Figure 1: click on image for larger AIRS microwave image
At 1:30 a.m. local time this morning, the remnants of (now Tropical Depression) Katrina were centered on the Mississippi-Tennessee border. This microwave image from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecrat shows that the area of most intense precipitation was concentrated to the north of the center of activity.
The infrared image shows how the storms look through an AIRS Infrared window channel. Window channels measure the temperature of the cloud tops or the surface of the Earth in cloud-free regions. The lowest temperatures are associated with high, cold cloud tops that make up the top of the hurricane. The infrared signal does not penetrate through clouds, so the purple color indicates the cool cloud tops of the storm. In cloud-free areas, the infrared signal is retrieved at the Earth's surface, revealing warmer temperatures. Cooler areas are pushing to purple and warmer areas are pushing to red.
The microwave image (figure 1) reveals where the heaviest precipitation in the hurricane is taking place. The blue areas within the storm show the location of this heavy precipitation. Blue areas outside of the storm where there are moderate or no clouds are where the cold (in the microwave sense) sea surface shines through.
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, AMSU, senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations all the way down to 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, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. Launched into Earth orbit in 2002, the AIRS and AMSU instruments fly onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
More information about AIRS can be found at http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov.