmospheric composition and air quality?
TSIS-1 TIM, SIM Radiometer
(passive sensor)
GES DISC Provide absolute measurements of the total solar irradiance (TSI) and spectral solar irradiance (SSI), important for accurate scientific models of climate change and solar variability.
HISTORIC MISSIONS back
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
ICESat GLAS Laser altimeter
(active sensor)
NSIDC DAAC The main objective is to measure ice sheet elevations and changes in elevation through time. Secondary objectives include measurement of cloud and aerosol height profiles, land elevation and vegetation cover, and sea ice thickness.
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