Collecting temperature readings in the atmosphere and at the surface, NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the agency's Aqua satellite captured the progression of a slow-moving heat dome across the southwestern U.S. from July 1 to July 12, 2021. The animation of the AIRS data shows surface air temperature anomalies – values above or below long-term averages. The hottest areas, shown in pink, experienced surface air temperatures more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 degrees Celsius) above average. Surface air temperature is something that people directly feel when they are outside.
AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at the planet's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations down to Earth's surface. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. Launched into Earth orbit in 2002, the AIRS and AMSU instruments fly aboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of Caltech.
More information about AIRS can be found at https://airs.jpl.nasa.gov.