GERB Radiation measurements chart climate change patterns
2 March 2006
The effects of heat and other types of radiation affecting Earth and its climate have just been captured by GERB - an instrument on board the European Space Agency's weather satellite Meteosat.
GERB-2 is the second of the NERC supported Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) project, and was launched in late 2005. It has now captured its first full images of the Earth's sphere, since its launch. This will allow better understanding of what happens in the climate change processes by measuring the available energy that drives the weather as a whole, and helping to establish how much the Earth is warming.
Photograph: Satellite images of the Earth as captured by GERB.
Through these images, the levels of Earth's radiation budget - its incoming and reflected radiation - can be assessed by comparing short and long wave radiation, and through measuring the Earth's thermal heat emissions. Levels of water vapour absorption (part of the 'greenhouse' effect) and cloud content, which are two of the most important processes in climate change, can also be monitored.
Unlike satellite devices that travel over the Earth's poles during their orbits, GERB is stationary in orbit; it is also sited directly above West Africa.
To make the most of this fact, the GERB instrument has just assisted teams on the ground in Africa to monitor atmospheric events from its unique vantage point. Working with the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA), which is also supported by NERC, GERB has taken part in measuring the effects that are brought about by climate change.
During February 2006 the joint project deployed to West Africa with the US Atmospheric Radiation Measurement programme (ARM), where AMMA and GERB in a collaboration on radiative atmospheric divergence named RADAGAST, tackled some outstanding problems in atmospheric radiation science. This includes assessing the divergence of atmospheric radiation in deep convection aerosol particle patterns, and on site comparisons from West Africa - which will run to the summer of 2006.
The original GERB-1 has had lead funding from NERC which has invested approximately £6·4m in the development of the instrument and has allocated approximately £1·3m to post-launch support activities. The GERB programme is carried out by a team from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and Imperial College (IC), with input and assistance from EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency. NERC's Environmental Systems Science Centre (ESSC) run in collaboration with the University of Reading is a lead contributor to the combined project along with members of the Institute for Atmospheric Science at the University of Leeds, and members of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading's Dust & Biomass Experiment (Dabex).
Briefing note: 12/06
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