Moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer

Last updated on 19 April 2017

The moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) is a payload scientific instrument built by Santa Barbara Remote Sensing that was launched into Earth orbit by NASA in 1999 on board the Terra (EOS AM) Satellite, and in 2002 on board the Aqua (EOS PM) satellite. The instruments capture data in 36 spectral bands ranging in wavelength from 0.4 µm to 14.4 µm and at varying spatial resolutions (2 bands at 250 m, 5 bands at 500 m and 29 bands at 1 km). Together the instruments image the entire Earth every 1 to 2 days. They are designed to provide measurements in large-scale global dynamics including changes in Earth's cloud cover, radiation budget and processes occurring in the oceans, on land, and in the lower atmosphere. MODIS utilizes four on-board calibrators in addition to the space view in order to provide in-flight calibration: solar diffuser (SD), solar diffuser stability monitor (SDSM), spectral radiometric calibration assembly (SRCA), and a v-groove black body. MODIS has used the marine optical buoy for vicarious calibration. MODIS is succeeded by the VIIRS instrument on board the Suomi NPP satellite launched in 2011 and future Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites.

The MODIS characterization support team (MCST) is dedicated to the production of high-quality MODIS calibrated product which is a precursor to every geophysical science product. A detailed description of the MCST mission statement and other details can be found at MCST Web.

Ev26221 KlyuchevskayaSopka.A2004012.0035.500m.jpg
Ash plumes on Kamchatka Peninsula, eastern Russia.
Kat fl.jpg
Hurricane Katrina near Florida peninsula.
Modis Image of California Wildfires taken on October 22, 2007.jpg
California wildfires.
MODIS ATM solar irradiance.svg
Solar irradiance spectrum and MODIS bands.
External view of the MODIS unit.
Exploded View of MODIS Subsystems.gif
Exploded view of the MODIS subsystems.
The Water Planet.jpg
This detailed, photo-like view of Earth is based largely on observations from MODIS.


With its low spatial resolution but high temporal resolution, MODIS data is useful to track changes in the landscape over time. Examples of such applications are the monitoring of vegetation health by means of time-series analyses with vegetation indices, long term land cover changes (e.g. to monitor deforestation rates), global snow cover trends, water inundation from pluvial, riverine, or sea level rise flooding in coastal areas, change of water levels of major lakes such as the Aral Sea, and the detection and mapping of wildland fires in the United States. The United States Forest Service's Remote Sensing Applications Center analyzes MODIS imagery on a continuous basis to provide information for the management and suppression of wildfires.


Orbit 705 km, 10:30 a.m. descending node (Terra) or 1:30 p.m. ascending node (Aqua), sun-synchronous, near-polar, circular
Scan rate 20.3 rpm, cross track
Swath 2330 km (cross track) by 10 km (along track at nadir)
Telescope 17.78 cm diam. off-axis, afocal (collimated), with intermediate field stop
Size 1.0 × 1.6 × 1.0 m
Weight 228.7 kg
Power 162.5 W (single orbit average)
Data rate 10.6 Mbit/s (peak daytime); 6.1 Mbit/s (orbital average)
Quantization 12 bits
Spatial Resolution 250 m (bands 1–2) 500 m (bands 3–7) 1000 m (bands 8–36)
Temporal Resolution 1-2 days
Design life 6 years

MODIS data

MODIS Level 3 datasets

The following MODIS Level 3 (L3) datasets are available from NASA, as processed by the Collection 5 software.

Daily 8-day 16-day 32-day Monthly Yearly Grid Platform Description
MxD08_D3 MxD08_E3 MxD08_M3 1° CMG Terra, Aqua Aerosol, Cloud Water Vapor, Ozone
MxD10A1 MxD10A2 500 m SIN Terra, Aqua Snow Cover
MxD11A1 MxD11A2 1000 m SIN Terra, Aqua Land Surface Temperature/Emissivity
MxD11B1 6000 m SIN Terra, Aqua Land Surface Temperature/Emissivity
MxD11C1 MxD11C2 MxD11C3 0.05° CMG Terra, Aqua Land Surface Temperature/Emissivity
MxD13C1 MxD13C2 0.05° CMG Terra, Aqua Vegetation Indices
MxD14A1 MxD14A2 1000 m SIN Terra, Aqua Thermal Anomalies, Fire
MCD45A1 500 m SIN Terra+Aqua Burned Area
250 m SIN 500 m SIN 1000 m SIN 0.05° CMG 1° CMG Time window Platform Description
MxD09Q1 MxD09A1 8-day Terra, Aqua Surface Reflectance
MxD09CMG Daily Terra, Aqua Surface Reflectance
MCD12Q1 MCD12C1 Yearly Terra+Aqua Land Cover Type
MCD12Q2 Yearly Terra+Aqua Land Cover Dynamics

(Global Vegetation Phenology)

MxD13Q1 MxD13A1 MxD13A2 MxD13C1 16-day Terra, Aqua Vegetation Indices
MxD13A3 MxD13C2 Monthly Terra, Aqua Vegetation Indices
MCD43A1 MCD43B1 MCD43C1 16-day Terra+Aqua BRDF/Albedo Model Parameters
MCD43A3 MCD43B3 MCD43C3 16-day Terra+Aqua Albedo
MCD43A4 MCD43B4 MCD43C4 16-day Terra+Aqua Nadir BRDF-Adjusted Reflectance


Raw MODIS data stream can be received in real-time using a tracking antenna, thanks to the instrument's direct broadcast capability.

Alternatively, the scientific data is made available to the public via several World Wide Web sites and FTP archives, such as:

  • ECHO Reverb – the next generation metadata and service discovery tool, which has replaced the former Warehouse Inventory and Search Tool (WIST);
  • LAADS Web – Level 1 and Atmosphere Archive and Distribution System (LAADS) web interface;
  • LANCE-MODIS – Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS
  • – LAADS underlying FTP server;
  • – Earth land surface datasets;
  • – snow and ice datasets.

Most of the data is available in the HDF-EOS format — a variant of Hierarchical Data Format prescribed for the data derived from Earth Observing System missions.

MODIS Map.jpg
Image based on observations from MODIS.

See also

Content from Wikipedia