Last Updated: 06/21/2013*

NOAA’s “Green: Vegetation on Our Planet” depicts the annual cycle of plant life on Earth

A group of scientists monitoring critical data from the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite notices lower vegetation greenness patterns developed in early spring in Africa’s Sahel region. Further analysis of the data predicts an oncoming drought to the region and its intensification in June.  Global relief organizations are notified and need to mobilize resources to assist thousands of people before the drought fully takes effect. The critical piece of data that makes this scenario possible: the color green.

VIIRS Green Image

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in cooperation with NASA, recently released “Green: Vegetation on Our Planet,” a series of animations and images depicting the annual cycle of green vegetation on Earth produced by Raytheon’s Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor.

The measurements from VIIRS continue some of the data records collected by several NASA satellites, including Terra and Aqua, in orbit since December 1999 and February 2002, respectively. Terra and Aqua each make use of an instrument called the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, which looks at global vegetation along with other Earth features.

VIIRS Video

The VIIRS instrument flying aboard the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite represents a giant step up from prior technology – providing eight times greater detail and sharper focus across the entire image swath. "The better the resolution of the satellite data, the better the inputs to your models are. That can lead to better forecasts, which can save lives and property,” said. William Straka, an associate researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS)

Infographic showing where weather forecasts come from
Click image for larger view

The advantages provided by the VIIRS sensor improves our ability to manage natural resources and even predict the spread of insect-borne diseases like malaria “The enhanced imagery provided by VIIRS will expand the environmental data record and improve weather forecasting and climate monitoring for generations,” Dr. Jeff Puschell, Principal Engineering Fellow in Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business.

Learn more about what a vegetation index can tell us about our planet and how the "Green: Vegetation on Our Planet" data was created.

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