PIA18934

NASA space scientists today unveiled a new
satellite map
showing carbon dioxide levels in the
atmosphere right across the globe.

The map is the first two months of data from the
new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission, launched in July
this year.

The team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Colorado State University and California Institute of Technology
presented their findings at AGU conference in San Francisco
today.

 

The map shows an average global concentration of
400 parts per million (ppm) with hotspots of high carbon dioxide in
the Southern Hemisphere above southern Africa and Brazil. The
scientists attribute this to springtime burning of savannas and
forests and clearing land for farming.

Sources and sinks of carbon dioxide vary
seasonally so scientists need at least a year of data to see where
carbon dioxide is being released and where it’s absorbed, the
scientists note.

Changes in carbon dioxide over time can help
better understand the processes cycling carbon between the
atmosphere, land and oceans, says Deputy project leader AnnMarie
Eldering:

“[These measurements]
could lead to an improved understanding of the relative importance
in these regions of photosynthesis in tropical plants, which
removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and biomass burning,
which releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”

The satellite also measures the amount of
chlorophyll in plants, the pigment used to capture sunlight as they
photosynthesise and grow. NASA scientist Christian Frankenberg
explains:

“[This] complements the
OCO-2’s carbon dioxide data with information on when and where
plants are drawing carbon from the atmosphere”.

At the moment, the OCO-2 satellite isn’t geared
up to measure carbon dioxide over small areas, such as cities or
industrial areas. But a planned mission aboard the International
Space Station could begin providing that information by 2018,
Eldering told journalists.

Via: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/12/first-look-at-new-nasa-satellite-maps-reveals-global-carbon-dioxide-hotspots/