Why NASA Is Measuring Dust On Earth From Space

With the issue of climate change ever more pressing, scientists want to know if the dust is exacerbating the problem. Researchers know that climate change is causing more frequent dust storms (via Atmospheric Environment) and that it contributes to other hazardous weather events like sand storms as well. However, trying to understand the overall effect of dust on the climate is complicated.

Dust can have complex effects on temperature extremes, as explained by a study published in Frontiers in Earth Science, and researchers aren’t exactly sure how having more dust around will affect the climate. It could be that different types of dust have different effects, and some could reflect heat from the sun and help to cool the planet, while others could absorb the heat and contribute to warming. That means it’s hard for researchers to predict the role of dust in climate change, according to UCLA.

That’s why EMIT is being used to measure types of dust, to see if they are darker types that absorb heat or lighter colored types which reflect it. Gathering this data will help scientists see how dust is affecting the climate now, and also to predict how it will affect the climate as it changes in the future. “By incorporating EMIT’s global dust source composition data into models and predictions, scientists will gain a better understanding of how the amount and composition of dust in arid regions may change under different climate and land-use scenarios,” NASA explains. The EMIT instrument is scheduled to launch for the International Space Station on June 9, 2022.

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