Why Is OCO-2 Helpful With Managing Atmospheric CO2 ?


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For this post, we will be concentrating on one aspect of CO2 emission. Keep in mind that we can only manage what we can measure!

OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2), set to launch in July, 2014 (credit: NASA/JPL Caltech, design will also be available at www.sunisthefuture.com)

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, set to launch in July 2014, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming. OCO-2 observations will be used to improve understanding of the natural and human-induced sources of carbon dioxide and how these emissions cycle through Earth’s oceans, land and atmosphere. OCO-2, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Delta II rocket.

Yes, those are solar panels that you are seeing in the image above (and below). As a matter of fact, most of the space vehicles are powered by solar panels!

NASA's OCO-2 (credit: NASA/JPL Caltech, design also will be available at www.sunisthefuture.com)

OCO-2 in space (credit: NASA/JPL Caltech, design will also be available at www.sunisthefuture.com)










Why does NASA want to launch OCO-2 to take measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) from space? Due to our concern for climate change and the fact that we can only manage what we can measure. This is NASA’s first satellite designed specifically to measure the global distribution of atmospheric CO2 from space. This is done by measuring the sunlight bouncing off of earth’s surface. On its way through the atmosphere, this sunlight interacts with CO2 molecules in the air. Like other gases, CO2 only absorbs certain colors of light. OCO-2 is only tuned to look at these specific colors. By measuring amount of lights that are missing in each, amount of CO2 molecules that got in the way will be measured. As OCO-2 orbits around the earth each day, hundreds of thousands of CO2 measurements will be made. Such high density of measurements will provide us with far more information in how and where CO2 is traded between sources and sinks. Variations due to seasonal changes will also be more likely to be captured through data collected over weeks and months, helping us in arriving at better understanding of climate change. Take a look at the video below:


~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

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