AIRS is a facility instrument whose goal is to support climate research and improve weather forecasting.
Launched into Earth-orbit on May 4, 2002, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, moves climate research and weather prediction into the 21st century. AIRS is one of six instruments on board the Aqua satellite, part of the NASA Earth Observing System. AIRS along with its partner microwave instrument, Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A), represents the most advanced atmospheric sounding system ever deployed in space. Together these instruments observe the global water and energy cycles, climate variation and trends, and the response of the climate system to increased greenhouse gases.
AIRS uses cutting-edge infrared technology to create 3-dimensional maps of air and surface temperature, water vapor, and cloud properties. With 2378 spectral channels, AIRS has a spectral resolution more than 100 times greater than previous IR sounders and provides more accurate information on the vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture. AIRS can also measure trace greenhouse gases such as ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane.
AIRS and AMSU-A share the Aqua satellite with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES), and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E). Aqua is part of NASA's "A-train", a series of high-inclination, Sun-synchronous satellites in low Earth orbit designed to make long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans.