Atmospheric science

Our atmosphere, the invisible layer of gas surrounding the Earth, sustains life as we know it. It provides the air that we breathe, redistributes water and warmth, and shields us from harmful radiation. It is important that we understand and monitor the atmosphere – what it is made of, how it interacts with different ecosystems, and how it is changing and influencing Earth's climate.

Studying the atmosphere with space technology

Satellites are essential for studying Earth's atmosphere. From space, we are able to measure and monitor ozone, water vapour, pollution, aerosols and clouds on a global scale. This information supports research and international efforts to ensure a more sustainable future by:

  • providing accurate and long-term datasets for climate and atmospheric studies
  • improving our understanding of ozone recovery, weather and climate processes
  • enabling more accurate air quality health index forecasts and warnings to the public

Discover 12 research projects that are using satellite data to study the atmosphere

– The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is supporting 12 research teams who will use space-based observations to advance their work. They will investigate hot issues like air quality, ozone depletion and greenhouse gases.

The results of their work will contribute to our understanding of the atmosphere and could improve environment forecasting and prediction capabilities to help increase our resilience to climate change.

Satellites and instruments


Terra (NASA, )
Canada's MOPITT is one of five instruments on Terra. It contributes to the study of environmental pollution by continuously scanning the atmosphere to gather long-term, global measurements of carbon monoxide levels.


Odin (Sweden, )
Canada's Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imaging System (OSIRIS) aboard Odin measures concentrations of ozone, aerosols and nitrogen dioxide in the upper atmosphere.


This small Canadian satellite monitors ozone and many other trace gases in the stratosphere and helps scientists improve their understanding of ozone depletion, with a special emphasis on the changes occurring over Canada and in the Arctic.


CloudSat (NASA/CSA,)
This satellite gathers data on the structure, frequency and volume of clouds to help improve our understanding of how they influence weather. Canada contributed key subsystems of the cloud radar and collaborates in related scientific work.


Sentinel (ESA, )
A family of six next-generation missions that will focus on different aspects of Earth observation (EO). Canada is participating under the Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement, and Canadian users benefit from simplified access to Sentinel data.

Earth observation satellite systems

EO satellite systems (worldwide)
A number of EO programs and technologies that exist worldwide are critical for environmental monitoring, meteorology, and many other applications that help improve life on Earth. Canada benefits from increasingly open access to data.

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