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    Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP)

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EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation)

EMIT Project Website

Discovering what mineral dust is made of and if it cools or warms our atmosphere

What is in the mineral dust that that can travel from Africa to Texas and why do people care so much?

In June 2020 mineral dust blew from the surface of Africa and arrived in the southern United States impacting states from Florida to Texas. It created visibility hazards for people and had other impacts to our environment. Clearly, our world is interconnected by air, land, and water, but what is the journey of the dust and how does it impact us? The NASA Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) is studying the composition of the Earth’s mineral dust regions and how it impacts our planet and people (radiative forcing, atmospheric chemistry, cryosphere melt, ocean biogeochemistry, fertilization of terrestrial ecosystems, as well as hazards and toxicity to human populations). By measuring the source regions and using sophisticated models, EMIT will assess current mineral dust heating and cooling impacts to the Earth and predict potential future changes, enabling scientists to better understand the role of mineral dust in the Earth System that we all live within.

“The time for EMIT is now. Minerals dust has impacts throughout the Earth System. Only now is the advanced NASA technology available for the EMIT instrumentation. Only now are the modern Earth System Models ready for EMIT type initialization. With EMIT we can better understand how mineral dust heats and cools our planet and make decisions regarding how to accommodate and/or mitigate these impacts.” – Robert O. Green, Principal Investigator, EMIT

Mineral dust blown into the atmosphere has many effects on the Earth System including heating and cooling. These first-of-their-kind EMIT measurements will help us understand and make decisions regarding these impacts. How? The EMIT imaging spectrometer instrument is the next generation based on NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper that mapped minerals and discovered water on the illuminated surface of the Moon. EMIT’s instrument will be mounted to the exterior of the International Space Station to measure the composition of mineral dust source regions around the world. EMIT’s state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer measures the different wavelengths of light reflected by minerals on the surface of deserts and other dust sources. The EMIT science team uses these mineral spectroscopic “fingerprints” in conjunction with advanced Earth System models to achieve its objectives. By measuring in detail which minerals make up the dust, EMIT is helping answer the essential question – to what extent does this type ofaerosol warm or cool the atmosphere?. This helps us to better understand what’s happening to our atmosphere now and predict how things may change in the future. The output of EMIT has both economic and public benefit for you (e.g. natural resources and hazard mitigation). You will be able to access the EMIT measurements and products at NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center.

The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) is an Earth Ventures-Instrument (EVI-4) Mission to map the surface mineralogy of arid dust source regions via imaging spectroscopy in the visible and short-wave infrared (VSWIR).


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