Synoptic coverage of the temporal and spatial variability of aerosol distribution patterns can only be achieved with satellites. Results from the first ocean colour sensor, the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS), indicate an annual cycle of the major mineral aerosol plumes that is consistent with the published literature. Seasonality and interannual aerosol variability observed with the CZCS agrees well with that found by ground data measurements and other satellite platforms used to monitor aerosols. The successor to the CZCS--the Sea viewing Wide Field of view Sensor (SeaWiFS)--provides estimates of aerosol load and particle size, both on a global scale. Seasonal maps of both of these aerosol optical properties are in accord with well-known distribution patterns and also with independent satellite estimates. These results indicate that ocean colour sensors are capable of monitoring the variability of global aerosol loads and, more recently, with the retrieval of aerosol particle size, they can be used to characterize different aerosol events.