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Cloud Height and Wind Speed
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
Scientists for the first time ever can simultaneously measure the height
and motion of clouds over Earth from pole to pole, which may improve
Never before have researchers directly measured cloud heights from a
single satellite, simultaneously measured cloud heights and winds, and
done this above Earths polar regions as well as lower latitudes.
Professor Roger Davies and graduate research assistant Akos Horvath of
the University of Arizona, Tucson, report first results on cloud winds
and heights from NASA's polar-orbiting Terra satellites Multi-angle
Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) in the Aug. 1 issue of Geophysical Research
Simultaneous measurement of cloud heights accurate to within 400 meters
(about 1,300 feet) and cloud winds accurate to within 3 meters (about 10
feet) per second anywhere over the globe is a potential boon for
meteorology, Davies said. While Terra is a research satellite, not an
operational satellite, the success of the radiometers fully automated
multi-angle imaging technique pioneers the possibility of deploying an
operational satellite to gain wind information within the atmosphere,
especially over the data-sparse areas of the oceans, for improved
weather forecasts, he said.
The image above is an example of MISRs capabilities. Wind vectors are
superimposed on a visible light image of a cyclone over the northeast Pacific
Ocean. (Wind is blowing in the direction the flag "poles" are pointing.) Barbs indicate wind speed. Each half barb represents a wind
speed of 5 meters per second, a full barb is 10 meters per second, and a flag
is 50 meters per second. Color corresponds to cloud height.