Earth  ID: 4939

3D Water Vapor shows an Atmospheric River

The NOAA-20 satellite, formerly named JPSS-1, was launched in November 2017 to gather global measurements of atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions. These measurements are used to increase the speed and accuracy of weather models run by NOAA's National Weather Service to forecast severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards as well as to assess environmental hazards such as droughts, poor air quality and forest fires. NOAA-20 is a polar-orbiting satellite that crosses the equator about 14 times a day, covering the entire globe twice daily. The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), the source of data used in this visualization, is an instrument on NOAA-20 that collects 3-dimensional atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles.

In this visualization the swaths of 3D water vapor are revealed as the NOAA-20 satellite circumnavigates the globe. Water vapor is shown as clouds of white particles with higher density (more opaque) where the water vapor is denser and lower density (more transparent) in regions of less water vapor.

Beneath the water vapor the total precipitable water (TPW) is shown as a color on the surface of the globe with low values in blues and high values shown in red. TPW is the sum of all forms of water (ice, snow, rain, water vapor) through the column at all altitudes in the atmosphere.

Toward the end of this visualization, about 12-hour time steps are shown in sequece to reveal the structure of the atmospheric river that formed in the Pacific ocean and approached the west coast of the United States in January 2021. Here the low values of the TPW have been faded out in order to more clearly see the water vapor of the atmospheric river as it progresses down the coastline.

A total of 21,600 data files are combined in order to portray the water vapor and the TPW over a four day time period. The topography is exaggerated by 20 times at the beginning of the animation and is reduced to 12 times as the view moves closer to the west coast of the US. The water vapor is exaggerated by 100 time at the start of the visualization and is reduced to 66 times for the closer views.

Visualization Credits

Lead Visualizer:
Cindy Starr (GST)

Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC)
Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC)
Kel Elkins (USRA)
Alex Kekesi (GST)

Peter H. Jacobs (NASA/GSFC)
Jefferson Beck (KBRwyle)
Ashley Hume (ASRC Federal System Solutions)

Jenny Marder Fadoul (Telophase)

Edward Kim (NASA/GSFC)
Matthew Sammons (SGT)
Christopher Grassotti (NOAA)

Data Provider:
Jorel Torres (Intern)

Technical Support:
Laurence Schuler (ADNET)
Ian Jones (ADNET)

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

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Data Used:
NOAA-20/ATMS/MiRS Imaging Products also referred to as: MiRS Imaging Products
Analysis - NOAA - 2021/01/25 - 2021/01/28
NOAA-20/ATMS/MiRS Microwave Sounding Products also referred to as: MiRS Microwave Sounding Products
Observed Data - NOAA - 2021/01/25 - 2021/01/28
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.

DLESE >> Atmospheric science
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Precipitation
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Atmospheric Water Vapor >> Water Vapor
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth

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