NASA Launches New Mission to Monitor Earth’s Breathing

Posted by ap507 at Jul 03, 2014 11:30 AM |
University scientists to analyse data from new satellite

NASA successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday 2 July 2014.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will soon will begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth’s sources of and storage places for atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world and a critical component of the planet’s carbon cycle. Members of the Earth Observation Science (EOS) Group of the University of Leicester will work with the science team analysing data gleaned from the mission.

OCO-2 will take NASA's studies of carbon dioxide and the global carbon cycle to new heights. The mission will produce the most detailed picture to date of natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their "sinks" -- places on Earth’s surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The observatory will study how these sources and sinks are distributed around the globe and how they change over time.

OCO-2 science operations will begin about 45 days after launch. Scientists expect to begin archiving calibrated mission data in about six months and plan to release their first initial estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in early 2015.

Dr Hartmut Boesch (pictured) and his team from the EOS Group of the University of Leicester will work closely with NASA scientists and with colleagues from the UK National Centre for Earth Observations (NCEO) on the careful analysis and interpretation of the OCO-2 observations. Dr Boesch is a Science Team Member of the OCO-2 mission and he had been a member of the NASA team for the unsuccessful OCO-1 mission.

Dr Boesch said: “The data that will be gathered by OCO-2 will help us to develop a much better understanding where CO2 is absorbed by plants and where it is emitted and how these processes are changing with time.”

Professor John Remedios of the University and future Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) added: “This is a tremendously important mission given that CO2 levels passed the 400 ppmv level last year. The measurements of OCO-2 will hopefully give us enough understanding of the underlying processes to better constrain predictions of future CO2 and hence climatic pathways. I am very pleased that Leicester scientists are leading UK efforts in the retrieval and interpretation of the data, and confident that our NCEO collaborations with NASA will deliver the best science possible.”

For more information about OCO-2, visit here.