Atmospheric Composition Focus Area
AC conducts research on Earth’s atmosphere, including its chemical and physical properties, Earth’s energy budget, and air quality.
The Atmospheric Composition focus area (AC) studies the variations in and processes that affect aerosols, clouds, and trace gases, which influence climate, weather, and air quality. AC provides observations and modeling tools to assess the effects of climate change on ozone recovery and future atmospheric composition; improve climate forecasts based on fluctuations in global environmental change; and model past, present, and future air quality, both regionally and globally. This research, combined with observations, data assimilation, and modeling, improves society’s ability to predict how future changes in atmospheric composition will affect climate, weather, and air quality.
AC Research Questions
AC research addresses the following overarching questions:
How is atmospheric composition changing?
What trends in atmospheric composition and solar radiation influence global climate?
How does atmospheric composition respond to and affect global environmental change?
What are the effects of global atmospheric composition and climate changes on regional air quality?
How will future changes in atmospheric composition affect ozone, climate, and global air quality?
AC Associated Missions
The table below lists the missions, campaigns, and instruments relevant to the Atmospheric Composition focus area in all phases of operation. To learn more about the meaning of mission phases, please click here.
Learn more about AC
Atmospheric Composition is split into four different research programs that help focus and advance our understanding of the Earth:
Upper Atmosphere Research Program
The Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP) studies the processes and reactions that control the amount of ozone in the upper troposphere and stratosphere. UARP uses observations from satellites, airborne campaigns, ground networks, and laboratory studies to quantify changes in ozone concentration and to better understand the driving forces behind reactions that can either directly or indirectly destroy or create atmospheric ozone and precursors to ozone-destroying compounds. This research contributes significantly to the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme quadrennial assessments on ozone depletion, as mandated by the Montreal Protocol.
Tropospheric Composition Program
The Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP) studies global tropospheric ozone and aerosols, including their chemical precursors and the reactions involved in their formation and transformation into other chemical compounds. TCP strives to develop an integrated observing system for tropospheric composition, which includes chemical transport models, as well as satellite, airborne, and ground-based observations of tropospheric composition. This integrated observing system is fundamental to create a better understanding of air quality and climate.
Radiation Sciences Program
The Radiation Sciences Program (RSP) conducts research to better understand and predict how aerosols, clouds, and gases scatter and absorb both solar and terrestrially emitted radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere, especially as it relates to climate variability and change. The program supports studies to improve the theoretical understanding of radiative transfer and to improve field measurements of aerosol and cloud particle concentration, composition, microphysics, and optical properties. These measurements include both airborne and surface-based remote and in situ measurements. The program also supports the analysis of satellite remote sensing and field data as well as the development of process models, which contribute to Earth system modeling.
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program
The Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP) uses models to help integrate observations from multiple satellite, airborne- and ground-based instruments in four main areas: air quality and oxidation efficiency in the troposphere, how pollution-sourced aerosols affect cloud properties, stratospheric chemistry and ozone depletion, and interactions between atmospheric chemistry and climate. ACMAP also supports small amounts of research into long-term trends in atmospheric composition.
AC News and Information
Earth Observatory | March 19, 2019
There is only so much that human eyes can detect by looking at a plume of wildfire smoke from space. The color offers clues about the material burning, and the shape of the plume says something about the intensity of the fire.
Earth Observatory | March 8, 2019
In early March 2019, a rash of bushfires sprouted across the Australian state of Victoria, particularly in the hills east of Melbourne. Government officials noted at least 380 small and large fires burned in the state in the first week of the month, with the vast majority caused by lightning.
SVS | February 14, 2019
Sulfur dioxide is an atmospheric pollutant that poses threats to both human health and the environment. High concentrations of sulfur dioxide irritate the eyes, nose, and lungs, and can result in temporary breathing impairment.
AC for Scientists
Scientific Meetings and Conferences
SAGE III/ISS Science Team Meeting
29-30 October 2019
Research and Funding Opportunities
Solicited program elements relevant to AC are publicized through the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website. Past, open, and future solicitations can be searched and viewed on NSPIRES.
Current ROSES solicitations of interest to the Atmospheric Composition community:
- A.22 Aura Science Team
- A.26 Weather and Atmospheric Dynamics
- A.30 Airborne Instrument Technology Transfer
NASA Research Resources, Associated Programs, and Partnerships
Access NASA data related to Atmospheric Composition and learn more about center-level AC programs and partnerships at the links below:
- 2017 Earth Science Applications from Space
- Outstanding Questions in Atmospheric Composition, Chemistry, Dynamics and Radiation for the Coming Decade, May 2014
- NASA’s Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space, June 2010
- 2007 Earth Science Applications from Space
- Atmospheric Science Data Center (SDC DAAC) at NASA Langley Research Center
- Goddard Earth Sciences Atmospheric Composition Data and Information Services Center
- Applied Sciences Air Quality Team
- Ames Earth Science Division
- Goddard Institute for Space Studies
- Goddard Space Flight Center Atmospheric Sciences Program
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory Earth Atmospheric Sciences Section
- Langley Science Directorate
- Marshall Global Hydrology and Climate Center
- CEOS Atmospheric Composition Constellation
- Group on Earth Observations
- International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Program of the IGBP (IGAC)
- Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate (SPARC)
- U.S. Global Change Research Program