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A NASA Weather ‘Eye in the Sky’ Marks 10 Years

Global Carbon Dioxide Transport from AIRS Data, July 2009This image was created with data acquired by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite during July 2009. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

May 03, 2012

For 10 years, it has silently swooped through space in its orbital perch 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth, its nearly 2,400 spectral “eyes” peering into Earth’s atmosphere, watching. But there’s nothing alien about NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, or AIRS, instrument, a “monster” of weather and climate research that celebrates its 10th birthday in orbit May 4.

AIRS, built by BAE Systems, Boston, under the direction of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is one of six instruments flying on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft as part of NASA’s Earth Observing System. AIRS, along with its partner microwave instrument, the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A), has faithfully measured our planet’s atmospheric temperature, water vapor, clouds and greenhouse gases with unprecedented accuracy and stability. Over the past decade, AIRS and AMSU-A have improved our understanding of Earth’s global water and energy cycles, climate change and trends and how Earth’s climate system is responding to increased greenhouse gases.

Studies have shown AIRS has improved global weather prediction more than any other single satellite instrument in the past 10 years. In 2006, a group led by John Le Marshall of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demonstrated that use of AIRS data in weather forecasting models significantly improved forecast “skill” — the name of the calculation meteorologists use to quantify how close a forecast is to actual observed weather conditions.

“AIRS has performed beyond expectation, exceeding its mission objectives,” said AIRS Project Manager Tom Pagano of JPL. “The knowledge we’ve gained through AIRS has advanced our understanding of weather and climate, and demonstrated an important measurement technology. While the team can be proud of what’s been accomplished, we continue to look forward to new discoveries as we explore the connection between extreme weather and climate change.”  Read More

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Posted on May 6, 2012, in #breaking news, #technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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