With the help of measurements from a now defunct satellite called SeaWifs, researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, led by Christina Hsu, have developed the longest single-satellite global record of aerosols to date. (Not sure what an aerosol is or what it has to do with the climate? Read this.)
The SeaWiFS aerosol record runs between 1997 and 2010 and will complement existing records from the MISR and MODIS instruments. Since these two important records don’t agree particularly well over land, scientists hope that data from other outside sensors like SeaWiFS might help resolve some of the discrepancies and reduce the overall uncertainty in the aerosol portion of climate models.
Patching the VIIRS data together with the older datasets won’t necessarily be easy, but building long-running datasets that span decades — the purpose of many of the satellites that are part of NASA’s Earth Observing System — is the key to getting climate change science right.
Top image of aerosol types (volcanic ash, pollen, sea salt, and soot) was published originally by the Earth Observatory. SeaWiFS’s 13-years aerosol record for Washington DC was originally published here. Peaks show times when aerosols are more abundant. The annual cycle is due to air stagnation in the summer. Text by Adam Voiland.