Earth  ID: 30383

Monthly Cirrus Reflectance (Terra/MODIS)

Cirrus clouds are thin, wispy clouds high in the sky that can be hard to see with the unaided eye. They typically form at an altitude of 6000 meters (20,000 feet) or higher, where the air temperature is below freezing. Cirrus clouds are composed mostly of tiny ice crystals. They are scientifically interesting because they allow most incoming sunlight to pass through them, but they help to contain heat emitted from the surface. Thus, cirrus clouds exert a warming influence on Earth's surface. These maps show monthly average cirrus cloud fraction over the Earth from January 2005 to the present, produced using data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite. The MODIS sensor has a unique band for measuring infrared light at a wavelength of 1.38 micrometers—a wavelength that NASA scientists recently found is highly sensitive to cirrus. Bright white pixels indicate regions completely covered by cirrus clouds. Greyish-white pixels show partial cirrus cover and dark pixels indicate little or no cirrus.

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Marit Jentoft-Nilsen: Visualizer
Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC): Visualizer
Based on images by Reto Stockli, Earth Observatory, based upon data provided by the MODIS Science Team, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

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Data Used:
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of this series:
NASA Earth Observations

SVS >> Cirrus
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Clouds
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth
SVS >> Presentation

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version