NASA Creates First Entirely Satellite-Based Global Maps Of Human Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Posted: Nov 2 2016, 9:16am CDT | by , Updated: Nov 2 2016, 9:21am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Creates First Entirely Satellite-Based Global Maps of Human Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Human carbon dioxide emissions over Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. Credit: Finnish Meteorological Institute

The global maps reveal the extent of human-made carbon dioxide in various regions around the globe

Carbon dioxide is a major cause of global-scale changes in temperatures and the burning of coil, oil and natural gas are contributing to most of the carbon emissions, causing climate change.

Drawing solely on satellite observations, NASA has created the first global maps of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The maps showthe distribution and extent of carbon emissions present in the air and they are seemingly the most detailed maps of human carbon emissions developed on satellite data alone.

NASA had launched its satellite devoted to measuring atmospheric carbon emissions in July 2014. It was the replacement of the original spacecraft OCO which was also first satellite indented to provide global carbon emissions from space but failed to achieve the target due to an unsuccessful launch in 2009.

OCO-2 is based on the original Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) satellite and is equipped with a single instrument capable of taking the most precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide ever made from space. The instrument consists of three high-resolution spectrometers, which are operated by an on-board computer. Since 2014, OCO-2 has been tracking air pollution trends over various regions across the globe and sending all the data back to the Earth.

“OCO-2 can even detect smaller, isolated emitting areas like individual cities,” said lead research scientist Janne Hakkarainen. “It's a very powerful tool that gives new insight.”

Using high resolution, satellite observations, team of researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, produced three detailed maps, showing the atmospheric concentrations of man-made carbon dioxide around the world. Each map focuses on Earth's three highest-emitting regions: the eastern United States, central Europe and East Asia. To confirm the accuracy of data, the results were compared with measurements from Ozone Monitoring Instrument. The two measurements correlated well, giving the researchers the belief that OCO-2 produces accurate and most detailed results indeed.

“No satellite before OCO-2 was capable of measuring carbon dioxide in fine enough detail to allow researchers to create maps of human emissions from the satellite data alone.” NASA blog says.

Human emissions of carbon dioxide have increased at a drastic rate since the Industrial Revolution. New global maps can help understand the severity of the problem. In this way, they can also play an important role in reducing carbon footprints.

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