Earth is Our Home—These Are Your Data

NASA maintains one of the largest collections of Earth science data on the planet along with a data system to efficiently provide these data fully and openly to global data users. Oversight of this data system is the responsibility of NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program, which ensures unrestricted access to almost 80 petabytes (PB) of data. To put this in perspective, 1 PB is equivalent to approximately 500 billion pages of printed text.

The migration of this tremendous archive to the commercial cloud prepares the agency to deal with the massive amounts of data from upcoming Earth System Observatory (ESO) missions. These data are projected to grow the collection to approximately 250 PB by 2025 and to more than 300 PB by 2030. Having these data hosted in the Earthdata Cloud ensures that data users can work more efficiently with more NASA Earth science data than ever before.

To facilitate the archiving and dissemination of these data, a model for a network of discipline-specific Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) was proposed in the mid-1980s. This model was adopted by NASA for the Earth Observing System (EOS) program in the mid-1990s and continues with the ESO.

NASA’s creation of the Common Metadata Repository (CMR) ensures that these data can be discovered and searched rapidly. The CMR is the foundation of NASA Earth observation data and facilitates sub-second searches through the entire collection using Earthdata Search.

Along with the architecture and systems for storing, distributing, and discovering data, NASA openly provides resources for understanding these data (such as Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents [ATBDs] and the Earthdata website) and the tools, software, and resources for working with these data.

A significant NASA data enhancement was the development of a processing system to provide data within three hours (or less) of observation: the Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). While not intended for scientific use, these near real-time data are an invaluable resource for monitoring ongoing natural events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions, and an important tool for natural resource managers. To further increase the utility of these data, NASA developed Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS), which provides access to more than 1,000 visualized data products that can be interactively viewed using the NASA Worldview application. Some imagery layers are updated as rapidly as every 10 minutes, enabling users to view Earth as it looks “right now.”

We welcome your use of these data and resources, along with your suggestions for how we can further enhance this data system. The NASA Earth Science Data Point of Contact is Dr. Cerese Albers. Earth is our home; these are your data.

Hurricane Ian
Hurricane Ian approaching Florida on September 28, 2022 as seen by the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument aboard the joint NASA/NOAA GOES-East (currently, GOES-16) satellite. This image and others are updated hourly in Worldview.