In This Space
CO2 distribution in ppm, 2009 (Source: JAXA/NIES/MOE)
This product provides information on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) – one of the most important greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Space-based remote sensing of the CO2 column-average dry air mole fractions (XCO2) has the potential to provide observed global constraints on CO2 fluxes across the surface-atmosphere boundary and to provide insight into the related biogeochemical cycles. XCO2 products retrieved from these satellites have been validated with reference to high-resolution ground-based Fourier Transform Spectrometers (g-b FTS) data and model data.
The Japanese Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite, GOSAT, is the first satellite designed specifically for this application. GOSAT has been collecting CO2 and methane (CH4) observations over the sunlit hemisphere since April 2009. These data are beginning to yield new insights into the carbon cycle. Furthermore, in July 2014 NASA launched the second satellite dedicated to the measurement of CO2 - the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). The OCO-2 satellite is being operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its stated mission objective is to “Collect the first space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize its sources and sinks on regional scales and quantify their variability over the seasonal cycle”. The spatial resolution of these instruments is relatively low (GOSAT: ~ 1 x 1 km2; OCO-2: ~ 1.5 x 2.5 km2). The major focus of both of these missions is the determination of the global CO2 burden and its regional variations.
In contrast, the first mission dedicated to the high-resolution measurement of CO2 and CH4 emissions from space is the GHGSat, which will be launched in late 2015. GHGSat spatial resolution is 50 x 50 m2, within a ground footprint of 10 x 15 km2. This allows high precision mapping of emissions from identified target sources as opposed to obtaining averages over large areas. CarbonSat is a candidate for ESA’s eighth Earth Explorer mission.
The above missions all rely on measurement by optical spectroscopy. The MERLIN mission, scheduled for launch in 2019 will use LIDAR to obtain highly precise measurements of CH4 with 50 km resolution.
Known restrictions / limitations
Spatial resolution of carbon dioxide retrievals from satellite-based EO are relatively coarse – native resolution of sensors on existing missions is approximately 4 km2 (OCO-2) to 75 km2 (GOSAT). Regional chemical transport models, used to assimilate the measurements of these missions have typical spatial resolutions ranging from 12 x 12 km2 to 3 x 3 km2.
Future systems should provide improved retrievals. This novel LIDAR satellite is dedicated to CO2 monitoring and will provide data with 50 km resolution.
Lifecycle stage and demand
Pre-licensing & Exploration:
Development & Production:
Geographic coverage and demand
Global coverage and demand.
Input data sources
Spatial resolution and coverage
Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)
Accuracy / constraints
Thematic accuracy: Land cover/land use, assets/infrastructure and water extent 80-90%.
Spatial accuracy: Dependent on input component products, but typically within 1 – 2 pixels.
Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures
Statistical confusion matrix with user’s and producer’s accuracy for land cover/land use and water extent. In-situ measurements.
Frequency / timeliness
Observation frequency: N/A
Timeliness of delivery: N/A
Freely available or commercially acquired depending on the sensor selected.
Delivery / output format
Format by sensor:
|Peer Reviewer:||Hatfield Consultants|
Maria Lemper, Jan Militzer
# of Pages:
Internal – Project consortium and science partners
External – ESA
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