Scientists contribute to NASA mission

Edinburgh scientists are contributing to a NASA project in which a new satellite will monitor CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.

Researchers from the School of GeoSciences are developing analysis tools to interpret data from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite.

The Edinburgh team is developing algorithms to quantify CO2 for all of Earth’s atmosphere.

Their research will aid scientists’ understanding of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and of the role played by the earth’s forests and oceans in absorbing CO2.

International team

The Edinburgh scientists, and a team from the Space Research Centre at University of Leicester, are the only UK partners taking part in the international project. Scientists from France, Netherlands and Germany will also join in the NASA-led initiative.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, was launched on 1 July from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The polar orbiting satellite will provide a global picture of human and natural sources of carbon dioxide.

Data from OCO-2 will also be used to quantify places in the ocean and land that absorb carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere.

Multiple sampling

The original OCO spacecraft, launched from Vandenberg more than five years ago, never reached orbit because of a separation anomaly in the launch vehicle. OCO-2 is NASA's second attempt.

OCO-2 is equipped with on-board carbon dioxide detectors that will collect hundreds of thousands of measurements each day.

We hope that data from the OCO-2 mission will eventually help us better understand the land and ocean biological processes that determine atmospheric variations of this important greenhouse gas.

Professor Paul PalmerSchool of GeoSciences

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