Five things to know about NASA's new mineral dust detector
by Esprit Smith, NASA's Earth Science News Team
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jun 02, 2022
Each year, strong winds carry more than a billion metric tons - or the weight of 10,000 aircraft carriers - of mineral dust from Earth's deserts and other dry regions through the atmosphere. While scientists know that the dust affects the environment and climate, they don't have enough data to determine, in detail, what those effects are or may be in the future - at least not yet.
Launching to the International Space Station on June 9, NASA's Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) instrument will help fill in those knowledge gaps. EMIT's state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer, developed by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, will collect more than a billion dust-source-composition measurements around the globe over the course of a year - and in doing so, significantly advance scientists' understanding of dust's influence across the Earth system.
Here are five things to know about EMIT
It will identify the composition of mineral dust from Earth's arid regions.
From its perch on the space station, EMIT will map the world's mineral dust source regions. The imaging spectrometer will also provide information on the color and composition of dust sources globally for the first time. This data will help scientists understand which kinds of dust dominate each region and advance their understanding of dust's impact on climate and the Earth system today and in the future.
It will clarify whether mineral dust heats or cools the planet.
The color matters because it determines whether the dust will absorb the Sun's energy, as dark-colored minerals do, or reflect it, as light-colored minerals do. If more of the dust absorbs the Sun's energy than reflects it, it'll warm the planet, and vice versa.
EMIT will provide a detailed picture of how much dust comes from dark versus light minerals. That information will allow scientists to determine whether dust heats or cools the planet overall, as well as regionally and locally.
It will help scientists understand how dust affects different Earth processes.
For instance, mineral dust plays a role in cloud formation and atmospheric chemistry. When mineral dust is deposited in the ocean or forests, it can provide nutrients for growth, acting like fertilizer. When it falls on snow or ice, the dust accelerates melting, leading to more water runoff. And for humans, mineral dust can be a health hazard when inhaled.
EMIT will collect information on 10 important dust varieties, including those that contain iron oxides, clays, and carbonates. With this data, scientists will be able to assess precisely what effects mineral dust has on different ecosystems and processes.
Its data will improve the accuracy of climate models.
Color and composition information gathered by EMIT will change that. When the instrument's data is incorporated, the accuracy of climate models is expected to improve.
It will help scientists predict how future climate scenarios will affect the type and amount of dust in our atmosphere.
By incorporating EMIT's global dust source composition data into models and predictions, scientists will gain a better understanding of how the amount and composition of dust in arid regions may change under different climate and land-use scenarios. They'll also gain a better understanding of how these changes may impact climate in the future.
Putting the future in FutureEO
Paris (ESA) May 29, 2022
With scientific excellence at the very heart of ESA's FutureEO programme, participants at this week's Living Planet Symposium have been making it clear that new research missions to advance Earth science must continue to be realised in the future. Speaking at the symposium, Christine Gommenginger from the National Oceanography Centre in the UK, said, "We have a rapidly changing Earth observation landscape with Copernicus, many meteorological satellites, New Space, commercial satellite operators an ... read more
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