CATS Eyes on the Atmosphere

  • Released Monday, January 8th, 2018
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:47PM
View full credits

From 2015 to 2017, NASA had a specialized laser mounted on the International Space Station (ISS) 250 miles above Earth. NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, instrument was designed to study clouds and particles like dust and smoke in Earth’s atmosphere. To see the atmosphere from top to bottom, CATS's laser made measurements in "curtains," vertical slices of the atmosphere that showed what was happening at all altitudes. This view gave scientists information rapidly on spiraling hurricanes clouds and ash spewing from wildfires and volcanic erruptions, which has helped in forecasting and monitoring of these events. For example, in April 2015, the Calbuco Volcano in Chile erupted sending ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. As the ISS was passing overhead, CATS measured the height of the volcanic plume, a critical measurement needed to decide where to ground airplanes that can be damaged by ash in flight. Watch the videos to learn about other events witnessed by CATS.

In 2016, as Hurricane Matthew closed in on the coast of Florida, CATS captured different cloud regions within the storm.

In 2016, as Hurricane Matthew closed in on the coast of Florida, CATS captured different cloud regions within the storm.

Over northern Africa, particles - likely dust kicked up by Saharan windstorms - reached heights of 2.5 to 3 miles.

Over northern Africa, particles - likely dust kicked up by Saharan windstorms - reached heights of 2.5 to 3 miles.

The CATS instrument mounted on the outside of the ISS monitored Earth’s atmosphere from Jan. 2015 to Oct. 2017.

The CATS instrument mounted on the outside of the ISS monitored Earth’s atmosphere from Jan. 2015 to Oct. 2017.

For More Information



Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio