In a recent message (Jan. 7) from NASA Headquarters, a new strategy for discipline-based ocean color processing was outlined. This strategy is the result of a NASA HQ-requested formulation to outline a transition from mission-based data processing to measurement-based systems which would handle multiple data streams and facilitate the generation of extended climate data records. NASA HQ designated Ocean Color as the pilot program and, over the past few months, a prototype was developed and tested using MODIS data. The prototype processing, analysis, archive, and distribution system has proved to be such a success that NASA Headquarters has directed us---starting today---to assume operational responsibility for the processing and distribution of MODIS/Aqua data.
With the complete concurrence of the MODIS Science Team Leader, Vince Salomonson, we have worked closely with the MODIS Characterization Support Team (MCST) and members of the first MODIS Science Team engaged in development and maintenance of ocean color products to generate a new baseline set of MODIS/Aqua ocean data products of provisional quality. It is important to remember that currently, with the exception of Sea Surface Temperature (SST), all ocean color products from MODIS/Aqua that have been produced, archived and distributed have not as yet been considered 'validated'. There remain some artifacts in these fields, e.g., some banding, which we need to understand and fix. Our plan is to work not only with the newly selected members of the MODIS Science Team (the "MODIS Oceans Group") engaged in the maintenance, refinement, and use of MODIS ocean color products , but also invite the entire ocean color community to participate as well, to improve the products. We have a great deal of information online that describe algorithm evaluations and comparisons with in-situ data and SeaWiFS data with explanations of the analyses for your review and comment, i.e., we want to proceed in a manner similar to our approach in the SeaWiFS and SIMBIOS Programs. If necessary, we will convene topical workshops to address specific issues, which will be open to all who wish to participate. We have demonstrated the computational capability to reprocess the complete Aqua time series within a relatively short time, about a week, to evaluate suggested calibration and algorithm changes and to add additional products as community interest requires and plan do so more or less continuously. Realistically, we expect some glitches during this transition, so please be patient with us. We will do everything we can to address whatever issues crop up as expeditiously as possible and hope that everyone will consider themselves an active participant in this process.
The first major change that you should be aware of is a new website for access to the data sets from NASA's ocean color missions. We see this as a critical first step towards the integration of activities, and have provided a single site that will eventually serve as the primary source of information, discussion, and data access for all ocean color related activities. The new site can be found at:
In addition to being able to browse, search, download, or order data directly from this website, we have put together an online forum that we will use to post topics of interest to the ocean color community and to which anyone can post questions or respond to questions by others in an open and collaborative manner. We hope that this will provide a convenient means for encouraging an open dialogue about how we collectively can help make the most use of these data sets and continuously improve upon their quality. Rather than fill this message with details, we encourage everyone to take a look at the new website, try the data browse and order functions and let us know your comments of the new forum that can be reached by clicking on the 'Questions' button at the top of the page.
One of the things that we are trying to encourage is greater access to ocean color data in the most timely, efficient, simple, and cost effective manner and have committed ourselves to providing rapid and convenient access to ALL the data sets that we support in electronic form. Through the restructuring of the product formats and contents, MODIS/Aqua data products are now of a size that they can be relatively easily downloaded by most researchers. However, we are not prepared to service user requests for data on physical media and believe that there might be more innovative ways to satisfy this need which will plan on exploring in the very near future. Previous messages to the ocean color mailing list have already outlined many of the new features of our online search and order capabilities and more details can be found on the HELP page on the browser itself or in the online forum section dealing with data access.
We anticipate a number of significant updates over the next few weeks/months such as a new release of SeaDAS that will support the processing of MODIS data, and a number of major enhancements to the browse/order options, and will try to keep the community informed via short e-mails announcing the updates and start relying more on the ocean color forum for the details. If you are like us, the last thing you need are lengthy e-mails filling up your in-box.
Finally, all of us in the Ocean Color Processing Group look forward to working with you in developing the best MODIS data set possible and believe we (the OCPG, NASA HQ, and you---the community), working together, can make great progress in advancing our scientific objectives through the use of satellite ocean color data.
Chuck McClain, Paula Bontempi, and Gene Carl Feldman