Satellite project to tackle global warming

Scientists will seek ways to curb global warming with the help of satellites that measure CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Researchers at the University are to study data from the instruments, which are being launched by NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory

Regional data

The satellites are known as The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and The Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT).

They will for the first time give region-by-region accounts of Earth’s carbon emissions and also highlight areas of the planet which are absorbing the most CO2.

Forest measurements

They will provide fresh information on surface emissions and absorption of CO2 in remote regions such as the Amazon basin and African forests.

Currently, scientists are able to look at CO2 emissions from small areas, such as cities, or large areas, such as oceans.

This technique will make regional data available for the first time, potentially helping to quantify the emission outputs of individual countries.

Worst polluters

The data will allow scientists to pinpoint more accurately the worst-polluting regions on Earth.

More importantly, they will identify more effectively those environmental conditions that encourage absorption of CO2, such as those found in forests and oceans.

Recreating these conditions naturally or artificially elsewhere on Earth could help to curb emissions to Earth’s atmosphere.

In the longer term, data from the satellites are hoped to contribute to the development of a better accounting system for carbon trading.

This development is unprecedented – we expect to learn where and how much CO2 is released to the atmosphere and how much is absorbed by forests and oceans, and how it moves around in the atmosphere. All of this will help us look for ways of combating climate change on Earth.

Paul PalmerLecturer in Remote Sensing & Modelling, School of GeoSciences

Photo credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, California Institute of Technology.