F.I.R.E.- High Flying Aircraft

As part of a NASA effort to learn more about the role played by clouds in the Arctic region, scientists are taking to the skies to get a better look.

I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“We’ve used aircraft at very high altitude, what NASA refers to as an ER2, which is equivalent to the U2 spy plane of old.”

Michael King is a Senior Project Scientist with NASA’s Earth Observing System.

“It flies very high in the atmosphere, sixty thousand feet, with instruments on board that are very similar to capabilities of future satellite systems. But high, detailed resolution. We also use aircraft that fly inside of clouds, and right above their boundary and measure how many cloud droplets there are in the cloud for example, or how large they are or how small they are, or the reflectance of clouds at different angles that the satellite cannot measure. And then below, on the surface, we have lasers that measure from the base shooting a laser up and measuring how high the cloud base is. So we know the thickness of the cloud. So we use a combination of tools to study the thickness of the cloud, to study ice, to study the surface temperature.”

While some clouds have a cooling effect on the earth’s atmosphere, reflecting the sun’s radiation back into space, other clouds trap radiation already within the earth’s atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that warms the climate. The clouds are difficult to tell apart, and much about how they form remains unknown.

We’d like to hear from you about the ways that you observe or interact with your local environment throughout the seasons of your year. Please call our toll-free number, 1-877PULSE99.

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

F.I.R.E.- High Flying Aircraft

High-flying airplanes give NASA scientists a bird's eye view of the Earth's climate.
Air Date:12/31/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

As part of a NASA effort to learn more about the role played by clouds in the Arctic region, scientists are taking to the skies to get a better look.

I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"We've used aircraft at very high altitude, what NASA refers to as an ER2, which is equivalent to the U2 spy plane of old."

Michael King is a Senior Project Scientist with NASA's Earth Observing System.

"It flies very high in the atmosphere, sixty thousand feet, with instruments on board that are very similar to capabilities of future satellite systems. But high, detailed resolution. We also use aircraft that fly inside of clouds, and right above their boundary and measure how many cloud droplets there are in the cloud for example, or how large they are or how small they are, or the reflectance of clouds at different angles that the satellite cannot measure. And then below, on the surface, we have lasers that measure from the base shooting a laser up and measuring how high the cloud base is. So we know the thickness of the cloud. So we use a combination of tools to study the thickness of the cloud, to study ice, to study the surface temperature."

While some clouds have a cooling effect on the earth's atmosphere, reflecting the sun's radiation back into space, other clouds trap radiation already within the earth's atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that warms the climate. The clouds are difficult to tell apart, and much about how they form remains unknown.

We'd like to hear from you about the ways that you observe or interact with your local environment throughout the seasons of your year. Please call our toll-free number, 1-877PULSE99.

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.