Research Tools: 20 Years of Earth Data Now at Your Fingertips via NASA Worldview
Powerful Earth-observing instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively, have observed nearly two decades of planetary change. Now, for the first time, all that imagery — from the first operational image to imagery acquired today — is available for exploration in Worldview.
Thanks to the efforts of several NASA teams, the public can now interactively browse all global imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument quickly and easily from the comfort of a home computer. All global MODIS imagery dating back to the operational start of MODIS in 2000 is available through NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) for viewing using NASA’s Worldview application. And there’s a lot to see.
This achievement is the result of more than a half-decade of work and represents the longest continuous daily global satellite observation record of Earth ever compiled. For researchers, the ability to rapidly access and explore all MODIS global imagery greatly improves their use of these data.
In the ’80s and ’90s, if you wanted to look at, say, clouds off the coast of California, you had to figure out the time of year when it was best to look at these clouds, then place a data request for a specific window of days when you thought the satellite overflew the area,” says Santiago Gassó, an associate research scientist with NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Technology And Research program at Morgan State University, Baltimore. “You would get a physical tape with these images and have to put this into the processing system. Only then would you know if the image was usable. This process used to take from days to weeks. Now, you can look at images for days, weeks and even years in a matter of minutes in Worldview, immediately find the images you need, and download them for use.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.