Global carbon monoxide measurements from NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder are important because scientists can monitor the transport of fire emissions around the globe on a daily basis. Previously, carbon monoxide measurements came from satellite instruments that saw only part of the Earth each day or from weather balloons. Prior to AIRS, scientists had to integrate those observations with computer models to infer the day-to-day impact of fire emissions on the atmosphere. AIRS provides daily, global coverage. AIRS also measures some of the key atmospheric gases that affect climate, including ozone, methane, and dust and other aerosols.
Tropospheric carbon monoxide abundances are retrieved from the 4.67 m region of AIRS spectra as one of the last steps of the AIRS team algorithm. AIRS' 1600 km cross-track swath and cloud-clearing retrieval capabilities provide daily global carbon monoxide maps over approximately 70% of the Earth.
The streak of red, orange, and yellow across South America, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean in this animation points to high levels of carbon monoxide, as measured by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument flying on NASA's Aqua satellite. The carbon monoxide primarily comes from fires burning in the Amazon basin, with some additional contribution from fires in southern Africa.