NOAA/NESDIS/STAR Satellite Oceanography and Climatology Division Science Teams

Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry (LSA)

The LSA specializes in the application of satellite altimetry to a broad array of climate and weather related issues, including global and regional sea level rise, coastal and open-ocean circulation, weather prediction - from hurricane intensity forecasting to El Niño and La Niña events and monitoring the changing state of the Arctic Ocean.


Ocean Color

The ocean color science team seeks to develop improved ocean color products from the current and future ocean color satellite sensors including the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (SNPP) and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), as well as various satellite sensors from other countries, e.g., the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), Korean Geostationary Ocean Color Imager (GOCI), Sentinel-3 Ocean Land Colour Instrument (OLCI), GCOM-C Second-Generation Global Imager (SGLI), etc.


Ocean Surface Vector Winds

Remotely-sensed Ocean Surface Vector Winds are a critical tool for the issuance of marine forecasts and warnings; tropical cyclone analysis, location, and warnings; identification and warning of coastal gap and jet winds; and public forecasts and warnings.



The oceans are composed of approximately 3.5% salt, and the overall concentration of dissolved salts in the ocean is denominated salinity. Overall, salinity plays a key role in general ocean circulation dynamics, global water cycles (evaporation, precipitation, water vapor, etc.), climate and sea ice extent.


Sea Ice

Sea ice is an important indicator of climate change, and a key component of the polar climate system. Area shrinkage of Arctic sea ice has been observed over the last 35 years, and its decline is proceeding faster than forecasted. These observed changes in the ice cover have related impacts on the regional Arctic and sub-Arctic climate, environment and ecosystems and directly affect natural resource exploitation, transport, commercial fisheries, and indigenous lifestyles.


Sea Surface Temperature (SST)

Satellite SST is the longest and most mature application of ocean remote sensing. Passive observations are made with infrared (IR) sensors onboard multiple polar-orbiting and geostationary platforms, and microwave sensors onboard polar platforms. The IR sensors have higher spatial (1-4km) and temporal (10-15min, onboard geostationary satellites) resolution, and superior radiometric performance.


Water Surface Conditions (SAR)

Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites have provided a global perspective on a wide range of diverse ocean and atmospheric phenomena including surface and internal waves, upwelling, current boundaries, shallow water bathymetry, wind, rainfall, roll vortices, convective cells, storms, and a wide variety of sea ice forms.


Coral Reef Watch

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program's satellite data provide current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, where corals lose the symbiotic algae that give them their distinctive colors. If a coral is severely bleached, disease and partial mortality become likely, and the entire colony may die.

Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scales provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching. When bleaching conditions occur, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions.