Sea surface temperature (MODIS)



This data set is only available for a restricted user group, please contact us if you want to access these data.

RESTRICTED only accessable in CEN/MPI net or via CliSAP login  What does that mean?

monthly means & daily data, netCDF:

View Data via LAS AQUA | TERRA

Access data via OPeNDAP

Data access via file system: /data/icdc/ocean/modis_aqua_sst | /data/icdc/ocean/modis_terra_sst



Here we offer level-3 data of the SST based on MODIS collection 6 data from the v2014.0 reprocessing.

Similar to AVHRR, MODIS data can be used to retrieve sea surface temperatures (SST). Briefly, radiative transfer theory is used to correct for the effects of the atmosphere on the observations by utilizing "windows" of the electromagnetic spectrum where little or no atmospheric absorption occurs like (for MODIS) channels 31 & 32. Channel radiances are transformed (through the use of the Planck function) to units of temperature, then compared to a-priori (in situ) temperatures for algorithm development. Adjustments to skin temperature are made through comparisons with in situ radiometer measurements. More information is given in the documents listed in the references

Principally, we offer SST data from MODIS sensors aboard both EOS-AQUA and EOS-TERRA satellites; currently we do have online only the data from EOS-TERRA, though.

The data offered here are based on MODIS Collection C006 data and and the reprocessing v2014.0 [Attention: The global attributes of the netCDF-files point to collection C005; this is wrong].

Last data set update at ICDC: August 22, 2019.

To top


Name Unit Comment
SST, day degC --
SST, night degC --
SST quality flag, day -- Give basically information
SST quality flag, night -- about cloud coverage

To top

Coverage, temporal and spatial resolution

Period and temporal resolution:

  • 03-07-2002 (EOS-AQUA) or 25-02-2000 (EOS-TERRA) to 30-06-2019
  • Daily
  • 07/2002 (EOS-AQUA) or 02/2000 (EOS-TERRA) to 06/2019
  • Monthly

Missing monthly data: AQUA: 2015-01 to 2015-05

Coverage and spatial resolution:

  • Global
  • Spatial resolution: 4.6 km x 4.6 km, cartesian climate modeling grid, Cylindrical Equal Angle Projection
  • Geographic latitude: -89.9792°N to 89.9792°N
  • Geographic longitude: -179.979°E to 179.979°E
  • Dimension: 8640 columns x 4320 rows
  • Altitude: 0.0 m


  • NetCDF

To top

Data quality

The data set does not include uncertainty estimates; the quality flags provided basically give some information about the cloud cover status. The accuracy of the SST is given as 0.4 K; we recommend to take a look at the references.

Details about the reprocessing that led to the new version v2014 of these Level-3 SST data can be found under: https://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/technical/

Details about Level-2 quality flags and how these were used for Level-3 processing can be found here: https://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/technical/; note that SST and chlorophyll-a concentration retrieval share the same quality flags.

We note that this is a daily product with fine spatial resolution. Because SST retrieval is only possible over cloud-free areas the data offered here have large data gaps due to cloud cover. The user might reduce the number of gaps by combining the SSD-day and SST-night estimates. The user should be aware, however, that in regions with large solar irradiation diurnal changes can be substantial. We recommend therefore to use the SST data of the nighttime satellite overpasses. Combining TERRA and AQUA products might also help to reduce data gaps.

We note that the quality of the SST estimates is limited by the quality of the cloud mask used to produce this data set. Generally problematic are areas with fog and thin cirrus clouds as well as cloud shadows.

We would not recommend this data set for long-term SST studies. However, this data set is consistent with the MODIS chlorophyll-a concentration data set which is the main reason - together with the fine spatial resolution - why we offer this SST data set in addition to the other SST data sets.

To top


Robert Evans
University of Miami/Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
email: revans (at) rsmas.miami.edu

Peter Minnett
University of Miami/Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
email: pminnett (at) rsmas.miami.edu

Stefan Kern
ICDC / CEN / University of Hamburg
email: stefan.kern (at) uni-hamburg.de

To top


Data citation

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Ocean Ecology Laboratory, Ocean Biology Processing Group. Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra Sea Surface Temperature Data; 2014 Reprocessing. NASA OB.DAAC, Greenbelt, MD, USA. doi: 10.5067/TERRA/MODIS_OC.2014.0 [Last accessed on August 5 2019] provided with time variable by the Integrated Climate Data Center (ICDC, icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de) University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

If you use EOS-AQUA instead of EOS-TERRA data please replace Terra and TERRA with Aqua and AQUA, respectively.

To top

###BACKLINK###     ###TOPLINK###