Project E

Comparing ground and satellite-based climate data for atmospheric studies of astronomical relevance

Tony Mroczkowski & Carlos de Breuck

(email advisors)

Atmospheric transmission is one of the most important factors in characterizing a site for millimeter and submillimeter astronomy.  We propose a project to study recent, high-resolution satellite data on the climate and compare the data to that from weather stations from the APEX, ALMA, and possibly Paranal sites.

The atmosphere, and in particular the total amount of precipitable water (i.e. that which can fall as rain or snow), limits our ability to measure millimeter and sub-millimeter waves from astronomical sources, which drives astronomers to seek dry locations at high elevations when building ground-based observatories. The Atacama Desert in northern Chile (also extending into Bolivia and Argentina) is one of the highest elevation, driest deserts on Earth, and is host to telescopes such as ALMA ( and APEX (  Preliminary site characterization for a new project, called AtLAST (, was carried out in Otarola et al. 2019 (  For the proposed project, we want to further that study using new data from satellites monitoring the Earth (for example, using the low-level data from NASA's MODIS Terra and Aqua; see that can characterize the Total Precipitable Water (TPW) at 1-2 km resolution and compare their measurements to weather station data from APEX and ALMA.  

We note the datasets from MODIS are large and the analysis will be challenging, but this will be an exciting way to get involved in data science, climate research, and site characterization for next-generation observatories.

#python #ALMA #APEX #AtLAST #atmosphericscience #climatechange #bigdata #earth

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