Measuring Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide from Space

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2

Mar. 13 & 14

Fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are now emitting more than 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere each year. The ocean and plants on land emit more than 20 times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as humans do, but they reabsorb almost as much, along with about half of human-produced emissions. Ground-based measurements accurately record the global impact of these processes on Earth’s atmospheric CO2 budget and its trends. However, their resolution and coverage is not adequate to identify the "sources" emitting CO2 or the natural "sinks" absorbing this gas. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory – 2 (OCO-2) is NASA’s first satellite designed to measure atmospheric CO2 with the accuracy needed to identify these sources and sinks. After its launch in July 2014, its spectrometers will record more than 100,000 CO2 measurements each day.

Dr. David Crisp, Science Team Leader, OCO-2


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