Satellites allow scientists to see a large area of the ocean at one time as they orbit Earth. This is called Satellite Remote Sensing and with this technology different aspects of ocean conditions such as water temperature, chlorophyll levels (which shows phytoplankton amounts), and oceanic currents can be described. Satellites are used to observe blooms and movements of phztoplankton and can even be used to track animals that are tagged with beacons that transmit a variety of information up to the satellite. Satellites provide another important tool for Census research -- the Global Positioning System (GPS). This technology tells researchers their exact geographic position by taking distance measurements from a minimum of three satellites at once. Some satellites orbit in synch with the spin of the Earth and therefore are fixed in a set position called a geo-stationary orbit above one location on the planet's surface. Others are in different orbits such as over the poles, etc., and can take global snapshots as they pass over different parts of the Earth. Satellites are invaluable tools for research and are used, in one way or another, by every Census project.
An artist's rendering of the geostationary oceanographic satellite "Goes3 " 22,000 miles above Earth. (NOAA Ocean explorer)
A thermal image taken by a geostationary satellite positioned over the western Atlantic; warmer water moved along by the Gulf Stream current is denoted in reddish-orange. (NOAA Ocean Explorer )
Satellite images showing an algal bloom off of southwestern Florida; water temperature is on the left and chlorophyll, denoting algae abundance, is on the right. (NOAA Ocean Explorer )