NOAA CoastWatch East Coast Node
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Water Temperature


The water temperature seen in these images was calculated using satellite measurements:

Satellites:NOAA-15, NOAA-18, NOAA-19, MetOp-1, MetOp-2
Instrument:Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)


Satellite-sensed water temperature represents the temperature at the water's surface. Each image is the composite of all scenes seen by all four satellites on a single day, including both day and night scenes. The instrument used to collect the measurements is the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), an instrument on each of the four satellites. Because the satellite instrument cannot see through clouds, the images may be missing data in areas that were cloudy while the satellite was passing overhead.

sample Chesapeake Bay water temperature image
Imagery ©2010 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2010 Google, Overlay NOAA CoastWatch

Satellites can measure water temperature to an accuracy better than 0.5 degrees Celcius. That's extremely accurate for an instrument that sees the Earth's surface from an altitude of approximately 800 km. The smallest spatial resolution (pixel size) that the AVHRR instrument sees on the Earth's surface is approximately 1.1 km.

Knowing the water temperature is important for many reasons. Living resources and ecological processes depend on the water to be in a particular range. If the water is too hot, the fish and other marine organisms will suffer stress, and may not be as productive. Also, changes in temperature over an extended period may cause some organisms to move to other regions where the temperature is more favorable for them, and may cause other non-native organisms to move into the region, thereby bringing about undesirable changes for certain human livelihoods such as fishing.

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