Tracing Aerosols with Satellites

This map depicts the aerosol index for 19 July 2014
This map depicts the aerosol index for 19 July 2014 as captured by the Suomi NPP satellite.
Image: NASA

Satellites can help detect UV-absorbing aerosols by observing how the atmosphere scattered certain wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light. For example, the ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) onboard the Suomi NPP satellite delivers data for aerosol index maps. The index provides a qualitative measure of how dense aerosols may be over a given area.

Aerosols include particles from volcanic ash, dust, and smoke. By mapping them or their source, the satellite can therefore for example provide useful information for pilots who need to steer clear of debris like volcanic ash or identify the location of a fire.