NASA Dust Detective Delivers First Maps From Space for Climate Science

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Climate Change

In Brief:

Measurements from EMIT, the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation, will improve computer simulations researchers use to understand climate change.

NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission aboard the International Space Station has produced its first mineral maps, providing detailed images that show the composition of the surface in regions of northwest Nevada and Libya in the Sahara Desert.

Windy desert areas such as these are the sources of fine dust particles that, when lifted by wind into the atmosphere, can heat or cool the surrounding air. But scientists haven’t been able to assess whether mineral dust in the atmosphere has overall heating or cooling effects at local, regional, and global scales. EMIT’s measurements will help them to advance computer models and improve our understanding of dust’s impacts on climate.

EMIT scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the U.S. Geological Survey created the maps to test the accuracy of the instrument’s measurements, a crucial first step in preparing for full science operations.

This image cube shows the true-color view of an area in northwest Nevada observed by NASA’s EMIT imaging spectrometer. The side panels depict the spectral fingerprint for each point in the image. The cube shows the presence of kaolinite, a light-colored clay mineral that reflects sunlight. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS

Installed on the space station in July, EMIT is the first of a new class of high-fidelity imaging spectrometers that collect data from space and produce better-quality data at greater volumes than previous instruments.

“Decades ago, when I was in graduate school, it took 10 minutes to collect a single spectrum from a geological sample in the laboratory. EMIT’s imaging spectrometer measures 300,000 spectra per second, with superior quality,” said Robert Green, EMIT’s principal investigator and senior research scientist at JPL.

“The da …

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