The Glory climate satellite will join the A-Team (Aqua, CloudSat, Calipso and Aura) in February 2011
The problem seems simple enough: Take the total amount of energy coming to Earth from the sun, subtract what gets reflected back or re-radiated from particles in the atmosphere and see what you have left. If more energy is coming in than going out, it’s getting hotter.
The next bit is more complicated: Figure out what fraction of these atmospheric particles stems from natural phenomena, such as wind-blown dust and volcanic eruptions, and what is coming from things we can control — our industrial processes, business pursuits and recreational past-times.
"The aerosols come in all shapes and sizes and chemical compositions," said Glory project scientist Michael Mishchenko of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University in New York City. "We can get a fairly good idea of the chemical composition and, thereby, of the origin of the particles — is it a natural particle, or a manmade particle? The existing instruments can’t do that.
"As we’re starting to set climate policy based on the inputs that are driving climate change, we need to be able to distinguish how much of climate change is stuff that we can control and how much is purely natural," said solar physicist Greg Kopp, with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder