NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captures a polar vortex moving from central Canada into the U.S. Midwest from January 20 through January 29. The illustration shows temperatures at an altitude of about 10,000 to 15,000 feet (600 millibars atmospheric pressure) above the ground.
The lowest temperatures are shown in purple and blue, and range from -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius) to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius). As the data series progresses, you can see how the coldest purple areas of the air mass scoop down into the United States.
AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth’s weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations down to Earth’s surface. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena.
View the full animation here.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech AIRS Project