NASA’s data and tools are free to the public. On this page, you can find:
- Links to available NASA data and tools
- Other free data and toolsets
- Tutorials to get you started
For more general resources that may be of interest, please visit our links page.
And if you are brand-new to working with satellite data, please visit our Getting Started page, which will orient you to the uses, as well as the limits of satellite data.
NASA Health and Air Quality Tools
NASA has developed and maintains an incredibly wide array of free data and tools, many of which will be useful to the health and air quality communities. We’ve gathered below brief descriptions, links, and, in some cases, tutorials for the ones that we think will be of most interest to the HAQAST community. This page is intended to help you get started. For more advanced training, consider attending NASA’s Applied Remote Sensing Training program.
We’ve grouped the tools below by their ease of use (basic and advanced). We’ve also ranked their functionality, from focused
to flexible . In general, the more flexible a tool the more complex it is, and vice versa.
NASA Worldview is the best starting point for users new to satellite data and is freely available online. Worldview provides the capability to interactively browse global, full-resolution satellite imagery and then download the underlying data. Most of the 400+ available products are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks “right now.” This supports time-critical application areas such as wildfire management, air quality measurements, and flood monitoring.
View current natural hazards and events using the Events tab which reveals a list of natural events, including wildfires, tropical storms, and volcanic eruptions. Animate the imagery over time. Arctic and Antarctic views of several products are also available for a “full globe” perspective. Worldview and Giovanni together will answer the basic needs for most HAQAST applications.
Earth Observatory specializes in extremely high quality photographs, graphs, charts, and other visual material focused on planet earth. Well known for the Image of the Day, Earth Observatory also provides animated and static global maps, as well as high-quality datasets.
NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) distributes Near Real-Time (NRT) active fire data within 3 hours of satellite overpass from both the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). FIRMS includes a web-based Fire Mapper and a wide range of downloadable data, from fire maps to shapefiles. FIRMS was developed to provide near real-time active fire locations to natural resource managers that faced challenges obtaining timely satellite-derived fire information. A detailed set of FAQs can be found here.
The Infusing satellite Data into Environmental Applications (IDEA) project is a collaboration between NASA, EPA, and NOAA focused on improving AQ assessment, management, and prediction. It should be of great interest to the HAQAST community. IDEA provides detailed maps of various pollutants (PM2.5, AOD, etc.) over the continental US from different satellites. Detailed tutorials for using IDEA data can be found here.
A comprehensive website dedicated to the current capabilities of observing air pollution from space and using the data for health, air quality, and food security applications. You’ll be able to download maps and images, browse through free data and visualization resources, download various publications, and sample a wide variety of NASA’s air-quality media. This is a great general resource intended for health and air quality managers as well as others who are looking for less-technical NASA resources.
NASA makes available a great deal of data free to download. There are various ways to search for the data products that you need, and various ways to download it. This site is a comprehensive resource that should get you oriented and downloading quickly.
Along with Worldview, members of the health and air quality community will find Giovanni extremely helpful. Giovanni is a web-based interface that allows users to interactively analyze gridded data online without having to download anything. It is a flexible platform that allows a user to average data over time, create a range of plot types and formats, compare variables, and graphically display information. You can also download plot source files in netCDF format.
AERONET is a large federation of ground-based remote-sensing networks that all focus on aerosols. The program provides a long-term, continuous, and readily accessible public-domain database of aerosol optical, microphysical, and radiative properties. The AERONET web site provides data analysis and dissemination tools. You can also download data. Members of the AQ community will be particularly interested in Aerosol Optical Depth Data Display, the AOD Download Tool, and Data Synergy Tool. Check back soon for a Data Synergy Tool how-to.
AeroStat is an online environment for the direct statistical intercomparison of global aerosol parameters in which data provenance and data quality can be readily accessed by scientists. Users can easily visualize and analyze statistical properties of atmospheric aerosol events, including data collected from multiple sensors and quality assurance (QA) properties of these data. AeroStat also provides a “Bias Adjustment” option to allow users to adjust the satellite data relative to an AERONET baseline. For more on AeroStat, click here. And for a detailed how-to, visit this site.
The Level-1 and Atmosphere Archive & Distribution System (LAADS) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) seeks to provide public access to a range of data collections, including:
- All levels of both NASA Terra and Aqua MODIS-derived science data products.
- All levels of NASA standard versions of the NPP Suomi VIIRS-derived science products in the near future.
- European Space Agency’s Envisat, Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), Sentinel-3, Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) and Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI).
- MODIS Airborne Simulator (MAS) and Autonomous Modular Sensor (AMS) airborne collections.
- Certain ancillary data collections.
The HAQAST community will be especially interested in the Atmosphere Products, the various data available for download, and the tools and services. The LAADS DAAC is an extensive site, and it’s worth spending some time exploring it.
The Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) provides data beginning in 1980. MEERA-2 is a NASA atmospheric reanalysis for the satellite era using the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5) with its Atmospheric Data Assimilation System (ADAS), version 5.12.4. The MERRA project focuses on historical climate analyses for a broad range of weather and climate time scales and places the NASA EOS suite of observations in a climate context. MERRA-2 is the first long-term global reanalysis to assimilate space-based observations of aerosols and represent their interactions with other physical processes in the climate system.
MEERA-2 data are available here; the HAQAST community may be particularly interested in the Atmospheric Chemistry data sets. A comprehensive list of datasets can be found here. NASA is in the midst of continuing to develop MEERA-2 and related tools, and more will become available in the near future. You can stay abreast of new developments by signing up for the newsletter.
There are a number of different portals through which you can access NASA data. Different interfaces will allow you to subset the data in different ways or even interactively view the data you’d like to download. You’ll need to register with NASA, regardless of which interface you choose to use, but registration is quick, easy, and, again, free.
NASA has put together a detailed primer on how to find and visualize nitrogen dioxide satellite data.
Below are instructions to download NASA data from GES DISC, Earthdata, and Simple Subset Wizard. Each of the guides use the OMI-Aura instrument as an example, but the instructions hold true for whatever instrument you’d like data from. A pdf version of this tutorial is available here.
This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.
GES DISC: Allows you to specify the specific places and time ranges for which you’d like data.
This strategy allows you to specify the specific places and time ranges for which you’d like data. This is helpful if you if you do not want an enormous worldwide dataset.
- Go to https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/.
- Enter your search term (e.g.: NO2).
- Many different results will appear; make sure you find OMI L3 data to get interpreted & gridded data.
- Note: L3 signifies that the data has been gridded. Click here for more on data processing levels.
- Click on the icon subset/get data. This will allow you to subset your data temporally and spatially
- Click Refine Date Range to select the range of dates for which you’d like data.
- Click Refine Spatial Region to focus on the area for which you’d like data.
- Note: Refining the spatial region automatically populates the spatial subset and vice versa.
- Click the Variables dropdown and choose the variable you’d like to download.
- Click File Format dropdown to choose the file you’d like.
- Click Get Data to begin downloading your data.
- Select Download links list. It will save as a text file.
- In order to retrieve your data, click Instructions for downloading and follow the instructions that best suit your software.
Earthdata: Allows you to subset data temporally (but not spatially), and look at the data in an interactive manner.
Earthdata also allows you to subset data temporally—but not spatially—as well as to look at the data in an interactive manner.
- Go to: https://earthdata.nasa.gov/.
- Enter your search parameter (e.g.: NO2, ozone) AND OMI L3 (e.g.: Search “OMI L3 ozone”)
- Note: L3 signifies that the data has been gridded. Click here for more on data processing levels.
- There will be 3 boxes at the top of the screen; in the case of searching for OMI L3 ozone, select OMI/Aura…Daily L3…at GES DISC
- You will be taken to a screen with the data collection you selected. This collection will include all the data available for your product—in this case, daily column totals going back to 10/1/2004.
- To temporally subset your data, click Back to Collections.
- Add this collection to your project by clicking the green + sign.
- To select the specific temporal granules you want, click your data product.
- Choose the time range for which you want data by:
- Clicking the time selection tool
- Entering Start and End times
- Clicking Apply Filter
- Earthdata can visualize your selected data, during the time period you chose, for specific regions. To do so, find your location by dragging the map and zooming in or out.
- Select the area for which you want data by:
- Clicking the area selection tool
- Choosing which polygon or point you’ll use for your selection
- Selecting the area on the map for which you want data.
- To download your data, click download data.
- To access your data, go to https://wiki.earthdata.nasa.gov/display/EL/How+To+Register+With+Earthdata+Login and follow the instructions that best suit your software.
Simple Subset Wizard: Allows you to easily subset your data by space and time. It has no interactive features.
Simple Subset Wizard allows you to easily subset your data by space and time. It has no interactive features.
- Go to: https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/SSW/.
- You can search by keyword (eg.: OMI) or data set (searching by data set assumes that you know exactly which set you want). Search for OMI NO2.
- Enter a date range.
- Click the map icon to select the area for which you want data.
- Click Search for Data Sets.
- Hover over each data product for a brief description, or click the product to read the details of the set.
- Expand each subset to see individual data products.
- Select the specific product you want.
- Choose your preferred file format.
- Click Subset Selected Data Sets.
- Click View Subset Results.
- Click Downloading Instructions and follow the steps to retrieve your data.
If you’re looking for OMI NO2 for the CONUS on a 12km x 12km grid, Tracey Holloway’s team at UW provides monthly files through their Wisconsin Horizontal Interpolation Program for Satellites (WHIPS) program. Visit this page for more.
The Basics of Satellite Data for Smoke and Fire
HAQAST Outreach Manager Dr. Daegan Miller shares how you can begin using satellite data to analyze smoke from wildfire events. There are two parts to this tutorial. The image referenced at the end of the second video can be found here. Please visit the US Forest Service’s AirFire Research Team at Airfire.org for more information.