Skip to Main Content
Spaceborne microwave remote sensors provide perspectives of the earth surface and atmosphere which are of unique value in scientific studies of geomorphology, oceanic waves and topography, atmospheric water vapor and temperatures, vegetation classification and stress, ice types and dynamics, and hydrological characteristics. Microwave radars and radiometers offer enhanced sensitivities to the geometrical characteristics of the earth's surface and its cover, to water in all its forms--soil and vegetation moisture, ice, wetlands, oceans, and atmospheric water vapor, and can provide high-resolution imagery of the earth's surface independent of cloud cover or sun angle. A brief review of the historical development and principles of active and passive microwave remote sensing is presented, with emphasis on the unique characteristics of the information obtainable in the microwave spectrum and the value of this information to global geoscientific studies. Various spaceborne microwave remote sensors are described, with applications to geology, planetology, oceanography, glaciology, land biology, meteorology, and hydrology. A discussion of future microwave remote sensor technological developments and challenges is presented, along with a summary of future missions being planned by several countries.