The collective representation within global models of aerosol, cloud, precipitation, and their radiative properties remains unsatisfactory. They constitute the largest source of uncertainty in predictions of climatic change and hamper the ability of numerical weather prediction models to forecast high-impact weather events. The joint European Space Agency (ESA)–Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Earth Clouds, Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) satellite mission, scheduled for launch in 2018, will help to resolve these weaknesses by providing global profiles of cloud, aerosol, precipitation, and associated radiative properties inferred from a combination of measurements made by its collocated active and passive sensors. EarthCARE will improve our understanding of cloud and aerosol processes by extending the invaluable dataset acquired by the A-Train satellites CloudSat, Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), and Aqua. Specifically, EarthCARE’s cloud profiling radar, with 7 dB more sensitivity than CloudSat, will detect more thin clouds and its Doppler capability will provide novel information on convection, precipitating ice particle, and raindrop fall speeds. EarthCARE’s 355-nm high-spectral-resolution lidar will measure directly and accurately cloud and aerosol extinction and optical depth. Combining this with backscatter and polarization information should lead to an unprecedented ability to identify aerosol type. The multispectral imager will provide a context for, and the ability to construct, the cloud and aerosol distribution in 3D domains around the narrow 2D retrieved cross section. The consistency of the retrievals will be assessed to within a target of ±10 W m–2 on the (10 km)2 scale by comparing the multiview broadband radiometer observations to the top-of-atmosphere fluxes estimated by 3D radiative transfer models acting on retrieved 3D domains.