SeaWIFS: ocean bio-optical and carbon properties

The purpose of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Project is to provide quantitative data on global ocean bio-optical properties and to assess the oceans' role in the global carbon cycle. SeaWiFS data are being used to help clarify the magnitude and variability of chlorophyll and primary production by marine phytoplankton, and to determine the distribution and timing of spring blooms, i.e., the time of highly abundant growth. The orbiting sensor can view every square kilometer of cloud-free ocean every 48 hours. As such, the satellite-acquired ocean color data constitute a valuable tool for determining the abundance of ocean biota on a global scale and can be used to assess the ocean's role in the global carbon cycle and the exchange of other critical elements and gases between the atmosphere and the ocean.


Key Strengths:

  • Very high resolution

Key Limitations:

  • Can be noisy

Years of Record

2002/01 to 2013/08
temporal metadataID:



Climatology | Daily | Monthly | Seasonal | Annual

Data Time Period Extended?

yes, data set is extended


Spatial Resolution

4km, 9km

Earth system components and main variables

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes



Chlorophyll estimates for day 218, 2002. [Climate Data Guide; D. Shea]
SeaWiFS Level 3 Photosynthetically Active Radiation [Climate Data Guide; D. Shea].
SeaWIFS sample daily chlorophyll estimates [source:]

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 15 Nov 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: SeaWIFS: ocean bio-optical and carbon properties." Retrieved from

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.