A Better Global Thermometer
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A new sensor orbiting the Earth aboard NASA’s satellite is now collecting the most detailed measurements ever made of the sea’s surface temperature every day all over the globe. Like a sophisticated thermometer in space, the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) is helping Earth scientists advance studies of how our world’s oceans and atmosphere interact in ways that drive weather patterns and, over the long term, define our climate.

The image above shows cold water upwelling near the coast of Peru (purple) and joining the South Equatorial Current, which flows westward across the Pacific Ocean. This MODIS sea surface temperature image from January 1–8, 2001 shows the ocean in normal conditions, but during an El Niño the waters off Peru are much warmer. Cold waters are black and dark green. Blue, purple, red, yellow, and white represent progressively warmer water.

For more information, high-res images, and animations, see: Terra Measures Sea Surface Temperature with Unprecedented Detail.

Image by Jesse Allen, based on data provided by the MODIS OCEAN Team and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Remote Sensing Group

A Better Global Thermometer

February 15, 2002
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