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The Earth’s Biosphere
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
In the last five years, scientists have been able to monitor our changing planet
in ways never before possible. The Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor
(SeaWiFS), aboard the OrbView-2 satellite, has given researchers an
unprecedented view of the biological engine that drives life on Earth—the
countless forms of plants that cover the land and fill the oceans.
“There is no question the Earth is changing. SeaWiFS has enabled us, for the
first time, to monitor the biological consequences of that change—to see how
the things we do, as well as natural variability, affect the Earth’s ability to
support life,” said Gene Carl Feldman, SeaWiFS project manager at NASA’s Goddard
Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
SeaWiFS data, based on continuous daily global observations, have helped
scientists make a more accurate assessment of the oceans’ role in the global
carbon cycle. The data provide a key parameter in a number of ecological and
environmental studies as well as global climate-change modeling. The images of
the Earth’s changing land, ocean and atmosphere from SeaWiFS have documented
many previously unrecognized phenomena.
The image above shows the global biosphere from June 2002
measured by SeaWiFS. Data in the oceans is chlorophyll concentration, a measure of the amount of
phytoplankton (microscopic plants) living in the ocean. On land
SeaWiFS measures Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, an indication of the density of plant growth.