The polar-orbiting satellite, Seasat, had been designed as an oceanographic satellite with little advance thought being given to atmospheric uses. However, the microwave instruments provided a rich source of data for studying atmospheric conditions. The simultaneous sampling by several instruments generated special benefits, a situation which to date has not been repeated. In this review we emphasize studies of midlatitude and tropical cyclones and regional weather and climate analyses. We also touch upon studies of long swell, sea ice, and continental ice sheets with Seasat data.
Many of these results of the Seasat mission were serendipitous. In preparation for the major NASA initiative for the next decade, the Earth Observing Satellite (EOS) program, we thought it timely to bring some of the Seasat experiences to the fore, since valuable lessons can be learned from the successes and the failures (or omissions) of the Seasat program. We have learned of: 1) the synergistic value of integrated, overlapping sampling by several instruments, 2) the invaluable contribution of carefully planned surface measurements, and 3) the importance of retaining flexibility in the system (enough data retention) to allow unexpected and innovative analysis techniques.