Image from TERRA
Wed, 28 Nov 2018 13:49 EST

Central Africa is still on fire a month after the October 30 image of the fire was posted. Most likely these fires are agricultural in nature.

Image from TERRA
Tue, 27 Nov 2018 10:47 EST

Just like the Woolsey Fire's scar which was highlighted on the NASA Fire page on November 16, the Camp Fire scar is visible from space in this image taken by the Terra satellite on November 26, 2018.

Image from TERRA
Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:55 EST

In the wake of a fire, a burn scar appears which takes a long time to heal. This scar is from the Woolsey fire which has taken its toll around Thousand Oaks, California.


CERES News and Events

Terra Turns 14

Terra is now well into her teenage years, but is by no means setting records for the longest operating satellite.  In fact, Terra has only been collecting data half as long as Landsat 5, which set the record for longest operating satellite last year after operating for 28 years and 10 months.  Terra has surpassed its intended design life by 8 years, but it is still collecting meaningful data, giving scientists insight into how different systems on Earth effect each other.

Beyond Terra’s contributions to scientific research, it continues to help monitor forest fires, equipping land managing agencies with the ability to track a fire’s progress and identify areas of concern.  Terra also continues to witness phytoplankton blooms, monitor changes in ice shelves, witness volcanic eruptions, and track dust, haze and smog as it travels from its source. Terra is improving climate and weather models, helping forecasters make better predictions.

In addition to Terra’s scientific and climate contributions, it continues to showcase how the United States in partnership with other countries, like Japan and Canada, can work together to increase knowledge and gain a better understanding of Earth’s varying climate and the interconnectedness of Earth’s systems. Since Terra’s launch, other satellites such as the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), expected to launch in 2014, have followed Terra’s lead by partnering with other countries to provide scientist’s with a wide array of information to better understand Earth.


Terra Celebrates 5,000th Day on Orbit

Much has changed since Magellan circumnavigated Earth almost 500 years ago or since the first astronaut orbited Earth over 50 years ago. August 26, 2013 marks another historical event in exploring our earth. Terra, the flagship Earth Observing Satellite, sees the Earth for the 5,000th day celebrating its 5,000th day on orbit.

Terra paved the way for other Earth Observing Satellites through observations made by its five instruments from three countries, MODIS, MISR, and CERES from the United States, ASTER from Japan, and MOPITT from Canada.  Terra is a global partnership, advancing the scientific understanding of our Earth’s processes and changing climate.

MODIS, the MODerate Imaging Spectroradiometer, has captured images of numerous wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural events, while quantifying the amount of vegetation that covers Earth, monitoring sea surface temperature, capturing ocean color, observing the lower atmosphere and providing traceable images of the changing ice sheets. Since its launch in December of 1999 Terra MODIS has supplied irreplaceable data to monitor climate change, improving understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on Earth.

MISR, the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer, monitors Earth from multiple angles at the same time. MISR, the first instrument of its kind, measures the amount of sunlight that is scattered in different directions from Earth’s surface and atmosphere through its suite of nine pushbroom sensors pointed in different directions.  MISR gives depth to what would otherwise be flat images, revealing what lies below the initial surface as seen from space. MISR also distinguishes different types of clouds, particles and surfaces, monitoring trends and contributing to the historical record of a changing climate.

CERES, Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System, on Terra was the second to launch.  The most recent CERES instrument launched in 2011 onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) Satellite.  CERES data leads to a better understanding of the role of clouds and the energy cycle in global climate change through taking measurements of incoming and outgoing solar radiation related to cloud properties and physics, enhancing the accuracy of current climate models.

ASTER, Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, data is used to create detailed maps of land surface temperature, reflectance, and elevation. It is a cooperative effort between NASA, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and Japan Space Systems. Anytime a volcano erupts, ASTER is able to see the thermal fingerprint left by the cascading lava and the warm surface temperature.  ASTER measures infrared radiation and contributes to data sets that reveal more than meets the eye about land use, hydrology, and geologic composition of the land. Its data are used to locate archeologically significant areas, to assist in locating mineral deposits and mapping geologic features, as well as to further the understanding of how humans and natural events change Earth’s surface.  ASTER’s high resolution makes it possible to monitor Earth’s surface at a higher resolution than Terra’s other instruments, enhancing validation and calibration capabilities.

