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The Most Important Instrument You’ve Never Heard of

The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder, or ATMS, an instrument shaped like a silver box with dark matte boxes stacked on top and cables plugged into the side. In this image, ATMS sits on a silver table in a room lined with foam spikes.

For a little-known satellite instrument, the microwave sounder has a major impact on our lives. These instruments feed the weather models that inform our daily forecasts and help us plan for extreme weather. And their long-term temperature records of our atmosphere have played a key role in helping scientists determine that humans are the cause of climate change. The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder, or ATMS, is the size of a mini fridge, and it’s hitched to the Joint Polar Satellite System’s NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP satellites. 

This multimedia storymap tells their story.