Skip to main content

Did You Know: Earth's Infrared Glow

We can measure Earth's temperature from space.

Credits

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/). 



  • Image showing Average Daytime Air Temperature, May 2009 from Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), Aqua satellite

  • Animation showing Polar vortex, December 2013–January 2014 from Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), Aqua satellite

  • Written by Margaret Carruthers


Transcript

(DESCRIPTION)
Text, Did you know? Earth's infrared glow.
 
(SPEECH)
[GENTLE MUSIC]
 
(DESCRIPTION)
Text, We can measure Earth's temperature from space. Map of the world showing Average Daytime Air Temperature, May 2009, in degrees Fahrenheit, ranging from negative 30, in dark purple, through 10 degrees in blue, 30 in green, 50 in orange, and 70 in dark red. The warmer colors cover Earth's equatorial regions, fading to colder at its poles, by Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, Aqua satellite. Text, Earth emits an invisible form of light known as infrared. Infrared is invisible to human eyes, but it can be detected with instruments like the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, aboard NASA's Aqua satellite. The amount of infrared light given off by Earth's surface and atmosphere depends on its temperature. The higher the temperature of the air, land, and water, the more they glow in infrared.
 
An image of a globe showing the American continents, December 1, 2013. It also is shaded from dark red nearer the equator to bright purple at the north pole, with temperatures ranging from 17 degrees Celsius to negative 28 degrees Celsius. Image by Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, Aqua satellite. Text, Using satellites to map Earth's infrared glow helps us monitor seasonal changes, ocean currents, emissions from wildfires and volcanoes, extreme weather systems, and other natural phenomena that affect our lives. The image becomes animated, showing the polar vortex from December 2013 to January 2014. The days click by at the bottom of the image, showing the frigid purple area descending into the northern United States, ultlimately reaching even the southern states.