Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning, Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research (4STAR)


Operated By: 

4STAR (Spectrometers for Sky-Scanning Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research; Dunagan et al., 2013) is an airborne sun-sky spectrophotometer measuring direct solar beam transmittance (i.e., 4STAR determines direct solar beam transmission by detecting direct solar irradiance) and narrow field-of-view sky radiance to retrieve and remotely sense column-integrated and, in some cases, vertically resolved information on aerosols, clouds, and trace gases. The 4STAR team is a world leader in airborne sun-sky photometry, building on 4STAR’s predecessor instrument, AATS-14 (the NASA Ames Airborne Tracking Sun photometers; Matsumoto et al., 1987; Russell et al. 1999, and cited in more than 100 publication) and greatly expanding aerosol observations from the ground-based AERONET network of sun-sky photometers (Holben et al., 1998) and the Pandora network of ground-based direct-sun and sky spectrometer (e.g, Herman et al., 2009).

4STAR is used to quantify the attenuated solar light (from 350 to 1650 nm) and retrieve properties of various atmospheric constituents: spectral Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) from ultraviolet to the shortwave infrared (e.g., LeBlanc et al., 2020, Shinozuka et al., 2013); aerosol intensive properties - Single Scattering Albedo (SSA; e.g., Pistone et al., 2019), asymmetry parameter, scattering phase function, absorption angstrom exponent, size distribution, and index of refraction; various column trace gas components (NO2, Ozone, Water Vapor; e.g., Segal-Rosenheimer et al., 2014, with potential for SO2 and CH2O); and cloud optical depth, effective radius and thermodynamic phase (e.g., LeBlanc et al., 2015).

Some examples of the science questions that 4STAR have pursued in the past and will continue to address:

  • What is the Direct Aerosol Radiative Effect on climate and its uncertainty? (1)
  • How much light is absorbed by aerosol emitted through biomass burning? (1)
  • How does heating of the atmosphere by absorbing aerosol impact large scale climate and weather patterns? (1)
  • How does aerosol spatial consistency of extensive and intensive properties compare? (2)
  • How does the presence of aerosol impact Earth’s radiative transfer, with co-located high concentration of trace gas? (3, 5)
  • What is the impact of air quality from long-range transport of both aerosol particulates and column NO2 and Ozone, and their evolution? (3, 6)
  • What are the governing properties and spatial patterns of local and transported aerosol? (1)
  • How are cloud properties impacted near the sea-ice edge? (4)
  • In heterogeneous environments where clouds and aerosols are present, how much solar radiation is impacted by 3D radiative transfer? And how does that impact the aerosol properties? (5)

(1) ORACLES: Zuidema et al., doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00082.1., 2016; LeBlanc et al., doi:10.5194/acp-20-1565-2020, 2020; Pistone et al., https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-142, 2019;Cochrane et al., https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-12-6505-2019, 2019; Shinozuka et al., https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-11275-2020, 2020; Shinozuka et al., https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-11491-2020, 2020
(2) KORUS-AQ:  LeBlanc et al., doi:
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-22-11275-2022, 2022

(3) KORUS-AQ: Herman et al., doi:10.5194/amt-11-4583-2018, 2018
(4) ARISE: Smith et al.,
https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-14-00277.1, 2017; Segal-Rosenheimer et al., doi:10.1029/2018JD028349, 2018
(5) SEAC4RS: Song et al., doi: 10.5194/acp-16-13791-2016, 2016; Toon et al., https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JD024297, 2016
) TCAP: Shinozuka et al., doi:10.1002/2013JD020596, 2013; Segal-Rosenheimer et al., doi:10.1002/2013JD020884, 2014

Instrument Type: 
Recent Missions: 
SaSa (P-3 Orion - WFF); ORACLES (P-3 Orion - WFF); NAAMES (C-130H - WFF); COSR (Convair 580 NRC); KORUS-AQ (DC-8 - AFRC); ARISE (C-130H - WFF)
Complete mission list:
  • SaSa (P-3 Orion - WFF)
  • ORACLES (P-3 Orion - WFF)
  • NAAMES (C-130H - WFF)
  • COSR (Convair 580 NRC)
  • KORUS-AQ (DC-8 - AFRC)
  • ARISE (C-130H - WFF)
  • SEAC4RS (DC-8 - AFRC)
  • TCAP (Gulfstream G-1 (DOE))
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