The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite provides new insight into the role that clouds and atmospheric aerosols (airborne particles) play in regulating Earth's weather, climate, and air quality. 

The CALIOP instrument is a two-wavelength polarization-sensitive lidar that provides high-resolution vertical profiles of aerosols and clouds.

Learn more about CALIPSO:

Disasters Applications

  • CALIOP provides information on smoke plume injection height and the vertical distribution of aerosols through the atmosphere. These lidar data are unique in their ability to detect optically thin smoke layers at a fine vertical resolution, and CALIOP is able to view extensive smoke plumes that do not have clear boundaries. When paired with models, this instrument is able to provide novel information, such as the attribution of a river of smoke to numerous fires and the evolution of smoke-plume injection height over a day, which has implications for climate (black carbon transport and deposition on snow and ice, albedo change), air quality and human health.  (
  • CALIOP can be used to identify ice cloud particles within tropical cyclones and other storms systems to complement observations from other satellites such as CloudSat (

Latest Updates

September 18, 2020
The August Complex fire formed under very hot and dry conditions in northern California on August 17th, 2020. Reportedly, 37 individual fires initiated by lightning strikes merged to create this conflagration, which claimed the life of one firefighter on August 31st, 2020 according to the U.S. Forest Service. Researchers from the MISR Active Aerosol Plume-Height (AAP) Project, based out of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, along with colleagues from JPL and the NASA Langley Research Center used data from multiple Earth observing satellites to map the properties...
September 16, 2020
Damage Proxy Map of the LNU Lightning Complex fires showing likely damaged areas in red and yellow.
As record-setting fires continue to ravage the western United States, with large fire complexes currently burning in California, Oregon, Washington State, and Colorado, coordinators and scientists from the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program are hard at work developing maps, imagery and analysis to aid local agencies and response teams in understanding the impacts from the fires and the potential risks to people, infrastructure, and the environment. In late August the...
September 12, 2020
OMPS shows smoke plumes from the California fires
Climate and fire scientists have long anticipated that fires in the U.S. West would grow larger, more intense, and more dangerous. But even the most experienced among them have been at a loss for words in describing the scope and intensity of the fires burning in West Coast states in September 2020. Lightning initially triggered many of the fires, but it was ...
February 3, 2020
Carbon monoide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 
Carbon monoxide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory  Bushfires have raged in Victoria and New South Wales since November 2019, yielding startling satellite images of smoke plumes streaming from southeastern Australia on a near daily basis. The images got even more eye-popping in January 2020 when...
January 22, 2020
Figure 2: Data from the CALIPSO CALIOP lidar instrument shows the height, location and density of the smoke plume as it moved over New Zealand on January 1st, 2020. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NASA LARC).
Figure 1: Suomi-NPP VIIRS true color imagery from December 31st, 2019 (background) is overlaid with VIIRS “hot spot” data (red areas) showing fire locations, and OMPS Aerosol Index (orange areas) showing the transport of the smoke plume over the Tasmanian sea. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NIA / NASA LaRC). Created using NASA Worldview. On New Year Eve 2019 a series of massive thunderstorms generated by devastating fires across the states of New South Wales and...
January 9, 2020
Credits: NASA Langley/Roman Kowch
The devastating fires in southeastern Australia have renewed focus on the dangers that extreme drought and heat can pose to society. Last week, fires erupted near populated areas in Victoria and New South Wales with destructive effects, resulting in one of Australia’s largest evacuations. NASA’s CALIPSO satellite provided data for a new animation that showed the aerosols generated from the smoke has spread high into the atmosphere and far to the east over the Pacific Ocean.
November 1, 2018
CALIPSO lidar observes the top of Typhoon Yutu
CALIPSO and CloudSat, two satellites in the newly formed C-Train, captured a stunning overpass through the eye of Typhoon Yutu on October 28th, 2018 at 04:58 UTC as the storm was approaching the Philippines in the West Pacific. Typhoon Yutu contained estimated sustained winds of 120 knots (138 mph) with a minimum pressure of 933 mb, the equivalent of a Category 4 strength storm. At the time of the overpass, Typhoon Yutu was beginning a period of weakening as the storm was moving into less favorable atmospheric conditions, including lower sea surface temperatures. The storm left a trail of...