Atmospheric

For the first time, NASA scientists have used a shrewd spaceborne detective to track the origin and movement of water vapor throughout Earth's atmosphere. This perspective is vital to improve the understanding of Earth's water cycle and its role in weather and climate.

For the first time, NASA scientists have used a shrewd spaceborne detective to track the origin and movement of water vapor throughout Earth's atmosphere. This perspective is vital to improve the understanding of Earth's water cycle and its role in weather and climate.


This view depicts the distribution of "heavy" and "light" water vapor molecules over Earth's tropics.

When a small pebble drops into a serene pool of water, it causes a ripple in the water in every direction, even disturbing distant still waters. NASA researchers have found a similar process at work in the atmosphere: tiny particles in the air called aerosols can cause a rippling effect on the climate thousands of miles away from their source region.


Dust from Africa's Saharan Desert lingers in high altitudes as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean. This picture was taken from an aircraft northeast of Barbados in 2006. Cumulus clouds can be seen poking through the tops of the dust layer, which is seen as a milky white haze. (Credit: NOAA)