Data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) at the Goddard Earth Sciences DISC provide views from space of a variety of phenomena affecting Earth's environment, weather, and climate on a daily basis. In the past few weeks of April and May 2010, the news of the world has frequently featured dramatic environmental events. The continuing eruption of the Eyjafallajökull volcano in Iceland produced ash clouds that were blown toward Europe, causing disruptive cancellations of air travel. The oil drilling catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in an oil spill that is growing, threatening vital economic and recreational activities on the Gulf coast.
In other parts of the world, droughts related to El Niño have resulted in wildfires; dust storms whip up every spring in the Middle East, and the Sahara, Gobi, and Taklimakan deserts; human activities create smog and haze over many major cities; and storm systems, such as the devastating floods in Tennessee or the killer tornadoes spawned over the Great Plains of the United States, can cause destruction and death.
The atmospheric manifestations of these events, be they clouds, dust, ash, or haze, can be viewed by AIRS. AIRS near-real-time (NRT) imagery is available from the GES DISC only a few hours after it is acquired by the instrument, which orbits the Earth on NASA's Aqua satellite. The data is provided via the GES DISC's Web Map Service (WMS). The mapped data products include Carbon Monoxide (CO), which is an excellent trace of smoke from fires and pollution haze; red-green-blue (RGB) images in which volcanic ash clouds, dust storms, and the clouds of weather systems can be observed; and sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is another tracer of volcanic activity, and which can observe high-altitude volcanic SO2 injections that can have a climatic effect, due to absorption of sunlight and accelerated destruction of stratospheric ozone. The RGB images even detected changes in the ocean surface due to the Gulf oil spill.
The GES DISC home page now features a direct link to the AIRS near-real-time data. Click on the image to access more information about AIRS NRT data products.
Recent GES DISC News items that have featured AIRS NRT images:
AIRS Observes Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico
Near-real-time AIRS imagery of Volcanic Ashes over Iceland
AIRS Near-Real Time Data Shows Icelandic Volcano Still Very Active
Near-real-time AIRS imagery of central African dust storm in March 2010