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SMC shield1. Introduction

Overview of The Satellite Meteorology and Climatology Division

Setting within NOAA

The Satellite Meteorology and Climatology Division (SMCD) is one of three Units in the Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR). STAR is the science arm of NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and provides leadership, guidance, and direction for NESDIS research, development, and applications activities with respect to satellites and satellite data. The main objectives of the STAR are to ensure that satellite remote sensing data and information products are of the highest quality possible and to enhance their utilization to enable NOAA to fulfill its mission to understand and predict changes in Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation's economic, social, and environmental needs. STAR conducts research and develops satellite products for meteorological, climatological, oceanographic, and land surface applications by NOAA's operational and research components. Aside from the MCD, the STAR includes the Satellite Oceanography Division (SOD), which provides the primary research and development support for oceanic remote sensing within NOAA and a Cooperative Research Program (CoRP) that provides oversight, management, and direction to a coast-to-coast government and university-based research coalition for remote sensing of the environment.

NESDIS Mission

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) is dedicate to providing timely access to global environmental data from satellites and other sources to promote, protect, and enhance the Nation's economy, security, environment, and quality of life.

To fulfill its responsibilities, NESDIS acquires and manages the Nation's operational environmental satellites, provides data and information services, and conducts related research.


SMCD conducts research and develops new satellite products to improve and expand the use of satellite data for monitoring global meteorological, climatological and environmental conditions. The Division conducts an end-to-end program ranging from planning new satellite instruments to developing new satellite products and applications and transitioning these developments to operations in NOAA's weather, climate, and environmental monitoring and prediction systems. Most of the Division's research and development falls in the following discipline areas:

  • Atmospheric variables - temperature, humidity, winds
  • Land surface variables - vegetation, snow and ice cover
  • Hydrological Cycle variables - precipitation, clouds, water vapor
  • Environmental hazards - aviation hazards, air quality, fires, heavy rainfall and flash floods, drought
  • Climate variables - ozone, Earth radiation budget, aerosols, greenhouse gases

In addition to developing new and improved products, SMCD conducts the following crosscutting activities:

  • Calibrating satellite instruments
  • Transitioning research products to operational production
  • Developing radiative transfer models for the National Weather Service (NWS) Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) satellite data assimilation systems
  • Developing and analyzing long-term satellite data sets for studying and assessing climate change
  • Planning and preparing for new satellite instruments

To execute its activities, SMCD has a vigorous visiting scientist program and an extensive task order contract support system, which provides scientists and software specialists to support the SMCD investigators. Its scientists also collaborate with colleagues both nationally and internationally.

Organization, Personnel, Resources

SMCD consists of three Branches: Sensor Physics Branch, Environmental Monitoring Branch, and Operational Products Development Branch. The Division also manages the funding for the NESDIS budget line item for the NOAA- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-US Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA), and a number of Division scientists are active in JCSDA research programs.


Sensor Physics Branch

The Sensor Physics Branch oversees the calibration of all of NOAA's Earth observing satellite instruments and develops many of the atmospheric products derived from satellite observations. It researches state-of-the-art algorithms for profiling atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ozone, air quality, carbon cycle and hydrological products from operational and research satellite instruments. It develops, upgrades, and maintains the Community Radiative Transfer Model. This is used for data assimilation in the numerical weather prediction models of the NWS, NASA, and DoD. It is developing, testing and implementing the next-generation of satellite data retrieval systems for The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R) sensor applications. The Sensor Physics Branch strongly supports the NOAA climate goal through its retrospective reprocessing of satellite observations of ozone and atmospheric temperature to produce Climate Data Records. It also participates in the design, planning, and preparation for next generation satellite systems.

Environmental Monitoring Branch

The Environmental Monitoring Branch develops satellite-based land surface, climate, and environmental hazards products. Its vegetation, snow and ice cover products are used as initial or boundary conditions for NWS weather prediction models. The Branch's Earth Radiation Budget, cloud, and aerosol products help scientists to better understand critical climate processes. Its heavy rainfall, fire, and drought products provide early warnings for destructive environmental hazards. The Branch also constructs long-term satellite-based data sets of Earth Radiation Budget, clouds, aerosols, vegetation, and atmospheric temperature for monitoring global climate change. It also participates in the design, planning, and preparation for next generation satellite systems.

Operational Products Development Branch

The Operational Products Development Branch is the main conduit for transferring new science into NESDIS operations for both geostationary and polar satellites, and provides support in training NWS and DoD forecasters to correctly utilize and interpret satellite products. The Operational Products Development Branch transitions research products to operations. The Branch transitions the science algorithms developed by STAR for atmospheric sounding, wind, and convection intensity products to operational processing systems for the NESDIS Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution (OSDPD). It also develops satellite products for use by the aviation sector, such as aircraft icing, volcanic ash hazards, and fog and low ceiling events.

NOAA-NASA-DoD Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA)

SMCD manages the NOAA line item budget, which supports the JCSDA Executive Office, STAR researchers working on JCSDA Directed Research programs, and the extramural community through an A/O.

The JCSDA was established by NOAA, NASA, and DoD to accelerate and improve the quantitative use of research and operational satellite data in weather and climate analysis and prediction models. The JCSDA is part of the Environmental Modeling Program, under NOAA's Weather and Water Goal, which provides model-based estimates of current and future states of the environment at multiple time scales. These estimates are based upon a wide array of observational data and ever more refined modeling techniques. The program maintains a suite of operational models to meet current needs as well as a research and development program for improved performance and new capabilities in future generations of environmental models.

The vision of the JCSDA is a numerical weather prediction community empowered to effectively assimilate increasing amounts of advanced satellite observations. The goals of the JCSDA are to:

  • Reduce from two years to one year the average time for operational implementation of new satellite technology
  • Improve and increase uses of current and future satellite data in NWP models
  • Assess the impacts of data from advanced satellite instruments on weather and climate predictions

Data, algorithms, and images presented on STAR websites are intended for experimental use only and are not supported on an operational basis.  More information

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