Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite

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Earth at night as imaged by VIIRS

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) is a sensor designed and manufactured by the Raytheon Company on board the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) weather satellite.[1] VIIRS is one of five key instruments associated with the Suomi NPP that was launched on October 28, 2011.[2] VIIRS is a whiskbroom scanning radiometer[3] that collects imagery and radiometric measurements of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans in the visible and infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.[4]

VIIRS is capable of generating two data processing streams that result in two different sets of land products. One is produced by NOAA, and provides operational data for use by the National Weather Service. These are known as environmental data records (EDRs). The other stream is from NASA, and is intended to contribute to the larger scientific community. These are known as Earth System Data Records (ESDRs).[5]

VIIRS's main uses include monitoring and investigating changes and properties in surface vegetation, land cover/use, the hydrologic cycle, and the earth's energy budget over both regional and global scales. The combination of MODIS, AVHRR, and VIIRS data sets will allow for the assessment of how climate change has affected the earth's surface over the past ~20 years.

Mission overview

VIIRS was launched on board Suomi NPP by a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:48 am EDT on 28 Oct, 2011.[6] VIIRS was designed to expand upon the data collected by the aging MODIS and AVHRR sensors by collecting radiometric measurements of Earth in the visible and infrared spectra. This data is used to provide insight into the properties and dynamics of different geophysical phenomena, including: aerosol and cloud properties, sea, land and ice surface temperatures, ice motion, fires, and the albedo of Earth. VIIR's main objectives include the monitoring and investigation of changes and properties in vegetation, land cover/use, the hydrologic cycle, and the earth's energy budget over both global and regional scales.This information is useful in furthering our understanding of global climate change. The combination of MODIS, AVHRR, and VIIRS datasets will permit a comprehensive assessment of how climate change has effected the land surface over the past ~20 years.[7][8]


VIIRS has a swath width of 3060km at the satellite's average altitude of 829km.[3] This swath width is able to provide complete coverage of Earth across the day. The VIIRS instrument can collect data in 22 different spectral bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, in the wavelengths between 0.412µm and 12.01µm.[3] The spatial resolution the sensor depends on the band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Out of the 22 different spectral bands the sensor has, 16 are moderate resolution bands (M-bands) which have a spatial resolution of 750m at the Nadir. The other six bands are made up of five imaging resolution bands (I-bands), which have a spatial resolution of 375m at the nadir, and one day/night panchromatic band with a spatial resolution of 750m.[3] VIIRS imaging optics include a 19.1cm Aperture and a 114cm Focal length. The average orbit power for the instrument is 200 watts. In total the instrument weighs 275kg.[7][8]

Band number Spectral range (µm)[3] Primary uses[3]
M1 0.402-0.422 Ocean Color


M2 0.436-0.454 Ocean Color


M3 0.478-0.498 Ocean Color


M4 0.545-0.565 Ocean Color


I1 0.600-0.680 Imagery
M5 0.662-0.682 Ocean Color


M6 0.739-0.754 Atmospheric Correction
I2 0.846-0.885 NDVI
M7 0.846-0.885 Ocean Color


M8 1.230-1.25 Cloud Particle Size
M9 1.371-1.386 Cirrus/Cloud Cover
I3 1.580-1.640 Binary Snow Map
M10 1.580-1.640 Snow Fraction
M11 2.225-2.275 Clouds
I4 3.550-3.930 Cloud Imagery
M12 3.660-3.840 Sea surface temperature (SST)
M13 3.973-4.128 SST


M14 8.400-8.700 Cloud Top Properties
M15 10.263-11.263 SST
I5 10.500-12.400 Cloud Imagery
M16 11.538-12.488 SST


  1. ^
  2. ^ "VIIRS Land". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. January 5, 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cao, Changyong (10 September 2013). "NOAA Technical Report NESDIS 142" (PDF). NOAA. 
  4. ^ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) |
  5. ^ "VIIRS Land". 
  6. ^ ": Polar Orbiting Missions :". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  7. ^ a b "Polar Orbiting Missions". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 
  8. ^ a b Cao, C.; et al. (Feb 2014). "Early On-Orbit Performance of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Onboard the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) Satellite". IEEE Trans. Geosi. Remote Sens, 52(2), 1142-1156, DOI:10.1109/TGRS.2013.2247768. 

External links

  • Official website
  • VIIRS image examples (CIMSS Satellite Blog):
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