NASA -National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Mission Objectives

CloudSat and CALIPSO will provide, from space, the first global survey of cloud and aerosol profiles and physical properties, with seasonal and geographical variations. Together, these observations will evaluate the way clouds and aerosols are measured and interact in global models, ultimately contributing to improved predictions of weather, climate and the cloud-climate feedback problem.

CALIPSO lidar in action

Image above: The CALIPSO spacecraft uses an innovative lidar and imaging system to reveal the secrets of clouds and aerosols.

CALIPSO Objectives

The CALIPSO satellite mission objective is to determine precisely the altitudes of clouds, aerosol layers and their overlap; identify the composition of clouds and the presence of subvisible (or “invisible” clouds); and estimate the abundance and sources of aerosols. Combining this data with observations from the other A-Train satellites will help scientists create models to answer significant questions about climate processes and create a better understanding of global climate change.

- Atmospheric aerosols directly affect the Earth’s energy balance by absorbing, scattering and emitting solar and infrared radiation. CALIPSO will provide a global suite of measurements from which the first operationally based estimates of direct aerosol properties and its uncertainties can be made.

- Aerosols have an indirect radiative effect on clouds by modifying their reflective properties and life span. CALIPSO will dramatically improve the global and regional observations of these processes.

- The largest uncertainty in determining the balance of solar and thermal energy at Earth’s surface, where we live, is the effect of multi-layer clouds. CALIPSO with the A-Train satellites will provide a systematic collection of multilayered cloud observations and significantly improve our knowledge of the radiation budget at the Earth’s surface.

- Provide a new ability to assess the role of clouds in the climate system including the effects of thin cirrus, polar clouds, and multilayered clouds with information on their altitude, thickness, and optical and microphysical properties. The combined measurements of clouds, atmospheric properties and solar and infrared radiation will be a fundamental scientific advance in the ability to improve our understanding of global cloud-climate feedback mechanisms.

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