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NASA to launch CO2 monitoring satellite

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World Cement,

NASA is scheduled to launch a satellite on 1 July that will monitor carbon dioxide levels around the world. The original Orbiting Carbon Observatory was launched in February 2009, but the rocket nose didn’t separate as planned and the satellite could not be released. This second attempt (OCO-2) will circle the globe in the hopes of discovering which parts of the planet absorb CO2 from the atmosphere (sinks) and which parts release it to the atmosphere (sources). This will help scientists understand whether those parts that absorb CO2 will be able to continue to do so in the future, and therefore how quickly CO2 will build up.

OCO-2 Project Scientist Mike Gunson said, “There’s a steady increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over time. But at the same time, we can see that this has an annual cycle of dropping every summer, in this case in the northern hemisphere, as the forests and plants grow. And this is the Earth breathing.”

According to the project’s website, carbon dioxide is both one of the best-measured greenhouse gases and least-measured. Measuring sinks and sources will enable climate scientists to make more accurate predictions going forward.

“The OCO-2 satellite has one instrument: a three-channel grating spectrometer,” said OCO-2 Program Executive Betsy Edwards. “But with this one instrument we’re going to collect hundreds of thousands of measurements each day, which will then provide a global description of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s going to be an unprecedented level of coverage and resolution, something we have not seen before with previous spacecraft.”

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation,” added Edwards. “NASA is particularly ready to … provide information, on documenting and understanding what these changes are on the climate, in predicting the impact of these changes to the Earth, and in sharing all of this information that we gather for the benefit of society.”

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