- Conference date: 6–10 August 2012
- Location: Dahlem Cube, Free University, Berlin
Aerosols are major players within the Earth’s climate system, affecting the radiation budget, clouds and the hydrological cycle. In high concentrations near the surface, aerosols (or particulate matter, PM) affect visibility, impact air quality, and can contribute to poor health. Among others, Yoram Kaufman recognized the importance of aerosols to climate, and helped to design new instrumentation and algorithms to retrieve and quantify global aerosol properties. One instrument, known as the Moderate Imaging Resolution Spectro-radiometer (MODIS), was deployed on the AM-1 satellite (later known as Terra), part of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS). In 1998, armed with an M.S. and job experience in neither aerosols nor satellites, I was looking for a new job. I somehow found my way to the MODIS Aerosol team. It was only a year before Terra launch, and most major decisions about the MODIS aerosol retrieval algorithms had been finalized. Since then, we worked through launch, initial evaluation of the product with AERONET and field deployments, and continued efforts to understand the product and refine retrieval algorithms. I have had opportunities to participate in field experiments, write papers, and earn my PhD. The “second generation” algorithm for aerosol retrieval over land has been hugely successful. We have collected nearly a half-million collocations with AERONET and other dataseis, made new discoveries, and have contributed to research and operational projects globally. Due to the dedication of the entire team, the MODIS aerosol product now is one of the highlights of NASA’s EOS program. It is used for climate research and air quality forecasting, as well for applications not even considered before the MODIS era. More recently, a focus is on stitching the MODIS aerosol product into the “climate data record” (CDR) for global aerosol, determining whether the product has sufficient length, consistency and continuity to determine climate variability and change. There are two orbiting MODIS sensors (on Terra and Aqua), and like human twins, they have had different life experiences; the result is a slightly different perspective on global aerosol distribution. To assess simple questions like “Is global aerosol increasing or decreasing?” requires detailed analyses into diverse subjects, such as instrument calibration, assumptions for gas correction, and aggregations of spatial sampling. With the recent launch of VIIRS on Suomi-NPP, there is a new addition to the aerosol monitoring “family.” While preliminary indications are that it will produce a successful aerosol product, work on its position within the CDR is just beginning. In 1998, in addition to starting a new job, I joined a unique family composed of scientists around the world. I am grateful that the community has been supportive and nurturing. Of course, like in any family, there are many stories to tell. Here, at IRS-2012, I share some of my experiences of working within the collective MODIS aerosol project.
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