Watching the Earth Breath -- Measuring Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide with NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)
Fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and other human activities are now adding almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere each year, enough increase the atmospheric concentration of this gas by one percent per year. Interestingly, less than half of this CO2 stays airborne. The rest is apparently being absorbed by natural processes at the surface, whose identity and location are poorly understood. Ground-based CO2 measurements accurately record the global atmospheric CO2 budget and its trends but do not have the resolution or coverage needed to identify the "sources" emitting CO2 into the atmosphere or the natural "sinks" absorbing this gas.
One way to improve the resolution and coverage of these measurements is to collect precise observations of CO2 from an orbiting satellite. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is NASA's first satellite designed to address this need. OCO-2 was successfully launched on July 2, 2014. By early September of 2014, it was recording almost a million measurements over Earth's sunlit hemisphere each day. Over the next two years, these measurements are expected to revolutionize our understanding of the processes controlling the atmospheric CO2 buildup. This talk will describe the OCO-2 mission, summarize its measurement approach, and present results from its first 15 months in operation.
Dr. David Crisp is an atmospheric physicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses primarily on the development of instruments and models for analyzing light reflected, emitted, and scattered by atmospheres and surfaces of Earth and other planets. He served on science teams for the Soviet/French/US Venus VEGA Balloon mission, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope WFPC-2, and Mars Pathfinder Lander, and ESA's Venus Express missions. He also worked as a planetary astronomer and as the Chief Scientist of the New Millennium Program, NASA's space flight technology program from 1997 to 2001. More recently, Dr. Crisp was the Principal Investigator of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), NASA's first mission designed specifically to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide. He is currently the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) Science Team Leader.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Steve Condrey