Skip Navigation


PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment)

PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) Project Logo

Principal Investigator: Tristan L'Ecuyer, UW-Madison

Project Scientist: Brian Drouin, JPL/CalTech

PREFIRE Hypotheses

  1. Time-varying errors in far-infrared emissivities and atmospheric greenhouse effects (GHE) bias estimates of energy exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere in the Arctic.
  2. These errors are responsible for a large fraction of the spread in projected rates of Arctic warming, sea ice loss, ice sheet melt, and sea level rise.

PREFIRE will document, for the first time, variability in spectral fluxes from 5-45 μm on hourly to seasonal timescales.

Two 6U CubeSats in distinct 470–650 km altitude, near-polar (82°-98° inclination) orbitseach carrying a miniaturized IR spectrometer, covering 0- 45 μm at 0.84 μm spectral resolution, operating for one seasonal cycle (a year).

  • The Arctic is Earth’s thermostat. It regulates the climate by venting excess energy received in the tropics.
  • Nearly 60% of Arctic emission occurs at wavelengths > 15 μm (FIR) that have never been systematically measured.
  • PREFIRE improves Arctic climate predictions by anchoring spectral FIR emission and atmospheric GHE.


Photo of Brian Drouin
Brian Drouin
Earth Science - Deputy Section Manager
Photo of Jeffrey Hein
Jeffrey Hein
Laboratory Studies
Photo of Brian Kahn
Brian Kahn
Atmospheric Physics And Weather