|Figure 1 for PIA00436|| Figure 2 for PIA00436|
Tropical Storm Blas as observed by NASA's spaceborne Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)
The images above show Blas in visible light, as you would perceive it from space. The movie is Blas as 'seen' in infrared light by AIRS (click on graphic below).
Infrared movie in infrared light by AIRS
The major contribution to radiation (infrared light) that AIRS channels sense comes from different levels in the atmosphere, depending upon the channel wavelength. To create the movie, a set of AIRS channels were selected which probe the atmosphere at progressively deeper levels. If there were no clouds, the color in each frame would be nearly uniform until the Earth's surface is encountered. The tropospheric air temperature warms at a rate of 6 K (about 11 F) for each kilometer of descent toward the surface. Thus the colors would gradually change from cold to warm as the movie progresses.
Clouds block the infrared radiation. Thus wherever there are clouds we can penetrate no deeper in infrared. The color remains fixed as the movie progresses, for that area of the image is "stuck" to the cloud top temperature. The coldest temperatures around 220 K (about -65 F) come from altitudes of about 10 miles.
We therefore see in a 'surface channel' at the end of the movie, signals from clouds as cold as 220 K and from Earth's surface at 310 K (about 100 F). The very coldest clouds are seen in deep convection thunderstorms over land. Typical of tropical storms, the region away from Blas is clear to the surface showing the "calm before the storm."
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Experiment, with its visible, infrared, and microwave detectors, provides a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather. Working in tandem, the three instruments can make simultaneous observations all the way down to the Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, 3-D map of atmospheric temperature and humidity and provides information on clouds, greenhouse gases, and many other atmospheric phenomena. The AIRS Infrared Sounder Experiment flies onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.