CATS studies volcanic plumes, wildfires, and hurricanes

  • Released Wednesday, January 25, 2017
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NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, is a lidar remote-sensing instrument taking measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds from the International Space Station (ISS). Launched to the ISS in January 2015, CATS is specifically intended to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to developing ISS science payloads. The CATS mission extends the data record of space-based aerosol and cloud measurements to ensure the continuity of lidar climate observation.

Data from CATS will help scientists model the structure of dust plumes and other atmospheric features, which can travel far distances and impact air quality. Climate scientists will also use the CATS data, along with data from other Earth-observing instruments, to look at trends and interactions in clouds and aerosols over time.

Calbco Eruption
CATS and the ISS provide critical measurements of volcanic plume heights. In late April 2015, the Calbuco Volcano in Chile erupted multiple times; sending plumes of sulfur dioxide and ash into the upper troposphere.

Volcanic plumes pose a substantial risk to aviation safety, leading to prolonged flight cancellations that cause ripple effects in the airline industry’s economy and on personal travel. Rerouting air traffic requires accurate forecasts of volcanic plume transport from models such as the NASA GEOS-5 shown here. Utilizing the near-real-time data downlinking capabilities on ISS the CATS team can produce useful data products within six hours of data collection.

Oregon Wildfires
In addition to the aviation industry, fire management and air quality agencies use data from CATS mounted on the ISS. This visualization shows smoke that reached as high as 5 km. from wildfires in Oregon on August 18 2015. CATS has demonstrated the ability to detect the vertical structure of smoke plumes within an unprecedented 6 hour window of data collection.

Accurate monitoring and forecasting of air quality requires these CATS vertical profiles measurements. Smoke plumes from wildfires are common over North America in summer months, causing deadly respiratory illnesses. Aerosols near the Earth’s surface contribute to an annual death toll of 68,000 Americans and 3.3 million people globally.

Hurricane Matthew
CATS measurements at different local times over the tropics and mid-latitudes provide comprehensive spatial and temporal coverage of clouds associated with mid-latitude storms and convective systems.

In this example, CATS observed outflow anvil cirrus and convective clouds near the core of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean in October this year.

The ISS passes over hurricane Matthew as it approaches the coast of Florida. The hurricane clouds can be seen in attenuated backscatter data collected by the CATS instrument, onboard the ISS.
This video is also available on our YouTube channel.

African Dust
The CATS instrument uses different wavelengths which reflect differently when they hit aerosols, so comparing the returns from multiple wavelengths allows the scientists to distinguish dust from ice, smoke or other airborne particles. Over northern Africa, particles – likely dust kicked up by Saharan windstorms – reach heights of 2.5 to 3 miles (4 to 5 kilometers).

Data from CATS will help scientists model the structure of dust plumes and other atmospheric features, which can travel far distances and impact air quality. Climate scientists will also use the CATS data, along with data from other Earth-observing instruments, to look at trends and interactions in clouds and aerosols over time.

Linear colorbar for Attenuated Backscatter at 1064 nm.  Used for Calbuco volcano plume, Oregon wildfires, and dust visulizations.

Linear colorbar for Attenuated Backscatter at 1064 nm. Used for Calbuco volcano plume, Oregon wildfires, and dust visulizations.

Linear colorbar for Attenuated Backscatter at 1064 nm. Used for Hurricane Matthew case.

Linear colorbar for Attenuated Backscatter at 1064 nm. Used for Hurricane Matthew case.

Legend for volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentration

Legend for volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentration

No Annotations - The ISS passes over a plume of ash and sulfur dioxide (SO2) from the Calbuco Volcano eruption. The volcano plume can be seen in attenuated backscatter data collected by the CATS instrument, onboard the ISS.

No Annotations - The ISS passes over a region of wildfires in Oregon. Smoke from the wildfires can be seen in attenuated backscatter data collected by the CATS instrument, onboard the ISS.

No Annotations - The ISS passes over hurricane Matthew as it approaches the coast of Florida. The hurricane clouds can be seen in attenuated backscatter data collected by the CATS instrument, onboard the ISS.

No Annotations - The ISS passes over a dust cloud leaving Africa. The dust cloud can be seen in attenuated backscatter data collected by the CATS instrument, onboard the ISS.

NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, is a lidar remote-sensing instrument taking measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds from the International Space Station (ISS). Launched to the ISS in January 2015, CATS is specifically intended to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to developing ISS science payloads. The CATS mission extends the data record of space-based aerosol and cloud measurements to ensure the continuity of lidar climate observation.

Music Credit :

Killer Tracks PACE AND DETERMINATION ATMOS 360_946437



Credits

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NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Release date

This page was originally published on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.
This page was last updated on Monday, July 15, 2024 at 12:05 AM EDT.


Missions

This visualization is related to the following missions:

Datasets used in this visualization

  • CATS (Lidar) [ISS: Cloud-Aerosol Transport System]

    ID: 931
    Type: Observed DataSensor: Cloud-Aerosol Transport SystemDates used: 04/27/2015, 8/18/2015, 10/07/2016

    NASA's Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, is a lidar remote-sensing instrument taking measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds from the International Space Station (ISS). Launched to the ISS in January 2015, CATS is specifically intended to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to developing ISS science payloads. The CATS mission extends

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