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NASA Launching Satellite To Track Carbon 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-numbers dept.
An anonymous reader writes A NASA satellite being prepared for launch early on Tuesday is expected to reveal details about where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is being released into Earth's atmosphere on a global scale. From the article: "The $468 million mission is designed to study the main driver of climate change emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes. Some of the carbon dioxide is sucked up by trees and oceans, and the rest is lofted into the atmosphere, trapping the sun's heat and warming the planet. But atmospheric CO2 levels fluctuate with the seasons and in different regions of the Earth. The natural and human activities that cause the changes are complicated. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2 for short, will be able to take an ultra-detailed look at most of the Earth's surface to identify places responsible for producing or absorbing the greenhouse gas."
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NASA Launching Satellite To Track Carbon

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  • CO2, a greenhouse gas, is tied to climate change but is also expected and always-present part of our atmosphere. Why do we need satellite to know this?

    Can we have a better summary?
    • by itzly (3699663) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:22AM (#47349467)
      We need a satellite to get (almost) real time insight in CO2 sources and sinks and the atmospheric mixing.
    • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:26AM (#47349493)

      From the article, it seems like there's a couple of reasons:

      - Identify areas that are actively absorbing CO2 emissions. This is important because we can use it to figure out what the best way to naturally absorb CO2 is for use in things like city planning. For instance, we know that forests and the ocean absorb CO2, but we probably don't know which plants are the most efficient at doing so. If we find out which are the most efficient, they could probably be used in "green roof" projects in cities and in urban planning to alleviate CO2 output from cars.

      - Study the difference in natural CO2 emissions (ie; not from burning fossil fuels) through the seasons, presumably to better identify man-made CO2 emissions.

      - Find out what happens to the CO2 we emit once it reaches the atmosphere. Obviously, there Is always going to be CO2 in the atmosphere, but where it is and how it moves is a different story.

      • For instance, we know that forests and the ocean absorb CO2, but we probably don't know which plants are the most efficient at doing so.

        I hate to break it to you but we do know what plants are the most efficient. Hemp sequesters 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare. It is one of the top plants for sequestering CO2. I would also note that if you overlay the years that HEMP was produced as a cash crop in the US with the rise and fall of CO2 you will find they line up, including the increased production during WW2.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      CO2, a greenhouse gas, is tied to climate change but is also expected and always-present part of our atmosphere. Why do we need satellite to know this?

      Can we have a better summary?

      Why do we need this?

      Because our climate models really aren't that good.

      There, I said it.

      And it's true - climate models have pretty much completely overpredicted increases in temperature over the past decade or so.

      Getting better data will lead to better models which will lead to better predictions.

      • LMOL....uh no they've under predicted the temperatures. But then saying that wouldn't prove your point.
        • The inconsistency between observed
          and simulated global warming is even more
          striking for temperature trends computed
          over the past fifteen years (1998–2012).
          For this period, the observed trend of
          0.05 ± 0.08 C per decade is more than four
          times smaller than the average simulated
          trend of 0.21 ± 0.03 C per decade

          Published paper "Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years" Published in
          NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | VOL 3 | SEPTEMBER 2013

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:53AM (#47349733) Journal
      co2 isn't uniformly mixed throughout the atmosphere. The satellite will give a better picture of where it is.
    • by DarkOx (621550)

      Frankly I am glad to see someone actually doing some real research on the carbon cycle so we can understand the real issues and plan accordingly.

      As opposed to what usually goes on where someone fancies up a computer model based on thirty year old assumptions backed up with shitty data from terrestrial monitoring stations down wind of localized heat sources and carbon emitters. Finally using their 'results' to push some political agenda and grab some more grant money.

      This is a good thing it will put some ha

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      CO2, a greenhouse gas, is tied to climate change but is also expected and always-present part of our atmosphere. Why do we need satellite to know this?

      That's generally what science does. Get the big picture first then start digging for the details. This is digging for the details.

  • by gsslay (807818)

    "carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is being released into Earth's atmosphere on a global scale."

    And here was me thinking it was being released on a inter-galactic scale.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:00AM (#47349795) Homepage Journal

    Remember, sending up this satellite might just help us learn that AGW is not a problem, proving that you were right all along.

    Don't be mad at Science. Someday, your incomplete in freshman physics will not matter any more.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:53AM (#47350225)
    Less than half what humans create in hydrocarbon buring and cement making stays in the atmosphere. The ocean is suspected as the major sink, as it turns into something like soda. A more active plant biopshere could be another sink.

    Furthermore we dont know all the non-human sources. Is there a significant amount being released from melting permafrost marshes? Some onsite studies suggest the possibility. Volcanoes, melting sedimate methane hydrates too. This satellite could help constrain unkown sources and sinks.

    The resuting data is likely to fuel both pro and anti AGW factions. A significant group prefers not to know whatis happening at all and blocked these kind of satellites in the 1990s and 2000s. I wish to know what is happening.
  • Given that methane is known to have a larger immediate effect one would have thought that a multimillion dollar mission would carry more than one instrument to nail down which of the many green house gases are having the most impact ... rather than assuming the models are right and that it's the CO2

    • by itzly (3699663)
      No need to assume the models are right. It is quite simple to take samples of the atmosphere, and measure both CO2 and CH4 content and determine which is the biggest factor. You don't need a satellite for that. We know that the contribution of CO2 is much bigger than the contribution of methane.
  • ...lot of pinheads posting anonymously.
  • It's obviously all those diamonds that are evaporating. Somebody has to do a paper that we can show our wives/girlfriends, that clearly demonstrates that diamonds are bad for the environment.

  • The fact is, that this sat will show which nations produce CO2 and in what levels.
    And the world is in for a shock.

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