Why the Aerosols – Clouds, Convection, Precipitation Earth science mission is important for Canadians
Tiny particles with a huge impact
Earth's atmosphere is full of particles known as aerosols. Although very small, they have a big impact on our weather and climate. Some types of aerosols affect air quality and human health. Aerosols can be produced by natural events, like forest fires and volcano eruptions. Humans produce them through vehicle emissions and power plants that burn fossil fuels. Aerosols are important for cloud formation, and clouds interact with light and heat from the Sun and Earth. This means that aerosols and clouds both warm and cool Earth depending on their types and locations. Observing aerosols and clouds is essential to understanding and better predicting climate change and extreme weather events.
The Canadian Space Agency has been invited to partner with NASA to plan a top-priority Earth science mission that will do just that. This mission, known as Aerosols – Clouds, Convection, Precipitation (A-CCP), will provide vital data to monitor air pollution, and improve our predictions of near-term weather and long-term climatic conditions.
A-CCP: A mission like no other
A-CCP will be unique in many ways. An observing system consisting of multiple satellites will collect several types of data at the same time to form a more complete picture of how aerosols and clouds affect the atmosphere. It will collect data on aerosols at all heights and atmospheric water in all forms (water, vapour, and ice), all over the globe. It will also provide a picture of heat escaping the atmosphere. A-CCP will allow scientists to draw conclusions about atmospheric conditions and create three-dimensional maps of aerosols and clouds along with water vapour, rain, and snow. The information gained from the A-CCP mission is crucial for understanding how aerosols work and how they affect climate. A-CCP will help meteorologists predict weather and air quality more accurately.
Canadian scientists and industry have unique expertise to contribute to A-CCP. NASA has invited Canada to develop three cutting-edge instruments for this mission, slated for launch in :
- ALI (Aerosol Limb Imager) will observe mid- to high-altitude particles. It will allow scientists to understand aerosol sizes and densities, and their effects on clouds and sunlight.
- SHOW (Spatial Heterodyne Observations of Water) will detect water vapour in the upper reaches of the lower atmosphere. Water vapour affects precipitation, clouds, and aerosols. As a greenhouse gas, it drives heating and cooling of the atmosphere.
- TICFIRE (Thin Ice Cloud in Far InfraRed Experiment) will detect water vapour and ice cloud properties. It will also measure the energy that the atmosphere radiates to space, providing better information on how the atmosphere is cooled. TICFIRE will provide the ability to measure this "far infrared" radiation from space, which up until now has not been possible.
A mission that benefits all Canadians
The data gathered by A-CCP will allow Canadians to better anticipate and prepare for extreme weather events, including floods, droughts, and poor air quality conditions. This information is crucial for projecting the impacts of climate change. It will allow all communities, particularly those in the North and along the coasts, to better develop and maintain their infrastructure. Improved wildlife and habitat management will be possible. Better weather predictions and climate projections will help scientists, governments, and industry work together to find ways to adapt to climate change, protecting the health of Canadians and improving the resilience of our society.
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