Air Quality & NASA Science Missions

Air Quality & NASA Science Missions

Current Missions

  • AERONET: The AErosol RObotic NETwork is a global network of ground-based sun photometers that measure the amount of sunlight transmitted through the atmosphere. These measurements can then be used to determine Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), and can also provide information about the size and type of aerosols in the atmospheric column.

  • CALIPSO: The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite, launched in 2006, makes measurements of clouds and aerosols, and helps provide information on their effect on the Earth’s weather and climate. CALIPSO includes a lidar instrument that provides high-resolution vertical profiles of the atmosphere. Data visualizations from CALIPSO are available. Image showing data visualization from CALIPSO in April 2021 in the western United States and the track of the satellite corresponding to the visualization. Image source: NASA.

  • MODIS: The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer is an instrument that flies aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites. MODIS instruments are able to “see” the entire Earth every 1 - 2 days, collecting data across 36 different wavelengths. Data from MODIS provides insight into how clouds and aerosols affect the Earth’s energy budget, as well as the properties of atmospheric aerosols. MODIS data can be added as a base layer in the GLOBE Visualization tool and viewed with GLOBE observations. The base layer name is Corrected Reflectance - True Color (Terra).

  • VIIRS: The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite is an instrument that flies on the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. Both satellites are polar-orbiting, circling the Earth about 14 times a day. VIIRS collects data across 22 wavelengths, providing information about clouds and aerosols, and helping to detect wildfires. VIIRS satellite images are available on the AerosolWatch website.Aerosol Optical Depth over the United States, as measured by VIIRS, July 2021. There are high values of AOD over the northeastern part of the country; this was caused by smoke from wildfires in the western US. Image source: AerosolWatch.

Upcoming Missions

  • MAIA: The Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols instrument, which will fly aboard the Orbital Test Bed (OTB) - 2 satellite, is scheduled to launch in 2022. MAIA will study the effects of particulate matter on human health in both the short term and the long term, and will also collect data on naturally occurring and anthropogenic air quality events.

  • PACE:  The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud ocean Ecosystem satellite, scheduled to launch in 2022, will continue NASA’s efforts to observe the Earth’s oceans. PACE will carry two primary instruments. The first, an ocean color instrument, will collect data on global ocean biology. The second, multi-angle polarimeters, will measure how sunlight changes as it passes through clouds, aerosols and the ocean, providing detailed information about the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.   

  • TEMPO: The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution instrument, which will fly aboard the geostationary Intelsat 40e, is scheduled to launch in 2022. TEMPO will use a spectrometer to make hourly measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other air pollutants across North America.