Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers. Visit https://espo.nasa.gov for information about our current projects.


NRC Convair 580
Convair 580

4STAR integration at NRC

4STAR on the NRC's Convair 580 with Sam, Konstantin, and Roy posing in front

Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning, Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research

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: 
Point(s) of Contact: 

14-channel NASA Ames Airborne Tracking Sunphotometer

AATS-14 measures direct solar beam transmission at 14 wavelengths between 354 and 2139 nm in narrow channels with bandwidths between 2 and 5.6 nm for the wavelengths less than 1640 nm and 17.3 nm for the 2139 nm channel. The transmission measurements at all channels except 940 nm are used to retrieve spectra of aerosol optical depth (AOD). In addition, the transmission at 940 nm and surrounding channels is used to derive columnar water vapor (CWV) [Livingston et al., 2008]. Methods for AATS-14 data reduction, calibration, and error analysis have been described extensively, for example, by Russell et al. [2007] and Shinozuka et al. [2011]. AATS-14 measurements of spectral AOD and CWV obtained during aircraft vertical profiles can be differentiated to determine corresponding vertical profiles of spectral aerosol extinction and water vapor density. Such measurements have been used extensively in the characterization of the horizontal and vertical distribution of aerosol optical properties and in the validation of satellite aerosol sensors. For example, in the Aerosol Characterization Experiment-Asia (ACE-Asia), AATS measurements were used for closure (consistency) studies with in situ aerosol samplers aboard the NCAR C-130 and the CIRPAS Twin-Otter aircraft, and with ground-based lidar systems. In ACE-Asia, CLAMS (Chesapeake Lighthouse & Aircraft Measurements for Satellites, 2001), the Extended-MODIS-λ Validation Experiment (EVE), INTEX-A, INTEX-B, and ARCTAS, AATS results have been used in the validation of satellite sensors aboard various EOS platforms, providing important aerosol information used in the improvement of retrieval algorithms for the MISR and MODIS sensors among others.

Instrument Type: 
DC-8 - AFRC, J-31, P-3 Orion - WFF, Convair 580 NRC, Twin Otter International, C130H - WFF
Point(s) of Contact: 

Cloud Absorption Radiometer

CAR is a multi-wavelength scanning radiometer for determining albedo of clouds in the visible and near-infrared and measuring the angular distribution of scattered radiation and bidirectional reflectance of various surface types. It acquires imagery of cloud and Earth surface features.

For details, visit: https://car.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Instrument Type: 
J-31, P-3 Orion - WFF, Convair 580 NRC, Naval Research Lab (NRL) P-3 Orion, C-131A University of Washington
Point(s) of Contact: 

Airborne Multichannel Microwave Radiometer

The Airborne Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (AMMR) measures thermal microwave emission (in degrees Kelvin of brightness temperature) from surface and atmosphere. The up-looking radiometer at 21 and 37 GHz is a component of AMMR that was developed in the 1970's for precipitation measurements from an aircraft. The entire AMMR assembly covers a frequency range of 10-92 GHz. The 21/37 GHz unit has been flown in many types of aircraft during the past three decades in various field campaigns. It was refurbished during the year 2000 and is ready for flight again.

The fixed-beam Dicke radiometer has a beam width of about 6 degrees and is currently programmed with radiometric output every second. The temperature sensitivity is < 0.5 K, and the calibration accuracy is about ±4 K. The calibration is performed on the ground by viewing targets of known brightness (e.g., sky and absorber with known brightness temperature). The unit can be installed in one of the windows of the NASA P-3 aircraft so that it views at an angle of about 15º from zenith. Thus, it is necessary to spiral the aircraft gradually down to region below the freezing level in order to make measurements effectively. Ideally, the aircraft descends at the rate of about 1 km per 5 minutes. The system requires a bottle of N2 gas to keep the wave guides dry during the in-flight operation.

Instrument Type: 
Convair 580 NRC, DC-8 - AFRC, P-3 Orion - WFF
Point(s) of Contact: 
Subscribe to RSS - Convair 580 NRC