New satellite sensor sees and analyzes aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere

Scientists from the United States have presented a new sensor for measuring and analyzing aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere. It will allow you to closely monitor the changes in the planet’s ecology.

The researchers noted that aerosols are small solid particles that drift in the Earth’s atmosphere. These tiny particles can be any of a variety of different substances, such as dust, pollution, and forest fire smoke. By absorbing or scattering sunlight, aerosols affect the Earth’s climate. They also affect air quality and, as a result, human health.

Accurate aerosol observations are essential to study their effects. The new Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) sensor aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite provides new opportunities for monitoring these particles.

Launched in 2015, the DSCOVR satellite orbits between the Earth and the Sun, so EPIC can capture images of the Earth in continuous daylight – both in the visible range, in the ultraviolet (UV) and near infrared ranges. The EPIC Near Ultraviolet Aerosol Imaging Algorithm (EPICAERUV) can then obtain more specific information on aerosol properties from these images.

Like other satellite aerosol sensors, EPIC allows aerosols to be monitored at geographic locations that are difficult to reach for ground-based or aircraft sensors. However, unlike other satellite sensors, which can only measure once a day, EPIC’s unique orbit allows it to collect aerosol data from the entire sunlit side of the Earth up to 20 times a day.

The research team also used EPIC to assess the characteristics of smoke plumes from recent bushfires in North America, including the extensive fires in British Columbia in 2017, the complex Mendocino fire in California in 2018, and numerous fires in North America in 2020.

This study shows that, despite coarse spatial resolution and potentially large errors under certain observation conditions, EPIC can serve as a useful tool for aerosol monitoring.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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