MOPITT, Measurements Of Pollution in The Troposphere, measure tropospheric carbon monoxide (CO) on a global scale. Methane oxidation, fossil fuel consumption and biomass burning produce CO. MOPITT data enables scientists to analyze sources and sinks of CO and track CO’s movement throughout the globe. Through studying this trace gas scientists are able to map CO levels in the lower atmosphere, furthering our understanding of how CO levels change due to both natural and human caused events, ultimately helping understand pollution’s role in climate change.

5,000 days orbiting the Earth is enough to make anyone’s head spin, but Terra has done little to make people dizzy.  Instead, this forerunner in collecting climate science data has paved the way for other satellite missions to clearly understand what changes are occurring on Earth and how they may continue to change well into the future.  As Terra continues into its teenage years, mature for a satellite, it continues to collect measurements that lead to a better understanding of our changing planet.




article by Tassia Owen

Dust Dominates Foreign Aerosol Imports to North America

Dust Moving West of Sea of Japan

NASA and university scientists have made the first measurement-based estimate of the amount and composition of tiny airborne particles that arrive in the air over North America each year. With a 3-D view of the atmosphere now possible from satellites, the scientists calculated that dust, not pollution, is the main ingredient of these imports.Read more.

CERES Researcher: Dr. Sundar Christopher

Dr. Sundar Christopher is a Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.  Other positions he hold at the University include Associate Director of the Earth System Science Center and Department Chairman of the Atmospheric Science.  He also hosts a professional development and career guide website, which he freely dispenses valuable advice to graduate students. 

What do you study?

SC: Using satellite data, I study the role of aerosols on climate and air quality.

One of your titles at the University of Alabama is an Associate Director of the Earth System Science.  What is Earth System Science Center (ESSC)? 

SC: At UAHuntsville ,ESS is a broad term for the organization that houses scientists who study Earth-atmosphere processes.

You use CERES and other remote sensing satellites to study aerosols, can you talk about the role it plays on the Earth’s atmosphere system and the importance of the study? 

SC: Aerosols are a key component of the earth’s atmosphere. How aerosols affect climate is still a source of uncertainty. Satellite remote sensing is the only viable method for providing global, reliable measurements of aerosols. Detecting aerosols using multi-spectral, multi-angle methods and using CERES to quantify aerosol forcing is in my opinion one the major advances of aerosol science over the last decade. Now we can also assess the role of absorbing aerosols using OMI and analyze the vertical distribution of clouds and aerosols using CALIPSO. There is much to be done using Terra and A-train data sets.

CERES is also used to study energy balance and like ESS, the study is very complex.  Can you explain what energy balance is and its role in understanding future climate? 

SC: Yes, energy balance is critical. In summary the net incoming solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere must be balanced by the outgoing radiation. CERES is indeed the best available source for providing this information over long time periods. While aerosols are short lived in the atmosphere they change the vertical structure of the atmosphere based on their absorptive properties and reduce solar insolation to the surface, all of which are important to climate. More importantly we have been using Terra data to calculate air quality near the ground which is useful for regions that do not have ground measurements of pollution. The effect of aerosols on clouds continue to be a challenging topic but a lot of progress has been made over the last decade.

Finally, how did you get interested in science?

SC: Believe it or not, I was sitting in a radiative transfer course during my graduate school days and the Professor was lecturing on the global radiative energy budget. I felt the light go on inside my head. That was nearly 25 years ago. I studied the radiative energy budget of clouds using ERBE and I later became interested in aerosols from biomass burning. Our first paper used AVHRR and ERBE data to study radiative forcing of aerosols using a few case studies. I was eagerly awaiting the launch of Terra and it is indeed truly rewarding to be able to provide global estimates of radiative forcing using Terra (from MODIS, MISR, and CERES).

NASA’s newest CERES instrument begins collecting data

Terra’s CERES sensor is one in a series of instruments that measure Earth’s energy balance. On January 27, the newest version of the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) began scanning Earth for the first time, helping to assure continued availability of measurements of the energy leaving the Earth-atmosphere system. Read more.