NOAA CoastWatch East Coast Node
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VIIRS True Color Satellite Images

NOAA CoastWatch produces near real-time true color satellite images for U.S. coastal regions from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on-board the polar-orbiting Suomi-NPP satellite.

True color satellite images are like a camera photo. The instrument's visible measurements at the red, green, and blue wavelengths are combined to create a color-realistic image, just like a digital photograph. Land and water features can be seen in these images. Because cloud coverage is very obvious, these images can be used to quickly determine if a particular day's image is useful for observing a land or water feature.

NOAA/NESDIS processes the VIIRS Sensor Data Record (SDR) calibrated radiances for all wavelengths, and CoastWatch then generates data files of the red, green and blue surface reflectance measurements for generating true color images. Currently, CoastWatch true color data and image files are available for the VIIRS instrument's 750 m spatial resolution wavelength bands. The surface reflectances are corrected for atmospheric effects, such as a Rayleigh correction. In the future, CoastWatch anticipates offering true color data and images at the much higher spatial resolution of 375 m for U.S. coastal regions.

NOAA CoastWatch East Coast Node began featuring true color images made with surface reflectance on November 9, 2018. Before that, true color images were made with top-of-atmosphere radiance, without atmospheric corrections. Below is a comparison of the two approaches. True color made from surface reflectance offers clearer, brighter images.

True Color from Top-of-atmosphere Radiance
Notice the stripes near the top that are data gaps that arise from pixel aggregation at the edge of the instrument's scan when projected to a geographic grid.
True Color from Surface Reflectance
Stripe artifact corrected. Image is brighter and clearer due to atmospheric corrections.
November 21, 2018, S-NPP/VIIRS
November 21, 2018, S-NPP/VIIRS

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