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Introduction to Satellite Meteorology

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How Do Satellites "See" Things?

Satellites make measurements indirectly by sensing electromagnetic radiation coming from the surfaces below. Because radiation can transport energy without a medium, it is the only way in which the earth interacts with the rest of the universe. Thus, electromagnetic radiation is the basis for remote sensing technology. The capabilities and limitations of remote sensing technology are best understood by knowing the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Remote sensing instruments in space, on the ground, or in mid-air record different parts of the spectrum absorbed, emitted, or scattered by the gases and particles in our atmosphere. Remote sensing instruments flown on satellites provide ever-increasing insight into our planet Earth. Today, human made satellites augment every aspect of modern life, providing scientists and educators with tools for investigation, inquiry, analysis and stewardship.

The 21st century will be an exciting and critical time to pursue a career in satellite meteorology. Exciting because there have been so many advances and so much more information available to scientists each year. Critical because knowledge implies responsibility. As satellites increase our ability to differentiate between natural- and human-induced climate and environmental changes, satellite meteorologists will be on the frontlines of social discussions determining public policy to protect our home planet.