The Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation

JCSDA is a multi-agency research center committed to improving and accelerating the quantitative use of research and operational satellite data in weather, ocean, climate and environmental analysis and prediction systems.


By the close of the 20th century satellite scientists and program managers were not satisfied with the long time -- typically two years -- that elapsed between the launch of any new satellite and the use of data provided by its sensors for operational numerical weather prediction. Given the cost of these systems and their finite lifetimes -- typically five years -- it was realized that reducing the time from launch to operational use to one year represented a 33% improvement in productivity, and eliminated a costly missed opportunity for scientists and the public alike. Therefore, in 2001, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) formed the JCSDA to address this problem.

Leaders in Data Assimilation

Effective environmental prediction requires several elements. One of these is accurate, well-distributed observations of the Earth's environment, for which satellite sensors are the largest source. Numerical models that embody the physical and chemical laws governing the behavior of the Earth's land surface, oceans, and atmosphere are another element, as are powerful computing systems to run these models rapidly to provide timely forecasts.

The science of data assimilation is the mortar that binds these elements into successful prediction systems for weather, oceans, climatology, and ecosystems. The Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) is dedicated to developing and improving the ability to exploit satellite data more effectively in the United States. The JCSDA is a distributed collaborative effort that allows the work required to use the billions of satellite observations available daily to be shared several operational agencies in the United States. 

This activity is best accomplished with a coordinated multi-agency basis as the common development work necessary to assimilate these many thousands of millions of satellite observations each day would otherwise be duplicated across the agencies.


Satellite observations acquired

Data Assimilation

Global Observations Integrated

Environmental modeling

Run Global Prediction Models

Environmental Forecasts

Environmental Forecasts produced

A data assimilation system is only as good as its weakest component.
— John Derber

What We've Achieved

  • Developed and distributed a Community Radiative Transfer Model (CRTM) to enable partners and collaborators to effectively test and commence the assimilation of various satellite data.

  • Established a common assimilation infrastructure at NOAA and NASA.

  • Provided access for all partners to computational facilities.

  • Prepared to assimilate GPS data from COSMIC

  • Demonstrated the positive impact on weather forecasts of data from advanced operational and research instruments.

  • Developed a microwave emissivity model for snow and ice that enables assimilation of 300% more atmospheric sounding data in polar regions.

  • Transitioned advanced satellite data into operations (e.g., QuikSCAT winds, MODIS winds, Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) data).