Accuracy of the Greenhouse Measurements – Georgios Ardavanis (Ph.D.)

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There is a gap in accuracy concerning the measurement and monitoring of greenhouse gas concentration on the ground and the space. Specifically, the data collected from space are not as precise as those taken on the ground. The launch of Ibuki and OCO (Orbital Carbon Observatory) satellites by the Japanese space agency (JAXA) and NASA, respectively, was primarily designed to work as carbon accountants by keeping a close eye on how the earth breathes and returning regular audits from space. The concentration maps these two satellites produce help scientists understand where CO2 enters the atmosphere and where it gets absorbed. Today, the biggest man-made CO2 emitters, such as large power stations, are known about, and their outputs are measured. But there are global phenomena, such as forest fires, where the CO2 contributions are not fully understood. There are also some ecosystems, such as the boreal forests of Canada and Siberia and the Amazon rainforest, which are vast absorbers of CO2, but are changing rapidly because of temperature and deforestation.

Earth-based measurements suggest a sizable unaccounted-for surface sink of atmospheric CO2, but its location is fiercely debated. The reason for this is the collection of data over the tropics, where many of the world’s dense (and highly inaccessible) rainforests are situated. And in this case, the satellites can look in detail there. In conclusion, although the space data are not as accurate as those taken on the ground, they are made up in coverage.

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