Although originally designed to measure atmospheric water vapor and temperature profiles for weather forecasting, data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft are now also being used by scientists to observe atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists from NASA; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., are using several different methods to measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere (about eight kilometers, or five miles, above the surface). The global map of mid-troposphere carbon dioxide above, produced by AIRS Team Leader Dr. Moustafa Chahine at JPL, shows that despite the high degree of mixing that occurs with carbon dioxide, the regional patterns of atmospheric sources and sinks are still apparent in mid-troposphere carbon dioxide concentrations. "This pattern of high carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Atlantic Ocean, and Central Asia) is consistent with model predictions," said Chahine. Climate modelers, such as Dr. Qinbin Li at JPL, and Dr. Yuk Yung at Caltech, are currently using the AIRS data to study the global distribution and transport of carbon dioxide and to improve their models.
The AIRS data products are available at http://daac.gsfc.nasa.gov/AIRS/index.shtml.
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.