Artist's Concept of Orbiting Carbon Observatory
Artist's Concept of Orbiting Carbon Observatory
It's an important greenhouse gas, and a fundamental building block for food, fiber and life on Earth. It's also the principal human contribution toward climate change. It's carbon dioxide, and it's the focus of a pair of free, public lectures to be held at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on Thursday, Aug. 19, and at Pasadena City College on Friday, Aug. 20.

Dr. Charles Miller, deputy project investigator for NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission at JPL, will speak about "The Orbiting Carbon Observatory: Understanding Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and its Impact on Climate Change."

Increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have raised concerns about the impact of human activities on Earth's climate. Precise ground-based measurements collected since the 1970s indicate that only about half of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion has remained there. The land and oceans have apparently absorbed the rest. However, ground-based measurements are not adequate to determine how or where this absorption is occurring. These uncertainties compromise our ability to predict future atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations or their effect on the climate system.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a two-year mission targeted for launch in October 2007, will enhance understanding of Earth's carbon cycle and climate. It will provide the first global, space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide with the precision and resolution needed to identify and monitor the human and natural processes responsible for absorbing and emitting this gas. These measurements will advance our understanding of the processes regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide, enabling more reliable forecasts of climate change.

Miller is a research scientist in the atmospheric chemistry research element at JPL, responsible for managing the Orbiting Carbon Observatory science team. He holds bachelor of science degrees in chemistry and history from Duke University, Durham, N.C., and a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He previously served as a National Research Council research associate in the chemical kinetics and photochemistry group at JPL and as a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Haverford College, Philadelphia. He was appointed deputy principal investigator of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission in 2001.

Both lectures begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The Thursday lecture will be webcast live and will also be available after the event on the JPL Web site. The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway, will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture will be held in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Information on the von Karman lecture and webcast is available at

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Contact: Alan Buis (818) 354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.