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True Color MODIS Albedo image improves Climate Modeling
The MODIS instrument, flying aboard NASAs Terra and Aqua satellites, measures how much solar radiation is reflected by the Earths surface almost every day over the entire planet. Zooming in on Africas Sahara Desert and the Arabian Peninsula, MODIS observed considerable variability in reflectance across the region-from the darkest volcanic terrains to the brightest sand. This matches specific soil groups and rock types to MODIS-derived albedo measurements. This correlation is important because most current weather forecast models treat this region as if the surface is uniform and therefore reflects the same amount of light all across its wide expanse. However, the terrain across the Sahara Desert and Arabian Peninsula is actually quite varied. Darker surface features (like rocks and plant canopies) absorb more light than lighter surfaces (like sand) and therefore get hotter in the afternoon. Over the course of a day, these heating differences can set up atmospheric motions that influence global clouds and rain.
Intended for grade levels:
  • College (13-14)
  • College (15-16)
  • Graduate / Professional
Type of resource:
  • Visual:
    • Visualization - scientific
  • Climatology
  • Geographical Sciences:
    • Physical geography
Technical requirements:
RealPlayer plug-in
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
Please give credit to NASA GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio.
DLESE Catalog ID: NASA-SVS-002477
Related resources:
This resource has a thumbnail image at 'The highlighted area is the area of improved Albedo.'
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Author: Lori Perkins
NASA GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio

Principal Investigator: Crystal Schaaf
Boston University

Principal Investigator: Elena Tsvetsinskaya
Boston University