Airbus Defence and Space

MIPAS probes into the infrared spectrum

The MIPAS spectrometer probes further into the infrared spectrum to build on the results obtained by SCIAMACHY

MIPAS (Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding) is able to detect the concentrations of additional trace gases – more than 20 – at altitudes of between five and 150 kilometres. One of its key features is its ability to record atmospheric temperature profiles both day and night.

MIPAS Optical Module: the Engineering Qualification Model - Optical Module Testing © Airbus Defence and Space

Envisat attracted significant attention in early April 2011 when it sent data which showed the biggest depletion of ozone ever recorded over the Arctic. This was caused by an unusually stable vortex of air which experienced a dramatic drop in temperature. Researchers were able to use Envisat to study this phenomenon in detail: MIPAS supplied the temperature readings, GOMOS measured ozone concentrations and SCIAMACHY recorded the concentrations of ozone-depleting chlorine compounds. In fact, ozone research is a field in which the Envisat satellite excels thanks to the ability to combine readings from its multiple different instruments.

MIPAS Interferometer EM © Airbus Defence and Space

Moreover, researchers used data supplied by MIPAS to demonstrate that major ozone depletion at altitudes of up to 70 kilometres can also be prompted by powerful solar eruptions. When protons (hydrogen nuclei) ejected by solar flares enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they cause hydrogen oxides (HOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to be produced. These trigger chemical reactions which attack the ozone, depleting it by up to 70%. The MIPAS data also showed, however, that it only takes a few days or weeks for the atmosphere to recover completely from these types of events.

MIPAS Front End Optics: Engineering Qualification Model - Optical Module Testing © Airbus Defence and Space

MIPAS data is equally useful in many other areas of atmospheric research. For example, measurements of formic acid, which can cause acid rain, have revealed elevated concentrations in the southern hemisphere. This data can be used to locate the source and to help integrate this substance into climate models. Scientists can also use MIPAS to closely track how monsoons influence the distribution of water vapour and ozone in the entire atmosphere and to monitor how, or to locate and understand how human activities cause the release of air pollutants such as hydrogen cyanide and ethane into the atmosphere.


SCIAMACHY MIPAS GOMOS Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar ASAR AATSR
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