The along-track scanning radiometer (ATSR) was launched in July 1991 on the European Space Agency's first remote sensing satellite, ERS 1. An initial analysis of ATSR data demonstrates that the sea surface temperature (SST) can be measured from space with very high accuracy. Comparison of simultaneous measurements of SST made from ATSR and from a ship-borne radiometer show that they agree to within 0.3°C. To assess data consistency, a complementary analysis of SST data from ATSR was also carried out. The ATSR global SST field was compared on a daily basis with daily SST analysis of the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMO). The ATSR global field is consistently within 1.0°C of the UKMO analysis. Also, to demonstrate the benefits of along-track scanning SST determination, the ATSR SST data were compared with high-quality bulk temperature observations from drifting buoys. The likely causes of the differences between ATSR and the bulk temperature data are briefly discussed. These results provide early confidence in the quantitative benefit of ATSR's two-angle view of the Earth and its high radiometric performance and show a significant advance on the data obtained from other spaceborne sensors. It should be noted that these measurements were made at a time when the atmosphere was severely contaminated with volcanic aerosol particles, which degrade infrared measurements of the Earth's surface made from space.