- Press Release
- Dec 5, 2022
SeaWiFS Sensor Marks Five Years Documenting Earth’s Dynamic Biosphere
David E. Steitz
Cynthia M. O’Carroll
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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
SeaWiFS has supported a large number of educational and
The SeaWiFS record also marks the first time the abundance of
terrestrial and oceanic vegetation has been measured globally
by a single instrument, making this the most complete and
consistent data set available. The five-year record from
SeaWiFS provides a new baseline measurement for global
photosynthesis, the primary pathway through which carbon
enters the Earth’s biosphere.
NASA plans to continue this biological record using
observations from Terra, launched in December 1999, and Aqua,
launched in May 2002. These satellites allow U.S. scientists
to examine practically every aspect of Earth’s atmosphere,
oceans and continents from space in an unprecedented way.
SeaWiFS was launched August 1, 1997, and has been continually
collecting data since September 18, 1997. The sensor is
carried on the OrbView-2 spacecraft, operated by Orbital
Imaging Corporation (ORBIMAGE) of Dulles, Va. NASA acquires
SeaWiFS data through an innovative commercial data-purchase
partnership with ORBIMAGE.
Research on the Earth’s biosphere using SeaWiFS and other
space-based capabilities is conducted by NASA’s Earth Science
Enterprise to better understand and protect our home planet.
Additional information is available on the Internet at: