NASA satellite shows how we can track local CO2 emissions from space: ScienceAlert

NASA satellite shows how we can track local CO2 emissions from space: ScienceAlert

NASA satellite shows how we can track local CO2 emissions from space: ScienceAlert

In 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) had reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since the Pliocene era (about 3 million years ago).

According to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), “excess carbon dioxide” in our atmosphere will cause the global average temperature to rise by between 1.5 and 2°C by 2030.

This will dramatically affect ecological systems around the world, including species extinction, droughts, wildfires, extreme weather, and crop failure.

In addition to reducing emissions, these changes call for mitigation and adaptation strategies and climate monitoring. That’s the goal of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) 2 and 3 missions, twin satellites that conduct space-based observations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere to better understand the characteristics of climate change.

Using the world’s fifth-largest coal-fired power plant as a test case, a team of researchers used data from OCO 2 and 3 to detect and track changes in CO2 and quantify the emissions produced below.

The research was led by Ray Nassar, Senior Researcher at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto (UofT). He was joined by researchers from ECCC, UofT, Colorado State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The article describing their findings was published on October 28, 2022 in Frontiers of remote sensing.

Their findings demonstrate that space observations can be used to track CO2 changes in local emissions.

Launched in 2014, the OCO-2 satellite maps natural and anthropogenic CO2 regional and continental broadcasts. This is done indirectly by measuring the intensity of sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface and directly by measuring the amount of CO2 absorbed in the column of air between the surface and the satellite.

The OCO-2 satellite also has spectrometers calibrated to detect the specific signature of CO2 gas. Its companion (OCO-3) was built from the spare parts of OCO-2 and was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019.

This instrument includes a mapping mode that can perform in-depth observations over entire areas, allowing researchers to use OCO-3 to create detailed mini-maps at the scale of major cities – where excess carbon emissions are concentrated. .

Using data obtained from multiple overpasses between 2017 and 2022, the research team analyzed emissions from the largest single emissions source in Europe – the Belchatów power plant in Poland.

From there, they detected changes in CO2 levels consistent with hourly fluctuations in power generation from the plant.

The Belchatów power station has been in operation since 1988 and will remain open until the end of 2036 (according to the Polish government). It is currently the largest coal-fired power plant in the world (with a declared capacity of 5,102 megawatts).

It uses brown coal (lignite), which generally generates higher emissions per megawatt than hard coal (anthracite). Large facilities, such as power plants and oil refineries, account for about half of global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

Neither satellite was originally designed to detect emissions from specific individual installations such as Belchatów.

In a NASA press release, Abhishek Chatterjee, Mission Project Scientist OCO-3, explained how this made their results a “pleasant surprise” and how he and his colleagues look forward to future research opportunities:

“As a community, we are refining the tools and techniques to be able to extract more insights from the data than we originally anticipated. We are learning that we can actually understand much more about anthropogenic emissions than we expected. We’ve been waiting for before. It’s really exciting to think that we’ll have another five to six years of operation with OCO-3. We’re seeing that taking measurements at the right time and at the right scale is critical.

According to Nasser, most CO2 Emissions reports are created from estimates or data collected at the Earth’s surface. This consists of counting the mass of fossil fuels used, calculating the expected emissions, and generally does not involve atmospheric measurements.

Says Nasser: “The finer details of exactly when and where emissions occur are often not available. Providing a more detailed picture of carbon dioxide emissions could help track the effectiveness of emission reduction policies. Our approach with OCO-2 and OCO-3 can be applied to more power plants or modified for carbon dioxide emissions of cities or countries.”

In the future, climatologists will benefit from OCO-3’s observation mapping mode, which could serve as a “guide” for next-generation satellite missions. NASA recently announced that mission operations with OCO-3 aboard the ISS will be extended for several years.

The instrument will operate alongside another greenhouse gas observation mission, EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation).

These and other efforts to monitor climate change and CO2 real-time emissions will prove invaluable to mitigation and adaptation efforts.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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